Downward Spiral 14th September 2011 – Floodstain + Support

By Lauren Brooks

Four-piece rock band Alice In Thunderland kicked off proceedings with a set packed with powerful riffs from Tony, Kev’s booming bass and Stu’s catchy beats, along with a good dollop of distinctive vocals. Hailing from their hometown of Bridlington, the dynamic quartet performed six excellent tracks to a small but attentive crowd. Beginning with a thunderous In The Beginning, vocalist Kala surprised the audience with a refreshingly different vocal style from the majority of other female-led bands. It was fantastic to see a woman whose vocals aren’t in the style of Hayley Williams, but instead encapsulate exactly what a rock band needs – originality, difference and, of course, strength by the gallon. Kala’s high yet soulful voice was set to a nice rolling riff and steady beat. While I personally prefer upbeat songs, it is always good to see how a band performs quieter tracks, which is exactly what the crowd experienced with Hush Now, which was an altogether slower track, in which Kala’s voice became haunting enough to stand the hairs on the back of the neck. Another notable song performed was Into The Darkest Night, a highly enjoyable engaging number which employed chugging guitars, a steady beat and extensive use of cymbals to keep rhythm. While not one of their heavier songs, I liked the variation it demonstrated, particularly in the mid-song solo. Overall, I was impressed with this band, and would love to see them perform again.

Bringing their disturbingly gruesome and obscene brand of death metal, Scatorgy drastically changed the feel of the gig, almost making AIT seem like Enya by comparison. I think it’s safe to say Scatorgy have only one setting: break-neck carnage. Their set consisted of almost supersonic-speed drumwork from Tom, brutal (and difficult to decipher) death metal vocals from James, and unbelievably aggressive guitar and bass from Tom and Paul (respectively). Not only brandishing instruments, Scatorgy also possessed an arsenal of, as their name might suggest, outrageously crudely-named tracks, such as Feast of a Thousand Gastro-Intestinal Tracts andIntense Defecation Cessation. Their crowd interaction was as strong as their theme, with vocalist James spouting lines such as “We’re gonna shout, swear and maybe even get our bum out” and “We all love incest”. While obviously not for the faint- hearted, or even the moderate- or above-average-hearted, they did provide some welcome humour to the gig, though this did little to reassure an apprehensive crowd who loitered at a safe distance from the stage. Then again, James did make use of the floorspace to pace and prowl whilst growling away like a demonic overlord. Bearing in mind that Scatorgy aren’t exactly to my own taste, I do think they should slow the pace a touch as the different components of their music were in grave danger of blending into one uber-loud cacophony of chaos. One thing I loved about the band was their witty interaction and the fact that they all loved performing which was evident throughout their ravaging set.

The atmosphere changed again, as Hull’s very own Inaudium took to the stage, albeit after a five minute delay due to difficulty in setting up the effects board. An effects board the size of a small island and one that appeared to be twice as complex as The Large Hardon Collider. Combining melodic and mellow vocals with airy and atmospheric guitar tunes, set to laid back drum beats and a backbone of bass, Inaudium performed a set to appeal to everyone. Their second song, Faultline, sparked a sense of familiarity with me which I later realised was attributed to this being the first song they performed at SunkFest 2010. This perhaps demonstrates how memorable their music is, as I barely remember anything from the day before, let alone a year ago, however there I was, nodding along to the catchy beats from drummer Ben and joining in on the chorus. The trio also performed a new song, Sirens, in which a lot of reverb guitar effects were used, as well as an odd vocal pattern, and a particularly enjoyable outro section. They claimed it to be so new they are still trying to get it right but to the layman it sounded perfectly fine. Granted having not previously heard the song I obviously wouldn’t be able to discern any mistakes.

Other songs Inaudium played included Red Hook (about a neighbourhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn?) and Slave, which featured surprisingly more aggressive and obstreperous vocals than previously seen. Rich even shouted his vocals at one point, which was a pleasant addition. For a band with just three members Inaudium’s sound is so rich and downreaching, part of the reason for this is the monster effects boards that both Rich and bassist Steve use. The FX helps to create an accessible sound; emotional and mellow enough for those who are not fond of the harshness of metal, but at the same time tucked away they have a heavier side with shredding solos and raging riffs. They also kept things interesting on stage with a minor feedback battle between Rich and Steve, and members of the audience teasing about what shall forever be known as “The Morrison’s Incident”.

The fourth performance of the night came from four piece melodic metallers Pastel Jack. The band brought a megaton of energy, and as we have come to expect, delivered a fantastic set. They got right into their set, with Methematic – a loud and fast paced number comprising of some intricate guitarwork from Pete, solid bass from Dave and soulful vocals from Neil, all set to Tom’s furious beats. Pastel Jack continued their conquest of the Lamp with The Sacred Self, a very catchy track which held some brilliant joint vocals from Neil and Pete, the latter of whom had a surprisingly high and melodic voice. Having played another couple of songs – during which guitarist Pete nearly escaped the venue before madly dashing back so he could sing his backing vocals – PJ brought their set to a definitive close with Synergy. This was a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable track which contained a great guitar solo with use of effects. Seeing them completely back on form was great, and it now seems strange to picture that they had only recently comeback from a sustained period of absence. They played as though they have been away.

The final band to perform hailed all the way from Hell(evoetsluis) in the Netherlands, Floodstain took to the stage at about 11pm, displaying remarkable energy, especially considering the late timing of their set. Firstly, I’d like to commend the awesomeness of the vividly blue beard of bassist Bobysan. Their performance opened with an atmospheric sound piece before the band broke out into their brand of sludge metal featuring Jozz’s strong and jagged vocals intermingled with screaming vocals from him and Bobyslan. The guitarwork was generally very rough, with some catchier, unexpectedly melodic patches, set to some ominous basswork. Notably, Slave to the Self-feeding Machine was one of their more varied songs, including a very melodic beginning in which drum beats were softer, guitar riffs were gentle and vocals were mellow, before progressively becoming heavier. Some sections even sounded like a heavier version of Queens of the Stone Age. I felt this worked well showing the band’s versatility, while the contracting styles emphasised each other. Chronic Animal Syndrome also stood out due to the presence of a technical solo from Vesso, which is as rare in sludge metal as a raindrop in Hell – by which I refer to the underworld rather than the band’s hometown, which is reputed to be quite abundant with rain. Other songs played included There Will Be Blood, which was slower and showed more influence from the doom genre. Floodstain also included what was purportedly intended as a kids’ song in their set, ordering the crowd to “Get out your red noses and clowny things”. Overall, I found this band interesting to see, having not previously listened to the sludge/doom genre. I particularly enjoyed their intermission segment, which was mostly an instrumental piece that utilised odd time signatures and was pretty intense compared to the lighter songs that had come before. And there was also Bobyslan’s beard, of course, which is worthy of a second mention as well as their unique musical style and wonderful rougher-than-sandpaper vocals.

All in all I found this gig to be one of the most versatile and well attended Downward Spiral gigs in quite some time. The vast array of genres such as Death Metal, Hard Rock, Sludge and Alternative helped to cater for the tastes of everyone. Despite the late headlining slot Floodstainmanaged to draw a fair crowd, and I would like to think that they received a worthy reception considering this was their only UK date on their European tour.