Fri 3rd December 2004
Support from Ramesses, Atavist & Ulcat Row
It's not often that any bands worthy of note play Lancaster, preferring instead the bright lights of Liverpool and Manchester to the south. This windswept Lancashire town is a bit of a bugger to live in if you're a fan of live music. Generally there's sod all on. So when I heard that 5ive and Ramesses's recent UK tour would be seeing them playing the Yorkshire House, thereby creating the first worthwhile gig to happen in this area since The Fall played Morecambe in February, I had my Tuesday night well and truly booked.
First on are a band I've never heard of called Ulcat Row. Well, I think that's their name but to be honest I can't remember. However, if their name's forgettable, their music certainly isn't. They play what is essentially one very long, progressive twenty-minute song, with sporadic [maybe slightly unnecessary] vocals and some intriguing guitar interplay to keep the audience interested. It's clear that they've been listening to a LOT of Isis, as the nature of the music shows [heavy bit, then long quiet bit leading into tense build up followed by a long cathartic heavy bit]. I've always found this style of music to be a little pretentious to be honest, but live it's a different matter, far more enchanting, and the band set a good standard for the rest of the evening.
Next up, Activist. I only find out later that they apparently have the ex-Burning Witch and Thorr's Hammer drummer behind the kit, which would go some way towards explaining how tight their performance is. Poundingly heavy thick sludge with some crushingly, torturously SLOW doom bits, they lay waste to the PA and my ears. Sludge is another musical subgenre I've never got into, but this band do it well. The ending of the final song is drawn out, long and tortuorus, the guitars humming incessantly, the drums exploding into noise at sporadic intervals. Lovely.
Reverend Bizarre drifts through the PA as Ramesses set up. I've seen them once before, at the Underworld back in December 2003, and I was impressed. Their split CD with Negative Reaction, however, suffered from a rather shite production that meant the two tracks on it lost their edge somewhat. So it's with slightly mixed feelings that I watch them set up their gear.
I should mention that about 25% of the reason behind why I came here was because Ramesses contains two-thirds of legendary UK doomlords Electric Wizard, namely drummer Mark Greening and guitarist [having switched from bass] Tim Bagshaw. In a small venue such as this there's always a chance of meeting them and having a brief chat, and this was one of the reasons I was looking forward to tonight. However, it turns out that Tim broke his wrist two days before the tour was due to start and the guitarist from Gonga is standing in for him. Oh well.
But now my attention is focused firmly back on the stage, because bassist/vocalist Adam Richardson is strapping on his instrument and after a short, fairly relaxed jam-type intro the band roar into 'Witchampton'. As they're a three-piece, they deliver a cohesive performance of doomy sludge sounds, with each track battering better riffs into your brain than the last one did. Mark Greening's drumming is one of the highlights of the performance, superbly controlled yet loose and with a relaxed, free feel to it. In contrast to Electric Wizard, where the drums were drowned by the guitar drone, here they're deservedly grappling your attention, though they're not the only thing doing so. The riffs sear repetitively from the stage, and the vocals [when you can hear them properly - bad soundman! Bad dude!] interlock with the music beautifully. The final track of the set, 'Ramesses II' pounds out, and despite the guitarist situation the guy from Gonga does an excellent job tonight, only reinforcing the feeling that this is a fresh, invigorating new start for all involved. Good job lads. I rush off and buy the new demo EP [four songs and two videos for ten quid.... hmmmm... still, small bands have to make money somehow]. Then I chat a bit to Mark as he packs his kit up, and get him to sign my arm as I don't have a bit of paper on me.
5ive come on stage, and the first thing I notice is that they don't look like your average 'heavy musician'... no long hair, leather jackets or boots. But two things I think immediately,  Who gives a fuck about image? and  5ive aren't your average heavy band. I'd heard various friends of mine go into raptures whenever the band was mentioned, plus I'd also heard how loud their sets were. But I hadn't actually heard their stuff apart from one song, 'The Baron', which is what they kick off their storming set with and which I don't recognise anyway. 5ive are like no other band I've heard. The first half of their set is basically longish loud and repetitive songs which go along like the clappers and which do the repetition thing well-they actually choose not just a good riff to repeat but instead a fucking brilliant riff. Over and over and over. No vocals or bass, just guitar and drums creating this fast, spacey and immensely hard rocking music. Lovely. Isis take note. During the set, the guitarist seems to get more and more animated, until at one point he hurls himself across the stage, almost knocking himself out and completely fucking his guitar pickup in the process. Also he uses an electric motor to 'play' the guitar, by putting the spindle on the strings and altering the speed with his finger. Novel and effective, particularly during feedback spots.
As the set progresses their songs start to become longer and more progressive, and while they're still good songs I start to long for a return of the fast, heavy bits. Also, the addition of a bass might help make their sound become even more expansive and thunderous than it already is-I was expecting a slightly louder set [it was still bloody loud mind you]. Just as I'm starting to get slightly bored, however, and thinking 'get back to the heavier stuff', in comes the grand finale. A long song is brought to a close by a heavy section [yay!] followed by about five minutes of feedback and effects noises, including more electric motor guitar torture. Now I've seen Hawkwind live, and thought that was spacey enough, but NOTHING compares to this. This isn't music, it's the sound of a spaceship orbiting around an undiscovered planet in a far-off galaxy. Feedback never sounded so good. The storm continues until the buggered guitar pickup finally gives way, and the roars fade to crackles and fizzles. A "what the fuck was THAT?" atmosphere descends over the crowd. Wow. I'm off to the merch stall again, this time to pick up 5ive's first album.
What a fucking great night. The Gonga guitarist told me that Gonga will be coming to Lancaster in the future. I shall be there, and you should be there when 5ive and Ramesses come to your local venue on this tour.