Unearthly Trance Star & Garter, Manchester, 19/05/2005

Thu 26th May 2005

Support from Atavist, Ripley


In the odd, cramped and out of the way room above the Star and Garter pub, a sludgy, grooved-up racket is pumping its way out of the PA at varying speeds, punctuated by mouth-scraping screams interpsersed with the occasional whisper. Manchester sludge four-piece Ripley are not letting up one bit in this, their final gig. As I've never got fully into the sludge subgenre myself, the music emnating from the stage, while thrillingly and scarily intense at times, doesn't really connect with me, but I can still say that it's a shame Ripley are splitting, as they're good at what they do. The highlight of their set comes when one of the crowd joins the band on one song, turning them into a dual-vocal sludgy onslaught. The final song of the set is suitably intense, a last statement of raw intent, and as feedback-infused twilight falls on Ripley's music, the audience response is similarly raw and direct. Goodbye lads, here's hoping you'll be back soon.

Ramesses and tonight's headliners Unearthly Trance have still yet to arrive, so with the curfew ticking closer another sludge four-piece take the stage, filling in. This is the second time I've seen Atavist, and I enjoy it more than the first. Announcing that they're going to play a 'very new song' they roll out a 15 minute number that begins with a long, slow, quiet intro before taking a right turn into a supernova-like dirge, seething and heavy, with a groove that establishes itself with greater intensity as the song unfurls. That's all they are doing tonight, however what's there is impressive.

The two missing bands finally emerge into the room, and Ramesses start setting up. Or rather, they help set up Unearthly Trance's stuff. Ramesses guitarist Tim Bagshaw is unable to attend at least the first few shows of this tour due to having to undergo an emergency hernia operation, and unable to find a stand-in guitarist at such short notice, tonight's gig is a non-starter. And so we cut straight to New York's Unearthly Trance, playing what I think might be their first UK show, although I can't be sure. Hitting the stage they stride into the hellish apocalypse that is their brand of doom, torturously slow at times, with some fast-paced groove tempo shifts, mixing with screamed, anguished vocals. Tonight they air plenty of songs off their second and latest release 'In the Red', the best of which is undoubtedly the title track, a nasty, twisted grooved beast of a song. They also play some older songs, notably (upon the audience's request) the cold, bitter, and indescribably heavy 'Raised by the Wolves', undoubtedly the highlight of the night. The feedback fills your ears, the chords fill your mind, the audience is caught in the reverberating, hypnotic groove emnating from the stage.

They play until the house lights come up to remind us of the fact that the pub staff want to go home, and then play some more, finishing on the eerie sample/doom/scream structure of the last song off 'In the Red'. The gig was, to be honest, as good as Electric Wizard a few weeks ago, and a welcome reminder that you and I should listen to this band a lot more.


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