Truckfighters Monkey Cafe, Swansea, 17/05/2006

Thu 18th May 2006

Support from Suns Of Thunder, Dead Wolves


Well, we here in Swansea appear to have gone from a lonely outpost of rock to a reasonably serious contender for 'up and coming new place to gig' in just a few short weeks, with some fine bands coming out, and tonight was no exception.

Shelley got flooded into her house, so again I was on me tod but feeling slightly less conscious of it this time round. On with the line up then, eh...

Openers tonight are local band Dead Wolves, who I've only recently found out about. I was very intrigued to see them live as the mp3s on MySpace show an interesting cross section of the 'heavy' spectrum, combined cleverly into something more interesting. Black metal and doom interspersed with long drone/sludge sections aren't necessarily uncommon, but most bands seem to pick one and then show flourishes of the others, whereas these guys seem more intent on displaying all influences evenly. Live, however, these guys are all about the spiralling, psychedelia-tinged doom, and it's done so well I nearly faint. The set starts out as dead slow sludge drone (think Charger's more doomy moments) with roaring gravelly vocals (think Aaron Turner on early Isis) before just when you think it's gonna all get a bit much, they suddenly leap into an Electric Wizard-style up tempo groove and keep you guessing the whole way through. The middle of the set lets the psych-doom of later day EW take full swing, and my head is spinning as they chuck out blissed-out heaviosity with consummate ease, before collapsing back to sludgier fare for the set closer. They play for a surprisingly long time for an opener, and everything on display here is excellent quality and obviously done with serious passion. All hail the riff, all revel in the sludge. Fantastic stuff, even better than I'd hoped it would be.

A quick smoke and chat to the Suns boys, Adam introduces me to one of the girls off AltSwansea who (being rubbish confidence-wise when I don't have anyone around that I'm close friends with already) I spectacularly fail to chat to, and then it's back in for the next band.

Now, this time, I am gonna re-rant about the Suns Of Thunder properly as, frankly, they deserve it. Plain and simple. The boys take to the stage in somewhat cocky form, as they not only open with a new song that the audience is still only reasonably familiar with, but then effortlessly turn it into a twenty-minute jam-fest that most bands would be more than happy with as a set closer, laying down groove after groove whilst simultaneously dealing with a drumkit that's slowly but surely hopping forward (nearly two foot and very nearly straight off the riser) under the pounding Sam is giving it. Again, in the few short weeks since the Winnebago Deal gig, the band appear to have got tighter and stronger. The entire set becomes a four-song jamathon of two new numbers, the ever popular 'Tenessee Smile' and a superb instrumental '...Time Part II', which it takes me nearly half of to realise it doesn't sound half as empty as it normally does when Maria isn't screaming her lungs out over the top, because Keyboardist Ben is doing a damn near perfect impression of her on the sly. Meanwhile, Adam's guitar work again blows me away as his sound gets rawer and his playing itself gets more and more intricately understated. Greg, of course, is effortlessly 100 percent RockStar head-to-toe (aided even more by the fact that he has to spend almost half the set with one foot on the riser, trying to keep the drumkit from landing on his head in true '80's metal fashion), and his voice is sounding simply huge these days. I talk to Adam after the show and he laughs that "it wasn't really a gig, like... just more of a jam than anything, really..." and I tell him that he's a cocky bastard and they're lucky they pulled it off, but we both know well enough that there was never really any doubt, and luck had very little to do with it.

We reach the finale of the evening, and Swedish desert rockers Truckfighters get down to it. I'm thinking (as I so often do at these kind of gigs) that they're gonna have to try fucking hard to even make a dent on us after the pummelling we've already had by Dead Wolves and The Suns, and wouldn't you believe it? they fucking level the place! There are two things that anyone would notice about this band immediately, so I may as well start with them and then digress after. 1: Their favourite bands are very clearly Kyuss and other desert-rock icons in the Slo Burn/Karma To Burn etc mould. 2: For four blokes who're playing their eighth gig out of ten in ten days, they are absolutely bursting with energy. The short-haired guitarist especially pogos like a nutter for the entire duration of the set, leaping around the front of the stage area, and the band as a whole play like men possessed. Song-wise, as I've said, I'm unfamiliar with the material, but it's all here and every one a hit. Occasionally, they do stray a little too close to a riff you already know, but generally they manage to keep their own stamp on riffs, and technically they simply can't be faulted; consummate musicians to a man, they tear ferociously through the good length set. Gradually, it starts to feel like it's 'set-closing piece' time and, true to form, the boys build at a steady pace up to a fantastic full-on high point, and then everything goes quiet rather quickly as, for the first time in a long time, a band doesn't drag the end of a song out forever with effects and feedback, and the lights come back on and the crowd nearly forgets to applaud for a few seconds, we're all so surprised there's so little messing about.

The Truckfighters themselves look a little disappointed with the crowd's (as ever) rather nonchalant response compared to their own obvious passion and energy, but remember, boys, this is Swansea and we like to keep a little decorum round these parts, but never you worry, lads, when the entirety of Monkey's nodding its head with a big ol' smile on their faces, as we all were last night, it means you ain't done bad. Not too bad at all...


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