6 Feb 2023
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Gig Review: Swamp Song XII @ Thirsty Dog, Auckland - 15/07/2022

15 Jul 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

Originally, I was not supposed to be in Auckland this weekend, which is why tonight I was not at Ding Dong watching the mighty Coridian, but as that gig was being covered by another writer from MNNZ I instead headed out to The Thirsty for another of Sean’s soirées. The Swamp Song events pride themselves on bringing together some of the most metallic and interesting bands around, and tonight was no exception with another four-band bill. However, due to the gift which keeps on giving, Malevolence had to pull out, and instead we were being treated to a one night only performance of Testicular Taxidermy performing as a duo instead of the usual quintet.

I got into the venue about half an hour before the first band only to see Grym Rhymney onstage already. Cue panic as I rushed to get everything set up (and not even getting a beer yet), but luckily, they were just completing their soundcheck as opposed to already well into their set. Phew! I had to get a pint just to calm my nerves. It was great to see a good crowd as there were plenty of great bands playing tonight in different Auckland venues – there really is no excuse not to get out there and see some great music. I first saw Grym Rhymney as a four-piece at the Blitz Metal Fest last June, since when they have changed their drummer and added a keyboard player to the mix. Walking in on the soundcheck I was immediately taken by how much better the keyboard sound was tonight, more to the fore, and just how much they reminded me of Mentaur, a band I used to follow around the London scene some 30 years ago! This meant I was really looking forward to the set tonight.

The gentle picking at the beginning of opener Demise fooled no-one and soon Albi was in full roar, with the keyboards adding a melodic backdrop to the crunch, providing both polish and contrast as well as a certain level of finesse. These guys have stepped up so much in the last year or so, and regular gigging as well as the change in attack has definitely had an impact on their confidence: they are playing again tomorrow so are certainly up for it at present. Nail In The Coffin continued in the same vein, raw vocals with powerful guitars, nice five-string bass, really powerful drumming (great use of kick drums) plus the keyboards providing harmony and peace over the top of the maelstrom. The addition of keyboards to the mix has had a major impact, as it has made the band seem even heavier, with The Heathen Remains threating to blow out everyone’s eardrums as the keyboards, bass and guitars undertook incredibly tight runs while Izak threatened to do permanent damage to the house kit. They are not all bash and blast though, as A Mass Of Time Well Spent shows they can be far more melodic and restrained when they wish to, but these guys just want to provide some dynamics so that the heavy is even heavier than it was before. This Is What Your Hands Were Made For also starts gently, with some nice bass as a counterpoint, but everyone knew what was coming, and soon the riffs came in, but here tied in more closely with the drums and the rhythmic pattern. This song is one of the newer ones, and I do wonder if is showing the direction they plan to move in as while it is still brutally heavy, it is also more refined and melodic than many of their other material. Of course, they ended with City of the Plague, in what was easily the best performance I have seen from them to date.

Next up was Ben (drums, vocals) and Toby (guitar) of Testicular Taxidermy who were playing as a duo, given they could not get the rest of the band involved at such short notice. Although they have a grindcore approach they were not always playing at the speed I would expect from that style of music, so the result was something which at times came across as a hybrid of grind and doom. With just the two instruments it did mean that the drums were far more obvious than would be the case in a full band, and with the heavy distortion being deployed by Toby the lack of bass was never an issue. I know from speaking with Ben before the gig that the full band are a relatively new entity while this duo had only played one gig, the other night when they stepped up at Ding Dong to see if this worked. The answer to that is a definite “yes”, as they create a monstrous groove when they wish to and blast your head off its shoulders at others, all depending on what they want to achieve. Ben’s growls are ferocious and deep, definitely influenced by Barney. With song titles such as Dumpster Lobotomy, Insatiable Lust For Human Flesh and The Last Of My ADHD Meds this was a load of fun from beginning to end and all power to the guys for putting themselves out there. I enjoyed their set tonight, and if this is what they are like when it is just the two of them, I am certainly looking forward to hearing the full band.

Tonight was my first time of seeing Knifed, which is Benny (vocals), Andy (guitar) and Mark (drums) and they kicked off into uncompromising grindcore which was brutally heavy and shockingly fast. Benny not only sounds like Barney but has always captured many of his mannerisms as he is taken by the music and lifted into a different plane, while Mark is a human octopus and Andy was attempting to deafen everyone by playing through all the onstage amps and using a lot of distortion. The result was an assault on the senses as they ripped through the set. There was no time for talking between songs, as they did not want to do anything to break the mood but instead just quickly rolled from one into another. However, they are one of the bands who understand the need for contrast in the arrangements, so songs were at different tempos while they also sometimes put in mini breaks which allowed for a reset, and then they were straight back into the throng. I have seen some incredibly heavy bands in this venue, but it has been some time since I have been witness to such a vicious attack which was unrelenting in its approach. Chatting to Matt Hammond of Pale Flag before the set we were saying how neither of us had seen them before and Matt placed himself front and centre while I made my way to the rear. There was no escaping their high energy approach though, and I am sure there were plenty of people in K Road wondering what on earth was going on at The Thirsty. They came, they demolished our eardrums, and the set was over way too soon. I am definitely looking forward to seeing these guys again.

Finally, it was time for Unwanted Subject a band which I also saw at Metal Blitz but who have been through quite a few line-up changes since then which has seen them going away from the live scene for a while. Only singer Gerrit and guitarist Ryan are still there from the version I saw, and they have now been joined by Blair (drums), Prasert (guitars) and bassist Bran. They started with a dynamic and hard-hitting drum solo, at which point I realised Gerrit wasn’t on the stage. Then in came the bass, then rhythm guitar, then lead until they were all ripping it out, at which point Gerrit jumped up and got the crowd going as they went into End Is Due. It was a heck of an intro and they had the crowd on their side from the beginning and soon everyone was moving as Gerrit switched between melodic and gruff vocals, with Ryan adding a harder edge at times. I remember last time I saw them I did not think that Gerrit did not look like a metal singer, but he certainly acts like one, and here is another band which have taken a step up since I last saw them as they are now incredibly tight, blasting out as one. On Til The End Ryan was providing the more melodic voice with Gerrit taking on the rougher role, and boy did this song rock as the groove was immense. The twin vocal approach allows them to really mix up the music, with the powerful rhythm section providing the foundation (Blair even being allowed a short solo before SOS, while Bran also had the chance to strut his stuff.) and Ryan sometimes tying in with them while at others he is providing additional melodic approach and dual attack with 7-string guitarist Prasert. Then at the front is Gerrit who lives and breathes everything he does, throwing his very being into the music, no wonder the crowd were reacting in such a positive manner. There was a guitar duel before Ceasefire, and then we were off into their newest number showing that the guys have no thoughts whatsoever for slowing down yet combines again the raw and the smooth with some wonderfully melodic vocals from Ryan. They ended the night with Chimaira’s Pure Hatred and the pit was well and truly on.

 

Swamp Song was yet another roaring success, so congrats to Sean for putting on yet another killer show. I guess the only question now, is when is the next one?


Photo Credit: Kev Rowland

 

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