Will Haven & Raging Speedhorn @ Sound Control
“I spend several days at a time without enough sleep. At first, normal activities become annoying. When you are too tired to eat, you really need some sleep. A few days later, things become strange. Loud noises become louder and more startling, familiar sounds become unfamiliar, and life reinvents itself as a surrealist dream.” – Henry Rollins
Warm, soothing water washes over my face, over tired eyes and a mouth that, with a sharp inhalation of breath, lets a small smile crack the corner. Steam rises around me, the tatter of water on porcelain the soundtrack to my quiet contemplation. I’ve not felt this clean in days. Sleep, while it has existed, has been minimal, the pace of the last few weeks relentless and mentally draining. Sleep has been more like a grey, foreboding rain cloud on the distant horizon rather than a perpetual shining sun.
Music, to shift the subject from the thought of me in the shower – my apologies for that – is relative. Certain noises to a vibrant and happy mind are like the sweetest, most serene honey while to a dislocated mind it can see you plunging deeper into uncomfortable reverie. Likewise, the flip side can offer very much that. And so, here my freshly showered self stands in the high ceilinged, dingy yet lovable basement of Sound Control on this typically weatherless Mancunian Sunday evening. Here I stand not quite sure how to interpret the glass crackingly loud noises that punctures the densely populated room.
Around me, at my stance towards the back, opinions are divided on both bands. My fatigue can be at least partly blamed for my lack of adrenaline and movement, but for the others it’s hard to define whether or not that it’s because they are into the music or not. Down the front is an altogether more rowdy affair. Lest we forget that, with both acts having established themselves over the years, securing the longevity that couples itself with a sustained fan-base, there isn’t a real need or desire to win over the unconverted. Indeed, while there is very likely to be a cross pollination between the two sets of fans, this noisy sermon is aimed more at the converted than anyone else. Extending upon that then, it’s obvious that these two acts have cemented within themselves just how their countenance and personality is outwardly projected. They know what they like in a song and they hammer at that formula like a chef with his secret recipe.
Sleep’s absence can do fucked up things to you and on another night Speedhorn’s unholy barbarism may have had me in decibel bothering heaven, but tonight there was, at times, a one dimensional feel to their sound that didn't quite bridge the divide between enjoyable and overtly memorable. The riffs are heavier than a sleeping giant, groovy as hell and embedded with an innate sense of punk rock looseness, but the highlights are where they enrich their perhaps slightly formulaic approach to deafening. The harmony brushed Halfway To Hell and the murky depths of mercurial set-closer High Whore, which benefits from a doom rock bellow are such moments. On record they are simply blistering, live they are another animal. But, be it the mundane crowd at the back of the room, my unbalanced mental state, both or neither, they left the stage with one thought pierced into my head: I know this band has more to offer.
And so the night trundled on. A lengthy break between the sets numbing things a little. So by the time Sacramento’s Will Haven came to the stage, people were ready for some magic to duly get down and lose their shit to. The problem was however, that the clarity of the sound was opaque at best. Close to the stage the ears rattled to the point of incoherence, but walking around the room that never changed. I stood there, following fingers traversing fretboards, but there were no identifiable intervals between the note changes. It was a mess. They played with a feverish freneticism, a dogged aggression and might, but it accounts for nothing when all you can hear is a cannonball of oncoming tinnitus. While the power of their music was transferred onto the stage tonight, its atmosphere and character was left behind.
Now, I'm not ignorant. I know the purpose of this band is to re-position your bowels and face with a low end like no other and to ask if they did that is like querying if indeed the Pope really is a Catholic. I mean, there are many here tonight basking in their crushing tones and down trodden temperament, but I just can't get into it. I love my sludge and disgracefully dirty doom, I like riffs that sound like Satan is in dire need of a Yakult, but here in the moment I just can't wade through the thicker-than-trickle guitars and brazen vocal screams.
I can't call this a bad show, the smiling faces and rave reviews make argument of that. What I can say however is that, from a personal viewpoint, I wasn't overly infatuated. I simply didn't leave the gig with that breathy satisfaction that you do on a night on returning to the outside world after a set that will stay in your memory for a long time to come.
Words: Phil Weller