Baroness & No Spill Blood @Gorilla
A week after Viola Beach entered the singles charts following their untimely deaths, echoing the fragility of life for touring artists, it's fitting that Baroness made such a storming return to Manchester. Supporting a record both inspired and bruised by the memories of their tour bus crash four years ago, an incident which saw two members leave in its wake and could have been much more damning, there is a feeling tonight of the audience raising the Savannah quartet on a pedestal tonight, this is more than just a band. The old adage of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger stands true here and its testament to the firm resolve of John Baizley and Peter Adams to re-sculpt the band from the ashes that remained and, as a result, have produced a stunning long player which sounds simply imperious in the flesh.
With Royal Thunder providing support on their last visit to our city, No Spill Blood had something of a tall order to live up to, but their skull rattling, synth-washed sound made light work of that. A band I discovered on a Youtube meander many moons ago and simply forgot existed, such is the ebb and flow of life, getting the chance to see them was something I grabbed with both hands. The dark, stabbing death disco stomp of White Out sci-fi boogie of Back To Earth both pack a real punch and, as just a three piece containing bass, synth and drums they have freedom to spread about the stage. As a result sticksman Ror Conaty is at the forefront of the stage and by far the most energetic and eye catching member of the band, the crowd revelled in witnessing him beat the living crap out of his kit, all with a big, psychotic smile. With no guitarist, bassist/vocalist Matt Hedigan ravages his tone with a filthy fuzz that seems to swallow the room whole and, in all honesty, it was refreshing to see a band not orientated around a guitar. It makes them more diverse, more compelling and they can be sure to be leaving tonight having made a real impression.
Baroness then put a match to opener Kerosene, its sharp rhythms and hollered, impassioned vocals scintillating, and the place explodes. Across a set focussing on their latter material – the harmonised thunder of the Isaak’s twin guitar attack the only song from Red played tonight – they go about entertaining a packed out Gorilla with a deft professionalism and awe-inspiring conviction. March To The Sea is oozing in emotion, embodying the kind of haunting, bone chilling melodicisms upon which this band has crafted its signature brew, while Chlorine & Wine, still smarting from the long and painful recovery post-crash does very much the same.
The flow of the set is artfully executed, deluges of riffs, like on the monstrous Morningstar and the primitive, brutish Desperation Burns are countered by the gorgeous psychadelia of Fugue and the soothing tranquillity of Little Things. An act I’ve heard shunned as simply ‘a poor man’s Mastodon’ are here left to eat their words as they expertly go about both caressing your heartstrings and decimating your eardrums.
Morning comes, awoken by ringing in my ears, reflections of the night before seeping into my consciousness and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. What a band.
Words: Phil Weller | Photos: Anthony Firmin