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Bostonian supergroup thunder into London with eclectic friends

Old Man Gloom Circle Bossk poster

From a personal perspective, this evening’s event was a big deal. Bands like ISIS, Cave In and Converge were core parts of my inauguration into heavy music, and so a band featuring members of all three is cause for excitement.

As Aaron Turner points out mid-way through their set, Old Man Gloom have been meaning to come to London for a decade, but hadn’t yet managed it. They finally managed it though, and brought with them Finnish art-rock band Circle and Kentish post-metal quintet Bossk.

Bossk in themselves are an emotional landmark for me. My first year away from home, they were the first band I saw in the big city supporting Japanese hardcore band Envy, and they blew me away. They’d since disbanded, but reformed within the last two years, and it was a real pleasure to see them again, not least of all because they reaffirmed that I wasn’t remembering them better than they were; they felt extremely familiar, wreathed in darkness and blue fog as they were. A couple of newer cuts were followed by the entirety of .1, their first EP. It’s a very slow-building record, and the single high note of atmospherics soars whilst the guitars and drums manifest behind it. Vocalist Sam Marsh leaves the stage for much of this, so as not to distract from the music itself. He returns for his climactic roars at the end of “II” to applause, and you can feel the connection between the band, the music and the audience.

It helps that they sounded fantastic anyway; we learn later that they have their own sound man on the road with them, which naturally will help. Great stuff.

I can only assume Jam Circle’s intro was designed to confuse and disorientate, and to be fair, it did just that. I returned to the room and they were just sort of…happening. In what they were playing, no patterns or rhythms were discernible, and whilst it wasn’t your five year-old brother and his mates bashing pots and pans and blowing into siren whistles and kazoos, it immediately puts you on the back foot.

It’s clearly just an intro, as they break into a more composed section after a while, but it doesn’t fare much better – holding your instrument in front of your head like a rockstar doesn’t negate the monotony of three guitars playing pretty much the same thing for five minutes. A little research into Circle has revealed that they build a lot of their work on repetition, which is fair enough – they’ve also been around in one form or another since 2001 and have put out an insane amount of output – but it really does nothing for me.

An analogy jumps into my mind during the hour or so-long set – that it sounds like a hippy space opera; Flash Gordon played by a Led Zeppelin cover band – and whilst that amused me at the time, it’s more depressing now. Many others enjoyed them immensely, but between the somewhat bizarre stage antics, the mid-set costume change (from Cyberdog employee to black metal bondage gear in one case) and the unfamiliarity, it just all felt very pretentious, and that doesn’t sit well.

The main event causes a swell in the crowd in front of the stage itself, and the excitement is palpable as the four members of Old Man Gloom take the stage. They begin with Christmas‘ iconic opening track “Gift“; its strummed intro breaking into one of the heaviest riffs I’ve heard live in a while. This sets the stage for the rest of the performance; it’s a full plate of riffmosas, riff sauce,  riff salad and then a big slice of riffnoffee pie for dessert.

OMG are also incredibly loud. LOUD in caps in fact; the guy to my left, despite rocking out, had his fingers in his ears throughout nearly the whole hour or so that they played, and even with my earplugs, I had a bit of ringing in mine for the rest of the night. Whilst damaging for those without the foresight to protect their hearing, the volume serves to increase the power of each crushing passage. Tracks like “Skullstorm“, “Sleeping With Snakes” and “Hot Salvation” are phenomenal to behold, and even the ‘respites’ of feedback and electronic laden passages leave you with goosebumps.

The shared vocals between the wild-haired Aaron Turner, bassist Caleb Schofield and Nate Newton are caustic and biting, and Santos Montano is an absolute monster behind his kit, leading the charge and accenting in equal measure. It’s a real delight to see these songs come to life on stage. For long time British fans, this is the culmination of a decade of waiting, and it doesn’t disappoint one iota. Hopefully not so long next time, and “bring it on motherfucker” indeed.