The Facemelter: September edition, featuring PSOTY
At the beginning of every month, London-based promoters Chaos Theory put on The Facemelter at Camden’s The Black Heart: an evening of carefully-curated music to while away your Friday evening. We attended our first last month, but it’s clear the organisers are well experienced, and so we were eager to repeat the experience. This month saw a distinctly instrumental, post-metal bent to proceedings.
Despite their early slot this evening, tonight is a fairly momentous occasion for Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster. The long-serving instrumental quartet are playing their final show with bassist Enrique, who will soon be leaving the country. The band take to the stage to be warmly greeted by a large group of friends and fans looking to give him an appropriate send-off.
The band ease us into a night of all things post-metal with some tight and well crafted tracks. Their approach is disciplined and unshowy, preferring to let the dynamics do the talking. The drumming is tom-heavy, with more than a nod in the direction of Tool‘s Danny Carey, and the sporadically deployed double kick is particularly effective. The twin guitars intertwine, ebbing, flowing and pulsing in a late-period Isis style.
For the first couple of tracks, this is really very pleasant indeed. The band are clearly competent, well-practiced and the sound is crisp and clear, suggesting that the issues we encountered at the last Facemelter night were an unfortunate aberration.
But as the set progresses, I find it increasingly difficult to shake the notion that there is something missing from the band’s sound. I know the band have experimented in the past with the addition of a vocalist, and some of these tracks do feel more like accompaniments than full-blown instrumentals in their own right. The band rarely stray far from a standard template either, so once acclimatised to their sound, there are few surprises.
With the band now needing to recruit a new bass player and turning their focus to writing new material, I suspect things will be fairly quiet for Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, during this period they will find that elusive to plug the hole in their sound, which could then turn a collection of good songs into great ones.
Despite already being crowded, even more equipment was added to the stage by Belgian four-piece OMSQ, who we were told had travelled all day to get here, and took shifts napping backstage whilst soundcheck went on. A keyed instrument and a large number of effects pedals appear, and it’s clear this is going to be something with a lot of depth – you don’t lug these things on tour for nothing.
Despite an unfortunate thinning of the crowd after locals TNBD – much of whose large following seemed to leave after seeing what they came for – it’s not long before curious ears filter back into the room. A slow-building intro lulls the room into a false sense of security, so that when the eventual bludgeoning wall of sound drops in it catches many off-guard and spurs them into motion. It’s a pacier slice than the previous band; slightly oppressive in its urgency, like your heartbeat after running for the bus. Further down the line, the dense patterns are replaced by big, open post-metal riffs that are so bangable you’d get sweaty just thinking about them the next morning. Summarily, they get an even better response from the assembled crowd. The variance is incredibly engaging; pace, atmosphere and instrumentation are all well considered by the four-piece.
Samples murmur and rasp in the background from fairly early on, triggered by one of the guitarists (who bears a passing resemblance to Ron Swanson), but they trade off with the instrumentation every once in a while so that they’re given prominence. The music flows in movements like this for much of the set: build and payoff; slow and fast. It makes for a heady dynamism, and the little extras here and there – the keys and the backing track in particular – add that little something that Simon suggested Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster were missing.
By the end there’s a thumping, cultish insistence to the music, and all heads are nodding along. We’re all sad to see them finish, but with new album Thrust/Parry released not 24 hours earlier, we’re somewhat sated.
One of the first thoughts that enters my head regarding PSOTY – until recently known as Pet Slimmers Of The Year – is “how are these guys only a three-piece?!” They may be slim, but they’re some sort of large, exotic and probably illegally imported animals. It seems like the trio are making the extra effort to be as noisy as they physically can, and that is as loud as living fuck. Every chord, every beat is played with absolute conviction and precision.
A reddy-orange glow permeates the stage; all other lighting is extinguished, and whilst it’s a simple set-up, it’s effective, adding to the already impressive atmosphere the band create.
The best post-metal swallows you, and this does so wholly; the background atmospherics buzz away, aided by the twangy, Oceanic bass sound of Steve Mckenna, which recalls not only ISIS but also Red Sparowes. The light/dark dynamic they create is fantastic – the ideas are simple but executed sublimely, feeling aquatic and transcendental. The sparse vocals from guitarist Scott Gowan echo in the background from time to time, but it’s all about the three instruments – plus the impressively utilised pedalboard, of course.
Their set is cut short due to time constraints – final track “One Down” is literally so – so it’s wanting more that we’re left, which isn’t a bad way to end a show.
Next month’s Facemelter will team up Alright The Captain, Bear Makes Ninja and UpCDownC for an evening of math and post-rock, and will be on Friday 3rd October. Details on Facebook here.