KARMA TO BURN + DESERT STORM, THE WITCHES DRUM & THORUN
I ventured a little further for this gig than my usual haunts around the Midlands and Yorkshire. There were two good reasons for this:
1. It was a Karma to Burn show and I bloody love Karma to Burn.
2. The line-up for the Cardiff date was absolutely fantastic.
The first band up on the rifftacular evening were THORUN. I’d first heard of this band when I reviewed their second E.P. ‘Chorus of Giants’ late last year and I was keen to see them live, but as they haven’t really broken out of the South Wales scene yet I have been struggling. Until now :)
Thorun occupy a similar musical territory as the nights headline act;Karma to Burn. The most obvious similarities being that they are an instrumental band and they deal in big riffs. The band also fit nicely into that wide old category that is Stoner. Thorun are lot darker than the night’s headliners though, they deal in hard hitting doom-laced music rather than the boogie riffs of Karma to Burn.
Having four bands on the bill meant that it was a short set from all the support bands (the headliners nearly got in on that too, but that’s for later…) and Thorun had roughly half an hour. This was quite enough to get everyone’s eardrums warmed up for the nights proceedings and Thorun’s towering riffs certainly lived up to what I had previously heard on CD. Neal Palmer was openly nervous about playing on the same stage as Karma to Burn and had many a cheeky grin to himself throughout the set. He’s a softley spoken man when chatting to the crowd but his bass playing, along with the rest of the band of course, is simply awesome bludgeoning stuff.
The band threw in some new material half way through the set which had a bit of a more upbeat mood to it than a lot of their material. It sounded very promising for the new record!
The only band on the bill that I wasn’t familiar with were fellow Welshmen THE WITCHES DRUM. When a bands singer turns up in a pair of pink marigolds, just his boots and smaller shorts than Ian Rush ever had, then you know you’re about to see something a bit different! He certainly doesn’t disappoint on the entertainment front, regularly breaking out into the large crowd (on foot and crawling), drinking everyone’s beer and generally acting like a mentalist.
The Witches Drum do have the tunes to back up these shenanigans though. Displaying the widest array of influences of any band on the Moon Club stage on the night, The Witches Drum take their time and are a little less direct than the rest of the bill. They mix up some great psychedelic jams which are dominated by swirling guitars with short sharp bursts of the heavy stuff. They manage to create a cool concoction of classic Zeppelin rock with a fuzzy soup of Monster Magnet’s spacey rock. Of course, just like all the other bands on the line-up tonight, they can rock pretty hard too! I shall certainly be investigating further into The Witches Drum.
DESERT STORM were the special guests to Karma to Burn for the UK Leg of the tour. 2012 has seen them steadily build their profile as one the UK’s rising Stoner bands, so it’s a well deserved slot for them.
Desert Storm mainly trade in heavy blues-style songs with an obvious influence from Clutch in both vocals and music. Matt Ryan’s vocals are so deep and gritty that he occasionally breaks into a Macho Man Randy Savage type roar which makes you fear for his throat. That was the least of his worries on the night however, as he had unfortunately opted to wear three layers of clothes in the furnace that is the Moon Club. The Oxford band managed to win over the Welsh crowd with their Southern tinged groove and made sure no momentum was lost in the run up to the Headliner’s arrival. Woah Yeah!
So, after 3 brilliant bands it would be fair to say that a few necks were already getting sore from a continuous barrage of meaty riffs.
KARMA TO BURN had no problem in keeping the crowd’s energy up. They may be an instrumental band for the most part, but you can sing just about any Karma to Burn song from start to finish as if it had lyrics. There are two types of bass players in rock music. There are those that lurk around in the background around the drum riser whilst other band members soak up the limelight. Then there are those who attack from the front and visibly shape a bands style and sound. An obvious example of this would be Steve Harris but you could argue that Karma’s Rich Mullins has even more impact. His bass wails, moans, judders and screams as good as any singer and provides the blueprint for the band’s sound. William Mecum’s six strings are just as important in building the gigantic riff machine that is Karma to Burn of course and tonight’s band is completed by new drummer Evan Devine.
They do say “too much of a good thing…” and all that but when it comes to Karma To Burn that rule just doesn’t apply. The West Virginians deliver riff after riff after riff. Some go down like a boogie, some are darker and some are heavier than others but you just cannot help but bang your head when they are playing. They is very little let-up in their sets and moments of reflection in their songs are brief where they occur. They are simply relentless. There were a few points where the band were a little loose, whether this was down to the addition of a new drummer or simply the blistering temperature in the club is unknown, but if anything it added to the chaotic atmosphere of the event. The crowd went from headbanging, full-on moshing to attempted crowd surfing through the set and it was a real contrast to the usual stoner gig attitude of head nodding and quiet applause.
They aired plenty of the old stuff as expected with imminent release of ‘Slight Reprise’ on the horizon (a rehash of their first album minus any vocals). The ever popular ‘One’ and a great thrash through ‘Seven’ stick out in particular. Things came to a seemingly premature end as Will Mecum calls time on the set as he breaks a string and the band says “Thank You” and depart with little intention of an encore. This instigates a stadium sized call for the band to return to the stage, and after about three quarters of a cigarette’s time, the band return to the stage to assess the broken string. Mecum comes to the conclusion that it is still broken (no roadies on this tour!) and says his thank yous again and departs once more. More calls for them to return and a few boos eventually makes Mecum return with a string, and with a half-friendly “f**k all of you” they set about tearing up the place again with three more stormers. Few notice and absolutely nobody cares that one of the tracks is the awesome ‘twenty’ for the second time tonight!
Karma to Burn provided the well oiled crowd with just the right tonic to set the venue off and made a dreary Wednesday night seem like a balmy Saturday all-nighter. Sore heads and stiff necks all round on Thursday for all involved!