Leeds doesn’t exactly have a burgeoning heavy scene. The fact that a line up of this calibre is playing in the cramped, grungy Key Club, is simultaneously irritating and exhilarating. No band of the quality on display tonight should play in such a small venue. But, it is bloody exciting to be so up close and personal, and the basement venue inspires ideas of being a part of something bigger than oneself. A spark that is being kindled threatening to explode into enormous popularity. Tonight is the best of the British music scene.
Opening to a slowly growing crowd is Gold Key. A mixture of elements of Muse, Pink Floyd and The Flaming Lips builds their alt rock sound. The pedigree of members explains the level of polish in their performance: Laurent ‘Lags’ Barnard of Gallows on lead guitar, SikTh bassist, James Leach – both members of Krokodil – Blackhole drummer Jack Kenny, and guitarist/frontman Steve Sears of Spycatcher, should aptly set expectations for their professionalism and eclectic sound.
The DIY feel of both their music and show is perfectly encapsulated by Sears’ homemade vocal vibrato. He shakes himself from head to toe through what looks like an extreme case of restless leg syndrome. It adds a haunting depth to his ability, and accentuates the ambience of the guitars. Unfortunately, they do suffer on their sound mixing; it’s difficult to decipher their instrumentation without being on the stage barrier. Fortunately, the melodic twists and turns more than prove them of deserving of a spot on this bill. They’re here on merit, not on individual recognition.
The overwhelming smell of bittersweet incense fills the air, and the resulting smoke floods the stage. Something transcendent is upon us. Backlit only with icy blue lights, Bossk take to the stage. The silhouetted figures begin with a gentle, cyclical melody, enrapturing the audience with its mystical charm. The ritualistic mood builds to head as it summons vocalist, Sam Marsh like a vengeful spectre. Calmly yet firmly grasping the microphone stand, holding himself similarly to Trent Reznor or Ian Curtis, his svelt shadow collapses inward to unleash a hellish scream. And as if it were a dream, he retires to the darkness until his bandmates require his demonic services once again.
It’s not all ambience and reverb throughout however. Bossk have it all, and prove their heavy credentials with the neck snapping duo of Kobe and Atom Smasher. The latter of the two has fist swinging groove of beat down hardcore, and inspires frantic headbanging in worship at their altar. Unless you’re in Godflesh or Neurosis, you cannot out-heavy this band. Ethereal, cathartic, painful, blissful. it’s a truly wondrous spectacle.
Any band wanting to follow Bossk must surely have a death-wish, or at least some serious musical chops. Fortunately, tonight’s headliners are Black Peaks. A band that act as the through-line for the evening’s entertainment. Existing as an amalgamation of Tool and Mastodon via way of Arcane Roots, they are a unique entity. They could support Meshuggah or Biffy Clyro and receive a rapturous reception time and again, not to mention showing up their peers nightly. They’ve already given Deftones a run for their money!
‘Last time we played here there were about thirty people. Where the fuck were you all?’ beams frontman and vocal maestro, Will Gardener, to the 200-odd strong crowd. Their second album may have only been out for less than a fortnight, but this already feels like a victory lap. With a set weighted heavily in favour of All That Divides, it’s of monumental credit to the quality of material that the crowd already know every word and every movement of the Brighton quartet’s set. Circle pits and ‘walls of life’ open without prompting, and ear-bleeding sing-a-longs explode naturally.
Can’t Sleep opens up proceedings in riotous fashion, segueing into the bombast of The Midnight Sun. Much like Bossk, Peaks have it all. There’s subtlety and restraint in Aether. Thrashing speed in Glass Built Castles. Grandiosity in the likes of Saviour and Fate I & II. And every single style they turn their hands to has an undeniable chorus to boot. Gardener croons and shrieks his way through the mighty setlist, never once sacrificing melody for brutality, particularly on encore and finale, Home.
Joe Gosney plays the best progressive post hardcore guitar around today, interspersed with solos that emulate the wiry precision of Mastodon’s Brent Hinds. Liam Kearley threatens to destroy his drum kit with his powerhouse playing. As with his vocal counterpart, he does not sacrifice ability in his hard hitting delivery, with outstanding flourishes bringing his performance to the forefront of Crooks. Filling out the band’s sonic onslaught is bassist, Dave Larkin. Bringing beautiful distorted grooves in Say You Will, he does more than simply follow the typical rhythmic path. instead he treats the bass as it’s own being, rather than simply a back up to the six sting as many do. All four members are as predictably incredible as ever.
Wonderfully dynamic, stunningly crafted and ridiculously sweaty, it’s a display of undeniable brilliance. The British scene is alive and well. Frenetic performances and a rabid crowd lapping up every second ensures that this is just the beginning. See all of these bands in tiny venues while you can. By the end of this record cycle, Black Peaks will be headlining academies. And it’s going to be even more glorious.