Warning, Serpentcult, Hangman's Chair - Rotterdam, The Netherlands, Baroeg 02.05.08
|Event:||Warning + 2|
|Written by:||Marcel Hubregtse, Lucas|
Warning: Live At Own Risk
Opener of the night was the French "Hangman's Chair". And no offence to the band, but they (especially the vocalist) made the impression on me that we were looking at a bunch of ex-junkies, just out of rehab. Or perhaps that was the intention. Wearing t-shirts from bands such as Suicidal Tendencies and Eyehategod did not help either. Anyway, their music was of the heavy, sludgy doom brand, while retaining various grooves. Good enough to be the opening band, but not really anything more. In the future, they might want to try to be more diverse in their song writing, and their vocalist should have sounded more pained and tortured to really fit with the music. Later, however, I heard that the vocalist was a stand-in and that this was his very first gig, so I guess that explains a couple of things. Again, good for some fun and the warming up, but not much more.
Of course tonight was all about one band for me, Warning: those purveyors of all things emotional. But, since, there were two support acts present as well I thought I'd give those two a fair chance. having only heard a couple of Hangman's Chair songs on their Myspace site all I knew was that I could expect some heavily Sabbath influenced sludge from these Frenchmen. And sludge it was what the 60 odd people present got. Apparently it wasn't to most people's liking though cause I heard quite a few complaints from the people present. This being the first time I was fully exposed to Hangman's Chair all I can say is that musically all was quite fine to these ears. Groovy, Sabbathy, raw, heavy as fuck, but at times a bit too monotonous (the variation is there on their full-length though as I found out later when listening to (A Lament For…) The Addicts.) The biggest letdown, however, were the vocals. these were, how shall I put it? Uninspired, lacking in power most of the times, well, just not fitting for this sort of music. But as I heard after the gig, tonight's vocalist was a stand-in who had never ever performed with the band before.
So, besides the monotony and the vocals, Hangman's Chair were quite a fine warm-up.
Up next was "Serpentcult", originally operating under the monicker "Thee Plague Of Gentlemen". However, they decided to abandon that name for 'issues' with the former vocalist. Their new vocalist happened to be a female, and I do not want come across as a sexist pig here, but it really should have been a man. Or a woman with big balls, either one. The reason for such a statement is that she simply lacked power in her singing. She just couldn't keep her back straight among the musical power surrounding her. Luckily a lot of their set and songs were instrumental, so there was still plenty to enjoy.
Being only too familiar with the previous incarnation of this band which was called Thee Plague Of Gentlemen and also being familiar with Serpentcult's 2007 debut mini album Trident Nor Fire, I was wondering if they would come across well live for they have something which I am usually not too fond of… yes, a female vocalist. There are only a couple of female vocalists in metal that have the power necessary not to be bulldozed over by the music being played, and unfortunately, as I was about to find out tonight, Michelle isn't one of them. However, what she did lack in the vocal department she more or less made up for with her stage presence constituting of her relentless headbanging and her just looking goddamn cute as well (damn, that was the male chauvinist pig in me rearing its ugly head).
Musically everything was just all great with Serpentcult, as could be expected with their experience. Nice groovy sludgy doom with a bite and with long instrumental passages. Those long instrumental passages are a good thing since they relieve my ears of the powerless vocals of Michelle.
All in all, a proficient and enjoyable gig which was only marred by the vocals.
It must have been an ungrateful job playing in either of the two support acts, as it was obvious that every visitor tonight was there mainly for the English Warning. Everybody spoke of Warning with great respect and in awe. Not only have they recently delivered one of the best Doom Metal albums in years, they also deserve a nomination in the World Book Of Records as most underrated band ever. My guess is that there were about 70 people present, at most. Absolutely unbelievable! But then again, it had its advantages, as everyone had enough room to enjoy the music and also feel a bit solitary, which is good, as I firmly believe Doom is served best at 3 degree Celsius and when alone, in sober surroundings.
Patrick Walker, the guitarist and vocalist of Warning, took care of that last necessity. Throughout the entire performance, he said no more than a couple of words, but managed to knock us all off our feet with his incredible emotive voice. Within seconds, the beer-drinking mob morphed into a mournful congregation. The sound was loud and crystal clear, which suited the band perfectly. Firing one lead-heavy, emotionally draining riff after another, they relied completely on the power of their music. No jumping around, stand-up comedy or other disturbing incidents, but just the band with their monolithic sound.
Warning's performance also showed the immense progression of the band between their first and second album. Of course, during the eight-year break they had plenty of time to improve themselves, but even when you take that in consideration, it is an impressive feat. Mostly due to Pat's involvement with acting during the break, his vocals have grown immensely. "How Can It Happen?", the only song of the debut, sounded so much better with these 'new' vocals than on the studio album. So much more emotional, heart-ripping, doomed. Closing off with my favourite song by them, the Watching From A Distance track "Footprints", we could all return to our homes to lay our weary, but satisfied, heads to rest.
In hindsight, I usually ask myself: was it all worth it? Was it worth al the money spent on public transport, plus the three-hours journey home in the middle of the night, a large part of that filled with two annoying girls endlessly chattering on about some brainless topic, who really did not seem to grasp the concept of 'silence'? Even if the entire performance of Warning lasted only about 50 minutes? My answer: Hell yes!
To wrap up this evening of doom, THE band everyone (or at least almost all of the people present) had been waiting for, the almighty Warning. But please try to explain to me why such a brilliant act as Warning who released probably the best and most emotional doom album in a decade in 2007 only draw an audience of 60 odd people? Whereas unemotional over-promoted, overhyped and totally bland doom acts such as Swallow The Sun sell out every single gig they give?
But, just like Lucas stated, "Then again, it had its advantages, as everyone had enough room to enjoy the music and also feel a bit solitary, which is good, as I firmly believe Doom is served best at 3 degree Celsius and when alone, in sober surroundings."
Warning, just like Hangman's Chair, were helped out by a hired hand on stage, instead of usual drummer Stuart Springthorpe the drums were manned by Christian Leitch of The River, not that I noticed this though. I only found out about the fact a week after the concert.
Back to the concert itself… what the people that had turned up to see Warning were treated to was about 50 minutes of pure emotional classic doom of epic proportions.
The music did all the talking. What was delivered was a sermon of pure beauty and consolation fronted by the impressive Pat Walker who just purely focussed on his guitar playing and vocal delivery. Next to no interaction with the audience, but who cares when classics such as Footprints, Bridges, Watching From A Distance, How Can It Happen? were delivered the way they were. During How Can It Happen? one could notice how much walker's vocals have improved over the period between The Strength To Dream and Watching From A Distance. It is probably safe to say that his acting experience has constituted to this for large part.
The first notes of opener Bridges took me into another dimension and only the chanting for an encore after closer Footprints brought me back into the earthly dimension I am used to.
Never have I heard 60 odd people produce this much noise asking a band to return, but unfortunately there was to be no encore. Maybe for the better I guess cause now what I could savour was a small hour of pure bliss.
A week after the gig I still had goose bumps on my arms and tears in my eyes of joy and pure beauty. And let me guarantee you, I wasn't the only person present that was this impressed. All I hope for now is to see Warning again as soon as possible. As someone has said about Warning… they are insidiously addictive.
Watching From A Distance
How Can It Happen?
Lucas: My word of thanks goes out to Marcel, for letting me sleep at his apartment and provided me - before and after - with all the metal and food I could possibly wish for. Many thanks!
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