GIG REVIEW: Intronaut, Shining & Obsidian Kingdom Live at The Dome, London
Sunday: the day of rest. The notion of doing much more than vegging out on the sofa seems absurd, so anything above and beyond that will need to be as close to relaxing as possible. Or, you could go to a metal show and rock out for a few hours to some of the world’s finest progressive music. That’s pretty much the metalhead’s sofa-sesh, right? Beginning a show must present a bit of a conundrum for bands: do they give it large and burst out giving it hell for leather; or do they ease themselves and the audience in serenely and politely? Begin with an explosion or spark embers to grow into a larger flame? This poser must have been something for Spain’s Obsidian Kingdom to contemplate, especially given their penchant for incorporating virtually every metal genre into one package. Would a proggier affair beckon the night’s frivolity in, or would a caustic foray into their black metal side suffice?
Considering their shifting nature, it’s relatively immaterial since there will be something for everyone at some point. Featuring cuts from acclaimed sophomore album ‘A Year With No Summer’ as well as debut ‘Mantiis’, they seamlessly move between passages of ambient like washes, jazz-influenced breaks and bristling blackened metal, all against an enrapturing light show. It’s all very easy to lose yourself amidst the spectacle, though the wrought-out nature of their music perhaps shouldn’t be used to warm up a slow-growing crowd. That being said, there’s more than enough on display to convince a fair few uninitiated in attendance to give Obsidian Kingdom a spin at a later date.
So if the Spaniards were the poised and fine wine that begins an evening, then avantgarde jazz nutters Shining are the Jägerbombs. They bring the fun; launching unflinchingly into “I Won’t Forget”, their energy is palpable, memorable and sustainable – this is a band that clearly loves playing love and the gathered love seeing. With every track that they play, including stormer “House Of Control” and tumultuous closer “The Madness & The Damage Done”, the crowd roars their approval, dances, moshes and sings back every line. For such a small venue, it was a delight seeing frontman Jørgen Munkeby and guitarist Håkon Sagen crowd surfing in the first few rows, high-fiving those at the barrier and thrusting a GoPro procured from a roving cameraman into their faces. Despite its inclusion amongst metal still sounding a little odd to the ears, no one takes issue – everyone laps up the mazy chromatic runs, squeaks and honks that Munkeby wrings out of that saxophone. The only disappointment was an inconsistent mix – as a member of the brass family of instruments, the saxophone is meant to be inherently loud but there were times when it became almost inaudible. This also affected the guitars to a certain extent, with a slight scooping meaning riffs became near-white noise. Regardless of this, there’s a lot of love in the room for these Nordic godfathers of the crazy, and it is particularly apparent as they play a new song (which goes down a treat) and with every blast Munkeby takes on that sax. Raucous.
Where Shining were the Jägerbombs of the night, LA prog metal overlords Intronaut are a sophisticated whisky. Heavy, deep and with plenty of complex notes, they tear through last year’s excellent ‘The Direction Of Last Things’ with aplomb – personal highlight “Digital Gerrymandering” sounding resplendent performed to an artistic video backdrop. The additional lighting adds to the atmosphere on their longer passages of calm, jazz influenced cleans and certainly helps purvey a deep sense of introspection throughout the room. That said, it is amusing watching the moshers and dancers attempt to move in-time with constantly shifting time-signatures and off-kilter, syncopated riffs – imagine a drunk trying to dance whilst being jabbed at random with a cattle prod, and you’ve a rough idea. But for all the technical proficiency and infectious atmosphere, the evening’s mix spoils matters – co-headliners Shining had a few issues, but Intronaut seem to bear the brunt of proceedings. Bass is one of the most vital instruments in rock and metal without question (it provides the beef in every riff that makes things that bit heavier), yet it stands out a little too much here. It overpowers some of the guitar work, whilst the vocals are almost lost – tracks like “The Unlikely Event Of A Water Landing”, with its majestic latter instrumental section, lose their power and beauty when the mix is unbalanced. When members of the band themselves have to request changes mid-set, then you know the night isn’t going too well. It’s a shame that ‘The Direction Of Last Things’ is such a gorgeous-sounding album because it hasn’t been translated live tonight and not through lack of effort from the LA tech masters.
Poor mixes-aside, the evening’s festivities provided a variety of music, emotions and energies. From dark, haunting prog to uproarious rock, it’s got a little bit of everything for fans of heavy music and makes for a nice change from a bill of same-y music all evening. Oftentimes, it can be aurally fatiguing but the light and shade provided by Obsidian Kingdom, Shining and Intronaut keeps the night progressing beautifully. A suitable tonic for the Sunday Night Blues.