Arabrot, Cattle, Casual Nuns, Virgin Dad @ Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Posted by vibrations on 26-03-16

What better way to round off Palm Sunday than a night of doom, sludge and black metal? I realise that there probably should have been some kind of feedline to that rhetorical question, but I thought it worked quite nicely as a standalone, as would any one of these bands (see how smooth that segue was?) in any number of circumstances, and it’s a line up like this that reminds me how myriad and varied any one genre, nay subgenre can be. Shame that a) it’s on a Sunday and b) the man demands that work should be done/got to on a Monday, so the crowd is… select.

I manage to catch the last song in Virgin Dad’s set, which appears to be the prolonged torturing of a Sabbathesque riff by a gang of curious individuals including a luchador on bass and a bespectacled gentleman terrorising the rest of the band in the manner of an angry ostrich (this was before I’d had a drink). I have reason to believe that this band are from Chunk, Leed’s musical response to He-man’s Modulok (still no drink), so this could be one incarnation of any number of things… only this one is very loud. Time for that drink.

Casual Nun, multinational noise makers from That London, are somewhat of a surprise – I’m expecting something vaguely foolish, stridently DIY and reeking of punk ethos. I am not expecting twin drum lines, subsonic drone and tactical overdrive. Then I am hardly expecting hardcore, or even a bit of post punk drone fusion, all the while the drums pounding away in tyrannical synchronisation. It’s spontaneous, overwhelming and exhilarating, veering from The Fall-esque to the Suicidal Tendenc-ish to the Sunn-dulous, psychedelic and ominous. Fair to say, this is some holy shit, and worthy of your worship.

Cattle are down to one drummer, but despite the lack of percussive power are more than capable of making a shed load of noise. A three man job, heavy on the bass elements, make for a band resembling that time ‘Tank had a singer, but managing to be a bit more cosmic about the whole thing. A bit spacey, but with the added shock of screams and growls and as fine an indicator as any as to why other towns music scenes aren’t like Leeds – it’s the curious and the unique that defines this city’s music, not the generic and conformist labelling by a ‘sound’. We like it weird. Long may Leeds continue to produce bands like this.

But Arabrot... Arabrot are something else. Gathered around the core of Kjetil Nernes and featuring at times Sunn o)))’s Stephen O’Malley, Killing Joke’s Ted Parsons and Kverlertak’s Erland Hjelvik, Arabrot are a moveable feast of various parts – it’s almost as if we have returned to the modular nature of Virgin Dad – and what you get is uncertainty. Amidst the sound of jet planes and birdsong and the rolling banks of dry ice, Kjetil steps out in a wide-brimmed hat, a battered gambler (fitting, considering his recent battle with throat cancer), singing of funeral pyres and sending out a low throb of insistent chug. On the far side of the stage, Karin Park, Kjetil’s partner and collaborator, is dressed like a 1920’s silent movie star, warping and tweaking away at a synthesiser. There’s a reverent feel (the new album is called Gospel), but a sense of the theatrical beyond the corpse paint and heavy studs of what is expected from black metal. In the same way as Wolves in The Throne Room play with the expectations, Arabrot present themselves as an almost popified black metal, a jarring disparity that adds to the impact – slow and deep. It’s dark, but endearing, enigmatic yet shot with clarity. It’s a balance that just shouldn’t work but I’m glad that it does.

Robert Wright