Confession time: it had been 20 years since I last went to a metal show.
Metallica 1992 to Kylesa 2012. That’s one helluva wait between drinks. In fact there were no drinks in ’92 as I was barely a teenager and my laughable attempts to buy cider were in vain.
So I was a little apprehensive as the sun set on the day of the gig at the Academy in Islington, London.
Was I too old? Too normal-looking? Could I handle it? Would it be depressing going to a gig on my own? (Answers at the bottom of the post).
I’ll admit, I felt a thrill of anticipation as KEN Mode took to the stage. Minimally lit from below, two large axe-wielding shadows were cast on the wall behind the Winnipeg trio.
In the moments before they dropped the hammer, I wondered: “What vicious delights awaits me in this darkness?”
[Approximating speaking, of course]
For those of you expecting a close analysis of KEN Mode’s show (or indeed Kylesa’s performance), I apologise in advance.
Alas, unless I am on an official assignment as a scribe (I did a few live reviews for magazines years ago), I tend to get swept up in a good show and get lost in the music.
Bit hard to take notes in the pit…
Anyway, KEN Mode. Last year’s Venerable was a solid record but didn’t grab me – too spiky, too noisy and lacking the dense heft that bangs my gong.
Live, they are a different kettle of fish. So ball-twistingly intense, KEN Mode grab you in a headlock and don’t let go until they have taken their fill of pummeling you senseless.
It was feral. It was exciting. It was primal.
More than once, I was surprised to feel my lips roll back from my teeth in a maniacal grin.
Singer and axeman Jesse Matthewson, all straining neck sinew and flying spit, eyeballed the crowd like he wanted to kill and quite possibly eat us.
More noise rock and hardcore than metal, KEN Mode’s live sound was nevertheless surprisingly heavy. I could feel my pint vibrating in my hand, the low end in my gut.
The crowd were appreciative and gave some love but remained pretty subdued given the quality and ferocity of the show. Heads nodded but movement below the neck was limited.
The average age of the crowd halved immediately even as it swelled double in size for second support band Circle Takes the Square.
I can forgive that they looked like kindergarten teachers but not that were anonymous emo/screamo/music for wannabe rebel children.
Let us say I repaired to the bar for their interminable set.
Kylesa on the other hand was umpteen kinds of awesome.
The small room was suddenly packed and there was palpable excitement as the dual drumkits were set up, theremin twiddled and Laura Pleasants stalked the stage doing final checks of the stacked orange Goblin amps and arrays of effects pedals.
As they launched into their trademark brand of swirling, tribal pyschedelic sludge, I was swept up in a surge of elation.
This was what I have been missing!
I probably broke every rule in the metal conformists gig-going rulebook as I joyfully fist-pumped and plucked an endless supply of invisible oranges from the bough above my head.
There was jumping about and whooping. There was head-banging. There was dancing.
There was an unholy hybrid of all the various bodily expressions of my love of music from the 20 years since my last bang-over.
Let’s just say it wasn’t quite conventional metal appreciation… ah well, fuck it, I had fun.
I can’t tell you much about their set beyond that a) it was bloody amazing and b) the heavier Static Tensions material worked a little better than the more nuanced Spiral Shadow songs.
I don’t think they played any new material. There were a couple of songs I didn’t recognise but as they were quite punky and direct, they were probably from Kylesa’s early albums that I’m not so fond of.
Highlights? The Iron Man-invoking Running Red raised the roof as did Don’t Look Back, and Scapegoat.
Said and Done also scored highly on the pummel-o-meter.
To be honest, it’s all a big blur of awesomeness. All I know is I left wanting more (and a burger).
(Answers to questions at start of post: No, No, Yes, No).