Palehorse / Ghold / Beast As God Hare & Hounds, 8th May
Palehorse are almost gone from us then, which seems a heartbreaking shame and a waste. There’s a new album ready to come out in July, available on this tour, but a couple of days before kicking it off they announced it was the end of the line for the band. Resourceful promoters of the nation should get them to add a few more dates, maybe find out what festivals the members would care to attend. Before we get to the emotional goodbyes there’s a couple of other bands on too. Sitting in the downstairs bar catching the crash and rumble through the floor I thought I’d timed it just right and Beast As God had done setting up and started their set. No sooner had I slouched into position but they cut off mid song for a bit more monitor based chat with the sound guy. Meh. It’s quickly resolved though and they’re away with a satisfyingly loud roar punching you in the chest. It’s a lovely feeling to be stood in front of a fiercely loud hardcore band but it wears off after about five minutes and you have to see if they’re any good. Centre stage the very tall bassist seems to dwarf the rest of them, they’re fronted by a growling man bear of a singer who’s in the crowd the whole set, mostly because the stage is full of gear. They’re not bad, cycling adeptly through a range of styles and tempos. I’d say there’s definitely some love for thrash metal’s big four in there along with the rest but somehow despite the variety they don’t quite escape being a bit generic and my attention wanders.
Cooking up something altogether more singular and ambitious Ghold have gained a guitarist to become a power trio and I’m going to go ahead and claim that’s a good thing. I’m no expert in matters Ghold, I vaguely recall not being that impressed by one of their early records and haven’t paid much attention but I was pleasantly surprised with a quick listen to new one ‘Pyr’ ahead of tonight. They switch from roaring bludgeoning noise to quiet slow passages, to space rock, to doom there are even sections where the three of them sing impressively gentle harmonies together before crashing back in. It’s dizzying. It raises the suspicion they’re a bunch of hairy prog bastards. The drummer is a beast. I can’t quite shake the idea they would absolutely kill a Motorhead cover and then it hits me… cliché it might be but I had honestly never thought to compare them to Hawkwind before but there it is, wild, driving, limitless space rock. It is a lazy cliché though so pretend I didn’t say it, they actually sound a lot more like UFOMammut or something like that. It also occurs to me that if they dropped most of the noiser, more stubbornly oddball bits, the bits I like, then they could actually become a pretty massive metal band. They end with a huge sheet of noise, the guitarist shoving a drum stick under his strings and leaving his guitar on the stage squaling away. Probably have to give that sort of thing up to play stadiums, and that would be a pity.
So it’s goodbye to Palehorse. This hardly seems fair. I only really got into them when they last played here about 18 months ago. I was expecting them to be good but they took my head off, topping an impressive bill they still pretty much stole the show. Tonight, again, they’re just better than everyone else somehow. Harder, heavier, more inventive yet still thrillingly immediate. You don’t have time to wonder what they’re up to, it just engulfs you. Still recognisably a hardcore band but sort of post-everything at the same time they nimbly dance around expectations, flicking v’s and taking the piss. Avoiding tired over familiar structures their music is still coherent and seems to flow out naturally, not fast or slow, just whatever’s right. They don’t even seem to have a ‘typical’ mode. Likewise the record sleeves are gnomic photographs, almost blank images, their titles gently mock the po-faced seriousness of post-rock (Five Grown Men Holding Hands And Staring At The Ocean) and overwrought drama of metal (Morbid Angel Delight). What are they on about? It’s not politics or satan, it seems emotional and personal and true whatever it is. Nikolai speaks to us a bit between songs, about the end of the band I think but it’s hard to tell what he’s saying with the effects on his mic, when he’s not screaming his face off he seems a sweet guy. The band’s impressive sense of dynamics keeps the intensity from ever slumping and there doesn’t feel like there’s a moment wasted. They’re incredible and you’ve got a few last chances to catch them if you can and then they’re gone. After that there’s just the recordings which are a bit more exploratory than the live experience, angry Simon Pegg lookalike Mark talked me into buying their first one on the merch stall. I’d never listened to it, I think I reckoned it was so long before the others it’d be almost a different band but it’s not. and it’s good too.
Not making a rides into the sunset gag. No, sir. No, indeed. It was death who rode upon the pale horse.