Live Review: Omni at YES in Manchester 27 November 2019

There’s nothing worse than having a gig lined up in your calendar for months suddenly thrown into jeopardy due to getting on the piss the night before. Having spent the entire day feeling sorry for myself, I was concerned that my Wednesday evening plans were doomed. Thankfully, Atlanta, GA trio Omni would end up being the revitalising tonic required and their performance provided enough invigorating qualities to vanquish the hangover.

The first of November saw Omni release their latest album ‘Networker‘, third altogether after 2017’s ‘Multi-Task‘ and 2016 debut ‘Deluxe‘, but their first full length through legendary tastemakers Sub Pop. Notably cleaner and poppier than their first two full-lengths, it still encapsulates what’s so engaging about the band – their knack for penning many a catchy tune, with earworm vocals, post-punk flavourings and the occasional unexpected left-field ending.

If the album coming out was news to you, you would’ve been fine on Wednesday evening, as vocalist Philip Frobos was in mild mannered shill mode. “I gotta tell you guys about this album…” He says at one point, a little twinkle in his eye and sounding a smidge like Tim Heidecker. Later on he whipped the crowd into a frenzy with his sales pitch for their merch (designed by the keen eye of guitarist Frankie Broyles), slashing prices left and right (he would even leap off stage and leg it to the merch table after the final note, eager to placate the growing crowd around their wares).

Omni very much suit the pink tones of YES and the carpeted stage gave off the impression they were playing live in your front room. Frobos is all smiles throughout and often shares a grin or cheeky wink with live drummer Chris Yonker. The band remained in good spirits all night, vibing off the atmosphere of the room as the crowd warmed up. Broyles is cucumber cool and focused on the job at hand (though does break to begin with, soundchecking with the riff from the Friends theme with a wry smile).

With an album to promote, the setlist was obviously heavy with cuts from ‘Networker‘ – From first single ‘Sincerely Yours‘ and ‘Courtesy Call‘, with their Television like guitar work, to ‘Present Tense‘ and its brilliant little drummer flourishes and ‘Skeleton Key‘ with it’s revved up, scrappy live ending (preceded by the announcement/warning that “This one’s a bit of a stomp, so…“)

As well as a new album, earlier this year the band released a single through the Sub Pop Singles Club, one they’d written after constant touring of their first two records. Personal live favourite ‘Delicacy‘ is a joy to hear, with its playful verses and killer riff, one which ensures the room kept bouncing.

I’ve got a good feeling about tonight…” Said Frobos early on with a smile, one which remained on his face pretty much from the minute they opened with ‘Southbound Station‘ to finishing on ‘Wednesday Wedding‘. Inbetween it’s banger central, with bodies jiving and bouncing up front for the likes of room favourites ‘Afterlife‘, ‘Moat‘ and ‘Siam‘, the ending of the latter seeing the band kick it up a gear, going full pelt as the crowd gets a bit lively up front. With thanks given and a smile firmly planted on his face, Frobos calls it right – “This place is swingin’!

(Photo Credit: Kayla Lynn)

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Live Review: Mac DeMarco at O2 Apollo in Manchester 23 November 2019

Saturday evening in Manchester and no matter which way you slice it, it’s hard not to feel old and underdressed. For Mac DeMarco, self-proclaimed ‘Rock-and-Roll goofball’ and Canada’s favourite son, is playing the Apollo. Dress code is… who knows.

On The Level‘ can be heard opening things up as I join the queue to get in. A young lass outside asks a lad if that is what’s playing and he shrugs and says he doesn’t know. It’s punter central at the Apollo alright, filled with people who have seemingly not seen the person they’re with in a long time, if the chat is anything to go by. Lot of catching up to do, clearly.

Salad Days‘ follows up swiftly and sparks a mammoth singalong. I’d been mildly dreading the Apollo, given the aforementioned constant crowd chatter and the O2 bar prices. But two songs in and it’s all good, Mac making sure everything is A OK, as I take big gulps from my huge two pint cup like i’m at the Super Bowl… The stage is lit up with video screens, featuring live shots of the band in action interspersed with clips of big muscle-men posing in competition (Ronnie Coleman!), Sean Connery as James Bond, the British Bulldog and other coked-up heroes from the 80’s WWF and even Matt Berry!

May this year saw the release of ‘Here Comes the Cowboy‘, DeMarco’s latest LP. For a summer-time-boy who provides the perfect soundtrack for a lot of lazy, sun-soaked days, his new album takes the cake – Filled with breezy, easy going numbers. Tonight they’re even more easy-breezy, ‘Nobody‘ being particularly mellow, with the crowd right on the chorus as it become a sea of phone lights (and some lighters). On that note, 2012 classic ‘Ode To Viceroy‘ is stripped right back from the second verse onwards, the crowd singing every do-da-loo in the chorus. ‘Still Beating‘ is equally as stripped back and the result is heart-swelling, though it’s unfortunately drowned out by conversations happening left and right.

A rose appears from the front row and Mac grabs it, taking a huge whiff. “Shit smells nice!” He tells us as the band kick into ‘My Old Man‘. Having branched the rose over to guitarist Andy White for a peck on the cheek, they lead into an on-the-spot rendition of Seal mega-hit ‘Kiss From A Rose‘, with Andy taking vocal lead but spouting gibberish instead of actual lyrics. White has long been a favourite of ours and everything he does is usually good for a chuckle. From his bow legged stance ripping a guitar solo on ‘The Stars Keep On Calling My Name‘ to singing his keyboard part instead of playing it on ‘Another One‘.

Mac is of course the main focus though and his usual on stage playfulness is engaging. “Still getting used to this puppy…” He says of his gorgeous new guitar, almost dropping it immediately. Similar to when we last caught him earlier this year, Mac is yet again under the weather. “I felt like I was gonna die this morning…” He announces with a dirty laugh, later advising after two slow ones back to back (including a brand new one, which is very sweet, very heartfelt and very new album-like) that a fast one will follow. “I like to rock just as much as you do…

The funky ‘Choo Choo‘ garners a massive reaction as the band firmly cement themselves as the 70’s-80’s stadium rock band they’ve become. The biggest reaction of the night though comes from the incredible ‘Chamber Of Reflection‘. The crowd are on every note – some lad even whips his top off almost instantly, swinging it over his head (as his female companion buckles laughing). People climb up onto shoulders and the air honks of shite weed – Roger Daltrey would go mad!

Still Together‘ is the loveliest of endings and the crowd enthusiasm bubbles over. Andy rips into the crunchiest riff at the end as Mac lies down on stage and takes it all in. He’s soon revived by the keys player with the rose from earlier. A bit of crowd interaction follows as Andy asks everyone to make a fart noise on the count of three (“It stinks in here…“) and after a load of on stage dicking about, they reel it back into the end of the tune in triumphant fashion.

After leaving the stage for the briefest of moments, Mac and co return with the promise of what we’re told will be ‘Blue Boy‘. In true DeMarco fashion however, this instead ends up being a venue shaking rendition of ‘Enter Sandman‘ as the crowd get stuck in, throwing up devil horns both ironically and not. No matter where the venue is or how big, every crowd at a Mac DeMarco show come under his spell, captivated by his slacker charm. Tonight at the Apollo is no different and whilst the majority talked their way through the show, they did it from within the palm of his hand. Mac in Manchester – let’s do it again soon.

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Live Review: Metronomy at Manchester Academy 9 November 2019

I think it’s fair to say that ‘Salted Caramel Ice Cream‘ – the first smash-hit single from the latest Metronomy record – may very well be single of the year. Funkier than ‘Funky Town‘, it’s a bouncy, feel-good arse-shaker with lyrical wordplay more infectious than its namesake. Taken from ‘Metronomy Forever’ – their sixth album, following on from 2016’s ‘Summer 08‘ – on release we described the record as “a multicoloured swirl of sound that goes from experimental interludes to lo-fi dance tunes“. Given the above, it’s been on regular rotation in our household for the past two months.

Saturday night in Manchester and we find ourselves at the Academy – The bar rammed, the room beyond it filled with punters and excitement levels going into overtime. The familiar sound of church bells chime, as per the opener from ‘Metronomy Forever’, signalling the arrival of the band, greeted by the biggest of cheers.

Lately‘ opens things up sharpish and it’s LOUD, the rumble catching us near the back of the room as it builds and builds towards its rapid close. “How has everybody been since we last saw you?” Asks main man Joseph Mount ahead of big single ‘Wedding Bells’, as everyone not attached to a drum stool bops along on the first verse, becoming dancing silhouettes against the pink and blue lights. From the same album, the driving ‘Whitsand Bay‘ sees people in the crowd up on shoulders and getting stuck into it just five songs in.

There’s a lot to love about Metronomy and it’s pretty much smiles from the opening wedding bell chimes. From the team outfits (matching white jumpsuits from our vantage) to the Mic stands and instruments of keys players Michael Lovett and Oscar Cash both getting moved majorly close to each other in a Reeves and Mortimer fashion on ‘Lying Low‘ (as if they’re magnetised). They all look like they’re having a blast too – Mount clapping and boogying along on instrumental number ‘Boy Racers‘, drummer Anna Prior all smiles throughout, keys player Cash appropriately wigging out when given a solo spotlight and bassist Olugbenga Adelekan shooting a hand in the air on ‘Walking In The Dark‘, as the lights shine bright, East 17 stylee.

Everything you’d want to hear from the new album gets an outing, with the garage rock vibes of new single ‘Insecurity‘ being an unexpected major highlight. The aforementioned ‘Salted Caramel Ice Cream‘ comes out later on, chunky as the chips at Toby Carvery, sped up and sounding rather large in the Academy. It’s available at the bar too (actual ice cream that is – merch you can eat!)

We have a particular love of Manchester.” Mount tells us, asking us to make ambient duck sounds if we so wish ahead of the next number. Having rinsed 2008 album ‘Nights Out‘ just as much as ‘Metronomy Forever‘ these last few months, it’s a joy to hear ‘The End Of You Too’. The stage soon becomes a blur from smoke, as bodies clamber on top of one another amongst the audience, those on shoulders with the best view. Expected big vibes occur with the opening of ‘The Look’ as the whole room becomes unglued. A couple in front are the two most precious in the room, grinning from ear to ear, oblivious to everyone else in attendance as they cut a rug and vibe off one another.

We’re informed that Metronomy had the worst day of their lives recently, having to spend it in that London prior to their Manchester visit (easy ammunition for the room full of Northerners) – in contrast to many in attendance who would no doubt thank the quintet for the best night of their lives. Howling ambulance sirens wail prior to their swan song, Auburn firework lights glowing as they build up the encore of ‘Radio Ladio‘ tremendously, sending the crowd home delirious from the thumping euphoria.

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Live Review: Girl Band at Manchester Academy 2 November 2019

The morning after watching Girl Band in Manchester, I went through all the socials afterwards – mainly as I’d had a bit to drink after they’d finished (and you’ve got to keep an eye out for any in the moment Tweets…) An Instagram story (forgive me) revealed the audio was hard to make out and the visuals clouded, a sure-fire coincidence to go along with how my brain was operating at this point and likely the night prior. Like it was from within a bubble, it was fitting given the isolated, separated feeling one has listening to their latest record ‘The Talkies‘.

Last month, we suggested with the new record thatif you set aside your expectations and just let the record wash over you, it will take you to unexpected and rewarding places.” Their highly anticipated second album was released almost four years to the day from their critically acclaimed debut LP ‘Holding Hands with Jamie‘. Produced by the band’s own Daniel Fox, the album was recorded in November of last year in a stately home on the outskirts of Dublin. It’s been suggested that the idea behind the album was to make an audio representation of the house, with its corridors helping to “navigate Girl Bands cataclysmic sound within a world of its own.

It’s not one to have on whilst you’re doing the tea, ‘The Talkies‘. You likely wouldn’t listen to it whilst you put the finishing touches on a crossword (or maybe you would, and I’d ask you not to get in touch). Opener ‘Prolix‘ is the sound of a genuine panic attack happening in real time. It’s intense. Yet Manchester is abuzz on Saturday evening and the packed room at the Academy is full of smiling faces in contrast to the weighty musical offerings from the band.

The four piece play against a dark backdrop and are already in full swing when we make our way through the crowd to get a closer look at them. VocalIst Dara Kiely howls against the cutting, pulverising noise. It’s lights up for the briefest of seconds before darkness comes back in for ‘Fucking Butter‘, where the rhythm is hypnotic, the guitar scratchy and the drumming hitting so hard it feels like thunder on every thud.

The briefest of hellos are given as the spotlight cuts onto main man Kiely before a rampant punk number boots in. He mostly stands front and centre, clutching the mic stand as he gets everything off his chest. Yorkshire chants break out again and again allowing him a brief break as he laughs it off and suggests “It never gets old…

The pit looks lively and everyone gets packed in tight with one another on recent single ‘Salmon of Knowledge‘, as bodies fly overhead. Its near seven minutes builds and builds, crushing in parts, and its followed by rapid personal favourite ‘Amygdela‘, which is unrelenting in its near two minutes and is highlighted by Kiely coughing and spluttering throughout, making guttural howls and outbursts. It’s then the massive rumble of ‘Shoulderblades‘ that gets people really going and the bass cuts through and makes the hairs tingle – bodies again sailing and crashing above everyone amongst the crowd.

We’re told it’s their first time in Manchester for a few years, their last being under the railway arches at the much more intimate Gorilla. With a step up in attendance, they bring out Keith Levene of Public Image Ltd to join them on stage at one point for ‘Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage‘. He fits like a glove of course, with everyone full on bouncing as it goes into over time as the song builds and builds to thumping euphoria.

Thank you very much, this is mad.” Says Kiely after the raw ‘Going Norway‘, not long before they shoot off. Guitarist Alan Duggan belts the rest of his beer on closer ‘Paul‘ and the room makes the most of their final moments as red lights glow on stage and the front half of the room vibrates and pulsates.

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Live Review: American Football at Gorilla in Manchester 4 November 2019

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the seminal debut album from Chicago’s premier emo outfit American Football. With the band splitting up shortly after its release, no one could have predicted a reformation 15 years later that has lead to not one but two new full lengths. The band’s third self-titled LP was released at the start of this year and is a beautiful winter-y soundtrack that saw the quartet take their iconic emo sound into the widescreen.

I arrive to a packed out Gorilla just in time for the band’s entrance and I instantly spot a vibraphone set up in the corner of the stage. With this being a key component to the latest record, it becomes clear the band aren’t skimping out when it comes to recreating the new songs. The core four members of the band are joined by two extra members tonight, with vibraphone player Cory becoming the main talking point of the night – his birthday. As you’d expect from a front man of an introverted emo band, Mike Kinsella‘s in-between song patter runs a bit thin. But, his pleas to get Cory a birthday shot and sincere thanks to us for coming down are enough to forgive his slight awkwardness on stage. Tonight is all about the music however, which is something that Mike and co excel in.

It’s hard to pick an MVP tonight as every member puts in a shift (I love that guitar tech Mike keeps jumping on stage through a song with a shaker in hand) but drummer Steve Lamos really gives it his best shot tonight. Not only is Steve a technically superb drummer, but it’s his trumpet playing skills that completely captivate me tonight. Obviously first album tracks like ‘The Summer Ends‘ are nothing without his trumpet work, but its the segue into tracks that really sound beautiful, especially when a delay pedal gets thrown into the mix that builds up into a climactic intro for new album track ‘Every Wave To Ever Rise‘.

A big characteristic of ‘LP3′ is the vocal collaborations and it’s great to hear bassist Nate Kinsella stepping up to fill in for the likes of Elizabeth Powell (Land Of Talk), Rachel Goswell (Slowdive) and Hayley Williams (Paramore). Nate does a particularly good job in paying homage to Hayley’s heart wrenching performance on ‘Uncomfortably Numb‘, which is a truly stunning highlight in the set. He even gets a cheer from the crowd after his solo, which is a cute moment for sure.

Everything sounds so heart-swellingly warm tonight, even adding vibraphone to older tunes makes them even more sprawling. It feels like they’ve really adapted to this bigger yet more spaced out sound and I have to say the newer songs tonight sound just as classic as the earlier material. ‘Heir Apparent‘ and ‘Silhouettes‘ are gleaming in their perfect entwining guitar work from Mike Kinsella and Steve Holmes, while ‘I Can’t Feel You‘ is a rhythmically driven banger that helps bring the set to a perfect close.

Naturally, the band’s utter masterpiece of a track ‘Never Meant‘ closes the set in all its anthemic glory and I look around to witness a sea of smiling faces. The crowd tonight seem super respectful of the band, keeping quiet at the hushed moments and singing loudly and proudly when Mike belts it out. Basically, everyone is in awe of how great this band keep getting. Although we get a very laid back performance from American Football tonight, you can tell that this is something they love doing with chuckles and smiles to one another through the set. They play with care and love and are given that right back, which makes for one of the most pleasant shows I’ve witnessed this year. Long live the Emo pappas!

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Live Review: Daughters at Arts Club in Liverpool 1 November 2019

It seemed appropriate that on the evening I was off to Liverpool to see Daughters, the weather had been miserable all day. Grey skies and drizzle are a good fit for their latest album ‘You Won’t Get What You Want’ their first new material in eight years following an unexpected hiatus – an unyielding 45+ minute assault that lit up End of Year lists following its release in late 2018. It was gloomy at the venue too if you fancied having an alcoholic beverage, and spending just shy of six quid on a pint of Carlsberg reminded me of why I’m never thrilled to visit the Arts Club. That and the unpleasant, gross sticky doors and floors… A great looking room so it is, but with all the warmth of an Academy venue.

Surprisingly, the playlist before the arrival of Daughters was funk and soul dominated, in contrast to their noise-rock stylings, and they came on stage to something proper throbbing and 80’s tinged (if not from within the decade). It’s a red herring, mind and there’s no turning back once they kick in.

The Reason They Hate Me‘ opened things up – vocalist Alexis S.F. Marshall pacing the stage, pointing into the front row as both guitarists orchestrated horrific noises and the rhythm section pummelled. Like the lit wick on a stick of dynamite, it’s intense seeing the vocalist getting worked up, ready to blow at the drop of a hat. It’s not too long before Marshall is indeed off stage and out into the front row, up in people’s faces. A body flies towards him over the heads of others and is given the microphone to shout into, before Alexis trades places and surfs above the crowd.

The bass on ‘Satan In The Wait‘ is unrelenting and crushing, giving the feeling of a tightening in the chest. Marshall is gripping hands upfront and staring into people’s very souls – then he’s got the microphone chord round his throat, pulling it snug as the crowd roar back “UP”. Towards the end of the song he smacks the microphone full force off his leg and it cracks violently, then he’s melting into the front row.

The Dead Singer‘ sees Marshall climbing up equipment and standing high above the crowd. That unpredictability comes back into it and one expects he’ll soon be hurtling into the crowd from above, but instead he opts to just shout and yell into the throng of people before sticking his fingers down the nearest guitarist’s throat. Unfortunately, it’s at this point where the exhilaration is dampened somewhat by the sight of someone in the crowd dressed as The Joker (oh dear!)

Back to Marshall though – the engaging vocalist who it’s hard to take your eyes off. At one point he’s putting his hand on heads like a preacher, eyes wide. On ‘Less Sex‘ the track builds up slowly and he’s all over the microphone (one of the few times he uses it with the mic stand), with saliva visibly trailing from his mouth as he pulls away.

With it being Liverpool, in the brief moments of peace between songs, someone asks “Who are ya?” and another calls out “Give us a song“. Give us a song they do, with the nightmarish ‘Guest House‘ – album closer from ‘You Won’t Get What You Want’ – being one of the most brutal of the evening. Bodies fly over the rail and Marshall heads in the opposite direction, getting stuck right in and surfing over the crowd. Horrific shouts of “Let Me In” come from both sides as the room trembles.

Ocean Song‘ is the closer – pulverising noise as Alexis goes topless, gobs into his hand and rubs it all over his face, wrapping the chord again round his neck and howling into/chewing the microphone. He’s punching his face at the end, belt wrapped around his throat this time as the rest of the band depart and he’s alone, shouting into the back of the room as the spotlight blinds.

Do a little bit of digging and you’ll soon come across stories of drug fuelled on stage theatrics from Daughters’ past, with Marshall pushing the limits of common decency via drinking his own piss or puking his guts up. Whilst tonight he thankfully keeps his body fluids contained to his person for the most part, his unpredictable performance is just as engaging and captivating ten years sober.

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Live Review: Sunn O))) at Albert Hall in Manchester 27 October 2019

Earlier this year, I finally sat down to take in the monolithic drone metal tones of Sunn O))). The Seattle formed outfit have been blowing minds with their completely unique sonic experiments since the mid 90’s and I have always been told they are a band that need to be experienced live. So having breathed in the two huge releases we’ve had from them this year and subsequently looking back on their impressive discography, I knew that the time had come.

On my way to the Albert Hall tonight I come across an online picture of a notice from a show on this current tour that reads: “Dear Audience, it will be very hot, foggy and loud. Please take care of each other, protect your ears and if you need any help, please let our staff know“. It’s at this point that I start to wonder what the hell I’ve gotten myself into, especially as a friend messages me moments later asking if there is an audience rest room like they’ve set up in the past…

Thankfully, on arrival to Albert Hall, I bump into a seasoned Sunn O))) fan that has seen the band countless times over their 20 year career. He reassures me that this is a performance I will get something out of just as long as I go with it. So, making sure my plugs are firmly in, I strip off the several layers I piled on to battle the chilly evening air and take my seat, upstairs to the left of the stage. I lose count at about 20 when scrolling across the amp set up for tonight – the only time I’d seen such a huge stack of cabs was at a My Bloody Valentine show a few years before. I remember thinking about how incredibly immersive that show was and it’s with that reminding sense of excitement that my nerves begin to subside and I feel ready to embrace.

Dressed in hooded cloaks, the bands core members Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson quietly walk on stage with additional members in tow (which explains there being several positions set up), all armed with guitars, pedals and synths. The first chord is struck and although it’s pummelling, I sense that it’s only going to get larger in sound. Minutes later, I feel my whole body vibrate, the guitars sound so snarling and I feel completely shook with sound.

As I begin to settle in to what is happening to my body, the whole room is completely covered in smoke, to the point where I can’t see anyone on stage. There’s a moment where I can’t see anyone behind or in front of me, and I am alone in this sea of sound, smoke and beautiful lights that swirl from blue to purple to pink. I’m told earlier in the day that seeing this band live is bit like taking a hot bath, and I actually find this an accurate description. To me, It feels like I’m in a steam room, but instead of there being extreme heat, it’s extreme noise. 125 decibels of it.

I watch the smoke weave in and around the washes of colour that surround me as pools of fuzz and distortion rise from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. I hear synth basses throbbing, organ chords vibrating and guitar frequencies moving from earth shaking lows to sky soaring highs. As I look to the stage, a new sound appears that takes me a minute to make out, I then see two lines in the smoke waving side to side. I start to think I’m just seeing things, but then the smoke clears and I see the slide tubes of trombones that begin to ring out these beautifully warm brassy notes. The guitars begin to calm and we have a moment of restrain as we hear the trombone blend with the plateau of synths on stage. I spot a hooded figure move to the side of the stage to watch the trombonist play, then re-enter with a guitar as we return back to an impending sense of doom once more.

Every now and again the smoke begins to clear and I see a hooded figure, usually with a fist in the air or a guitar over their head. It’s clear that O’Malley and Anderson are completely engrossed with what they have created and it doesn’t seem like their stage movements are of a theatrical nature, but of a spiritual one. In the final minutes of the performance, a hooded cloak pushes their guitar over the amp (which I see being expertly caught by a guitar tech stood behind the sea of amps), as they slowly grasp their hands and raise them to the sky, praising the gods of drone. Immersive is definitely a word I would use to describe both the band and audience tonight, I look around to see members of the crowd, some eyes closed, some gently rocking but all focused and fully inside the soundscape.

Honestly, I have never experienced anything like this is in my whole gig going life. It’s incredibly surreal at times but once you let the drones through your mind and body, you seek their benefit and it’s an incredibly rewarding and meditative experience. It’s amazing how much it got hold of me. For someone who can lack patience, I stayed for its duration and it didn’t feel like any time had passed at all (when it had actually been nearly two hours). I urge anyone that wants their senses pushed and minds expanded to go to a Sunn O))) show and allow the forefathers of drone metal to blow your minds into oblivion.

‘Pyroclasts’ is out now – read our review here!

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