“When somebody really has something to say, and I’m not saying verbally necessarily, but emotionally; it comes out of the music and just hits you. That’s heavy music to me, it doesn’t have to be loud guitars, even though I love loud guitars” Jack Endino
Alrighty, last night I saw Jackal Headed Guard of the Dead, and they were superb – up there with the best live shows of the year. I did have a piece knocked up about Liturgy’s new album (Aesthetica, go check it out before the end of the year, you won’t regret the trip) but this has kinda bumped that sucker out of position. To do a little housekeeping, next week we got something special (don’t ask me what it is ‘cause I ain’t written it yet) because we’re celebrating the
winter solstice birth of our lord the baby Jebus, so something to do with that; and after that it’ll be some sort of end-of-year-list-a-thon where critique outlets guff out lists like so much waste paper to the utter indifference of readers and musicians alike. Without further adoo, on with the Jackal Headed Guard of the Dead live at Bannermans 15/12/2011 review.
[Friday morning, 00:15am. At this point in the discourse due to the booze, complete dialogue has almost totally broken down, only audio recordings remain, transcribed here verbatim]
Tonight in the ‘Burgh, something happened. It is only a few hours after the event so long-time repercussions I can’t predict. As the proverbial scientist at the beginning of a disaster movie, this little seismic bump probably didn’t count for anything, or maybe it’ll be the beginning of a massive shift. It was probably nothing... I hope not though. Tonight I took a friend to see Edinburgh based Lovecraftian doom-monger mouthful Jackal Headed Guard of the Dead at the cavernous Bannermans bar down on the Cowgate. I’m not sure what my electronic music producer (whose album I will be reviewing as soon as he speeds it over to me) friend made of the whole scene, probably too emotionally scarred to make a full appraisal of the situation. It wasn’t his first metal gig, but it was close. It was sure his first doom gig (and those in the know, know that those aren’t quite like anything you’ve ever seen before) and it was sure his first Jackal Headed Guard of the Dead gig, as it was mine. I’m not sure he was geared into the whole trip enough for it to blow his mind as it did mine, but I think we have a new willing convert in the tiny but very vocal Edinburgh metal community.
What happened tonight requires a bit of explanation, as only a few people witnessed it. Attendance was divided between Bannermans stoner/sludge/doom merchants and the Edinburgh heavyweights slogging it out down at Sneaky Pete’s (I’m sorry Alex, I honestly will try to come see your band sometime), but a fair showing was put in at Bannermans. What Jackal Headed Guard of the Dead did that was so astounding was play. I don’t mean strum the strings, I mean really play. The music didn’t come from the instruments or the amplifiers and wasn’t mixed by the desk, you get three heads together in a room and all of them are this heavy, you had better expect some pretty fucking wild shit to start going down. You better expect stunning churning soundscapes reminiscent of the band using dry ice machines to flood the venue at Bannermans with Guinness, or more accurately, marmite. Such thick sludge gushing forth out of the amps with no chance of being anything other than totally mind-blowingly bowel-looseningly filling-shakingly ear-bleedingly stunning.
You ever looked out over the sea or a big lake during a really bad storm, I’m talking huge waves thumping against the concrete sea-wall so hard that you don’t know how it holds up? That is what seeing Jackal Headed Guard of the Dead is like. Sometimes they’re pounding you with post-Kyuss ur-riffs that spin and spin and spin like a perfectly constructed Catherine wheel; and sometimes the beats come so slowly, those acid cymbal crashes so infrequently that you find your eyes closed and head nodding the way a ship bounces on a rough ocean. Layered on top of it like seabirds crooning despite the hurling bass wind is (exceptionally named) Tommy Concrete’s soloing, covering almost every song from the beginning ‘till the heavy end. It becomes such that at times I felt like I was watching Earth again, but sped up like people do to Sunn O))) records on YouTube. Sure there were moments of drone, feedback and a sense of intangible inertia like closing-in clouds but so often the guitar drops into a version of that opening riff from Funeralopolis... the one that gets stapled into your subconscious the moment you hear it; like it was some basic human instinct to love that riff.
I’m not sure what the purpose of this column has been. I’m not telling you about some killer album you should all run out and debase yourselves to get a-hold of; if you were in Bannermans, you know; if you weren’t, you’ll never know. I suppose it’s a recommendation to go and see Jackal Headed Guard of the Dead any way you can. Local scenes motherfuckers, support them or none of us can have nice things. But that isn’t it either... I suppose I’m writing this as an open letter to Jackal Headed Guard of the Dead. What you guys touched tonight was special, it was more than just a rock and roll show and you did more than play your instruments. You touched something with your heaviness that bands rarely do. Something living and breathing and viscerally powerful. Whatever you have to say, it can’t be said with words but I desperately want to hear it again. I don’t know how to say it so I’ll crib some lines from someone a whole lot smarter than me:
This is it, it’s pure. If this is a start, keep rolling.
Written under duress by Steven