Do you like your hearing? I conceived a spite against mine ever since I heard the solipsistic shamanistic shudder of doom metal juggernauts Bongripper many years ago. Their Chicago-based Sabbath-bothering riffage has been trundling up to Edinburgh for the last few months, so I took my ears down there for a good hard thrashing. Also in attendance were Edinbugger doom-babies and photographer-assaulters Atragon and rowdy Liverpudlian lads Conan, who made an almighty noise. Pre-booked Humanfly had van issues, so were not in attendance, and Bongripper arrived in a taxi at 10:45pm after thirteen hours of travelling but didn’t dare let down the side as they launched into a brutal bit of eardrum bothering. The evening reached a surreal nadir when Bongripper bass completely dropped out, and guitars continued until the low-end rumble resumed, but not before bass player Ron brained himself on the overheads (clearly labelled ‘heids!’) and threw a particularly metal fit at his own instrument. I’ve never seen anyone try to attack something they’re wearing before. Despite all the taxi-no sound check-head bang-bass dropout the Bongripper show was one of the sweatiest and most punishing I’ve witnessed since Sleep tore up the Arches in Glasgow roundabout this time last year. So time to clock in and take the Bannerman’s challenge. Lose five pounds in ten minutes? Sweat it away.
|Atragon, amongst their followers|
|Riffs and doom from beyond the wall of sludge.|
Local doomers Atragon, very swiftly becoming the house band of Bannermans, continued that precedent by getting the crowd going with their impressively honed show. They let forth their indulgent, incomprehensibly nihilistic metal on a crowd that knew what to expect; though whether they expected wild-eyed Jan Gardener on vox to leap into the crowd, I don’t know. The whole set was bathed in green light, like the remake of a seventies horror film, echoing the same aesthetic as the band’s brand of DIY Lovecraftian doom. Atragon are the youngest of the Edinburgh doom bands, but seem to be taking it the most seriously, with a tour and a London show under their belts and a growing following worshipping at the altar on which they sacrifice their proto-Sabbath riffage to Misfits covers. They’ve got the measure of the scene and they’ve got the measure of this crowd tonight.
And now it’s hurry up and wait time as Bongripper close in on Edinburgh aboard a taxi while their van is left somewhere behind and Conan fill the silence with their growling riffage. Guitar tone is boiled away until it’s pure clean white bone, all the black strips of flesh peeled away and floating to the top, and the whole thing rumbles right through the ancient Bannerman’s cellar. The lights are on bright, which they never are. ‘Cept in Bannerman’s the lights are halfway to the back of the hall so there’s this whole aura over the whole crowd that’s real otherworldly.
|Bongripper commence ripping.|
And with a cheer Bongripper themselves pitch up. The Illinois fourpiece immediately get to work, launching into Hail off their unparalleled album Satan Worshipping Doom, crammed into the tiny performance basement of Bannerman’s it was palpable to think that the interminable riffage and soporific swaying of the crowd would coalesce first into a firestorm and then melt the walls and fuse the whole fucking thing into a cube of solid rock. While the storming Bongripper once or twice broke into a canter, they never fully went running and all the set was kept at the sedate, undulating and endless pace fans of their records will recognise, except turned up to be slightly louder than the sun. Their music has inertia, like watching the clouds move, knowing they’re going faster than a speeding train but appearing not to move at all. All at once the whole show lapses into full amp worship as the band ride a wild feedback loop until it almost overwhelms human comprehension before exploding and raining back down to earth in a million pieces.
|A Bongripper guitar moment.|
Written under duress by Steven.
POST SCRIPT – bow down and do one you unruly motherfuckers. Y’know Jex Thoth? Beautiful and talented lay-dee and spectacular Sabbath-botherers? Well they’re touring you kind folks on the mainland continent (guess the UK’ll have to wait) and have released a new song and announced a new album. I just had a moment. Check it out.