It’s a shitter not having much money. But ATP, the promoters behind the upcoming Nightmare Before Christmas weekender have been generous in the gifts they’ve offered music fans this holiday season. Tonight’s show is, on paper, the best present of them all. Torche have had every music critic jumping at the chance to anally satisfy them, and ISIS are a band who have such a consistently incredible discography that there’s no way tonight can ever turn into a disappointment.
Jon Jon, head of security at the Scala braves the stage first to warm the crowd up, and read them a few verses from the copy of the Rock Bible he has in his hand (and incidentally is available on the merch stand). No smiles on stage, no one but the drummer is allowed to wear shorts on stage, and under no circumstances must a band member come onto stage wearing a cowboy hat. Cue the entrance of Torche, and in true rock and roll style, the rules are immediately thrown out of the window.
Now reduced to a trio after the recent departure of lead guitarist Juan Montoya, any questions as to whether the power of the band’s live show would be affected is immediately diminished. If anything the cut back only seems to have helped the band’s sound, with everything sounding richer and clearer, although ‘Piranah’ still felt like being beaten to death by a cosmic sludge monster.
The band never let up, with only a few technical difficulties halting the blistering pace, the band playing tracks from their whole catalogue. Live, the older tracks sound reformed – ‘In Return’ absolutely thunders around the room and penultimate track ‘Charge’ sees drummer Rick Smith beating the shit out of his poor kit, a character that the stage can barely contain as he gets up and down like a slow motion Lars Ulrich (albeit one who can actually play).
It’s vocalist/guitarist Steve Brooks who really shows how much this means to the band, who a year ago were hitherto unknown. His creepy smile glares from every angle of the room, and as their short set comes to an abrupt conclusion the crowd are left reeling. Any longer and the magic might have worn off, but for now Torche have proven themselves an awesome spectacle.
The Rock Bible is more adhered to by ISIS (or 15 15 as Jon Jon introduced them as), their carefully measured personas not allowing any smiles to creep past the dark and solid riffs. ‘So Did We’ is an incredible opener, and Aaron Turner’s intimidating posture and terrifying roar grab the crowd’s attention and never lets up. Tonight his voice is just as dominating as it is on record, and you can sense the palpitations of around five hundred hearts as the band tear into ‘Grinning Mouths’.
One pleasant surprise tonight is the debut of a new song, presumably set to make an appearance on the band’s new album next year. Those that were a little disappointed with last year’s In The Absence of Truth will be glad to know that there is little space age wandering here – there’s a much stronger focus on a single destructive risk, and Turner’s voice again has to be accredited for making tonight’s audience stain their underwear, assuming they were wearing any.
Despite a focus on the last two albums there were a few older treats that sounded just as brutal tonight as they did all those years ago, and set closer ‘The Beginning and the End’ sets the crowd all a quiver, drummer Aaron Harris thumping out a flawless hypnotising rhythm.
The two song encore is the icing on the cake, with ‘Hive Destruction’ from 1998’s Mosquito Control EP reminding the audience how mind-blowing the seemingly forgotten EP is compared to the more experimental path the band tread these days . The band close on Oceanic’s ‘Carry’, the sinking intro dragging the audience down into a calm lull, before the colossal weight of another pressurised riff crashes down amongst us all.
I’ve heard grumbles in the past about ATP’s dedication to putting on the same bands, but tonight there are no complaints (other than the Scala’s extortionate alcohol prices) from me. Two bands, perfectly matched, created a fantastic evening of tight and awe-inspiring live music, which can only ever be a good thing. Their humble attitudes are much appreciated, the members of ISIS walking off with just a simple thank you. No bullshit, no elaborate stage show, no time wasting. Just heavy tunes shared amongst a crowd of likeminded individuals that love the sensation of walls of noise falling on top of them.
Originally published on Sonic Dice.