Up first were I Concur, a UK band that blends post-rock with a certain feel of American indie rock. They started really loud, with cruel, fast picking and big pinched harmonics, keeping these all over their set. Yet at the same time they did have a very strong atmosphere and it was sad that the vocals couldn't be heard very well as it is known they are quite interesting and almost abstract. Beyond the aggressive, loud sound they did have their breakdowns where they turned to a more melodic music. For example we remarked a very nice passage during one of the songs where the bass played an almost jazzy line, with the guitars soaring in a nice pentatonic melody, but without turning bluesy or anything like that, managing to cleverly keep their own specific style. All in all, it was a very good intro to the concert, intense and clearly managing to get the crowd into the atmosphere.
Next in line were Butterfly Explosion, an Irish band that has only recently come into existence and have just released their first album in February on Revive Records, the label founded by no one else than God is an Astronaut. In fact, their guitarist produced this album so one might have expected that Butterfly Explosion would sound very similar with God is an Astronaut. And in a way they did, but at the same time, they didn't. Butterfly Explosion are much more concerned about long, atmospheric passages and although they did have their own distorted breakdowns, they came much later and at a slower pace than I Concur. Far from being boring, though, they compensated the lack of an aggressive rhythm with a very intricate layering of sounds, both guitarists having a big display of pedals up on the floor, a sight that could have made Dave Gilmour quite proud.
The vocals again couldn't be heard very well at first, but in time this improved and it became clear that they were using them not to throw a certain message, but to add another layer to their almost ethereal soundscape, with a blending of male words from one of the guitarists and some very good long melodic lines from the very good looking female keyboardist. They made a very good impression on us and we wish them success in their endeavor on the realms of music. It is always good when new bands manage to come with an original sound, and hold on to it no matter the influences and opinion.
God Is An Astronaut
We already were quite excited when the time has come to greet God is an Astronaut, as we had previously heard a lot of good things about their live shows. Surprisingly enough, they left out one of the elements which was famed, the live projections and decided to simply come out in front of the people and play music. And it certainly was a great decision. If I Concur were loud and somewhat aggressive while Butterfly Explosion were soft and very melodic, God is an Astronaut simply blended the two, with great talent and energy. Having released no less than four albums in 8 years (with the fifth, Age of the Fifth Sun, coming along in May 2010) they have enough material to select and for this night they opted in a very balanced set list, each album bringing its contribution and its specific sound throughout the show. Obviously, they selected their more fast paced tracks and their self titled fourth album, considered to be their most rock-based has had the biggest presence in the set.
With just three people on the stage (plus a little laptop which aided the sound layering they are renowned for) God is an Astronaut managed to fully bring their spacey atmosphere down in the crowd, mesmerizing everyone with their huge sound ranging from melancholic and almost psychedelic guitar tones to fast paced, insanely loud riffing, all in the space of very tight but at the same time vastly expressive songs. They didn't have any vocals, but we believe everyone would agree that they simply do not need them. Still, the guitarist used a vocoder to make an additional synthetic yet very melodic layer, showing that God is an Astronaut is not afraid of bringing elements like electronics in their piece, these contributing extremely well to the overall atmosphere.
The drummer was also a very nice display of talent. It wasn't about huge chops and intricate rhythms you might expect from Mike Portnoy for example. It was about his great feel and his ability to turn simple beats into great rhythmic passages, with great fills and use of dynamics. He showed that the drumkit does not have only a snare and a kick drum, and each piece of it can actually be incorporated in a rock-steady drumming. And if that wasn't enough, he also brought in beats derived from trip-hop or even hip-hop, but with such a rock feel that they simply sounded completely in place and aided the already pumping groove.
The sound in the hall was also great, each instrument being loud and clear, which is quite vital if the layering is to be at its full effect. The crowd enjoyed every little second of the performance and it was nice to see people of very different ages and probably with very different musical backgrounds all united under this kind of music. It was definitely a fantastic performance, showing that music still hasn't died and if you are not shy to bring influences from other genres and you know how to incorporate them so that they don't sound like silly looping, then you absolutely have a very long journey in front of you. God is an Astronaut are already paving the way and last week in London they did it in a majestic style. Almost bringing us out of this Earth, deep into cosmic space where ancient astronauts maybe still dwell...
2. From Dust to the Beyond
3. The End of the Beginning
6. In the Distance Fading
7. Infinite Horizons
10. Suicide by Star
11. Forever Lost
12. Route 666
13.Fireflies and Empty Skies
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