In Solitude arrive in Manchester with the success of 2013’s Sister still churning the momentum and drive of the band. The Swedish band’s Sabbath styled, doom-laden stonerism which marries itself with a gothic, ominous celeste saw them climb to the upper reaches of many end of year lists. With Beastmilk in tow, the was plenty of promise two tonight. And so from the Manchester drizzle we step inside the venue – how many times do I seem to write that phrase in this soggy town?
There’s a great deal of hype surrounding the fresh blooded Finns of Beastmilk – they’ve caused quite a stir in the media with the apocalyptic doom and gloom post-punk of debut album Climax. The crowd here to bore witness to them though is disappointingly sparse. Whether that is to blame for their lacklustre performance is to be questioned, but their part Joy Division brooding mellow dramatics and equal part Elvis Presley holler fails to properly rouse the crowd. Their response is mooted. There’s no real stage presence or substance that endeavours to justify the hype tonight. As you stand at the back of the room, a smattering of people in front of you, you are hardly compelled to move forward and bustle in the thrall of it all.
That’s not to say they’re a bad band – Death Reflects Us is an enjoyable moment – but, if tonight is anything to go by at least, they must grow further before any fragment of hyperbole is truly lived up to.
In Solitude -
The crowd has grown a little in size and excitement when the aroma of incense which precedes In Solitude’s arrival begins to float around the room. It creates a vibe that is a wonderful blend of free loving hippies and moody gothic darkness. When they do take to the stage, the lighting blurs with the smoke from the incense sticks scattered around stage – leaving only thrashing silhouettes before your eyes. They launch themselves about the stage in an almost puppet like manner given their shadowy countenance. The crowd too becomes a sea of headbangers; of patched leather jackets and flailing hair in the hazed atmosphere.
There’s something strikingly Joey Ramone about frontman Pelle Ahman as they dive headfirst into Sister. Not just in his gangly appearance but in the way he puts himself out there, he has that compelling, attention grabbing gift that Beastmilk so disparagingly lacked tonight.
Simply, In Solitude have some great songs. Ahman delivers power, impassioned vocals throughout – although his chatter in between songs does leave a little to be desired. They may not be the most visually arresting band – those silhouttes do tire themselves out a little after a while, you end up craving something more revealing, a facial expression to remember – and this isn’t the most mind-blowing of gigs, but they try their damndest to put on a bloody good show. And surely that’s all that matters?
Before the show the lighting technician had come scrambling down to the venue’s head office, where I was enjoying a catch up with the owner, Robin. “Dan’s a great guy,” he said of our very own Dan Clifford, “for a Spurs fan.”
Then the technician popped his head around the corner, head torch on, puffing a little from the dash downstairs: “Can we turn the TVs at the back of the bar off for the show,” he quizzed. “They distract the drummer.”
On the surface, it seems a daft request, but the resulting blackness from the bar was a throwback to a simpler time. A time less dominated by the bright lights of technology, a time when there were no distractions from the music – no phones lofted in the air to film every dying second – and it makes the band so much more encapsulating. They draw the eye: Their performance a damn sight close to flawless.
Tonight’s humble crowd may spark the argument, for some, that dark rock isn’t quite the power it once was in the belly of the unpredictable beast we call the music industry, but by no means does that mean that this shadowy brand of heavy rock is dead. So long as the hardcore fans remain, there will always be a heartbeat to be heard, no matter how small.