Cult of The Amps, Volume 1 took place at Gagarin 205 in Athens on a cold and wet Athenian night. Not to be deterred, the crowd arrived to celebrate noisy post metal outfit Allochiria celebrating 5 years of their album ‘Omonoia’, post rock band Afformance, metal band Amniac, and 3 piece instrumental rock band Caldera. A successful night of noisy, sludgy, visual music. Roll on Volume 2.
The Gathering are in town, heading south from their Northern Orange base for the first time in, well, a long time, and for the concert goers of Athens this poses a quite literal large problem. An international band invariably brings a number of fellow countrymen along in the form of crew, family and well, i guess, fans, but coming from Holland, tonight sees the general size of the audience grow half a foot. The perils of supporting a band from the tallest Nation in the world i guess. Nevermind, the concert, criminally undersold, was made up in vertical size and impeccable English. Still, for those who stayed away it was their loss as, for those peering around their Northern Brethren, the band delivered a beautiful dreamlike mix of new and fan favorites.
Opening with the moody ‘Black Light District’ with singer Silje Wergeland playing the opening stark piano melody silhouetted against a sole back light, set the evening for an atmospheric evening of gorgeous melodies and textures. The rest of the band joined her to kick the song in before ‘Paralyzed’ followed with its slow marching drum beat. Next saw ‘Meltdown’ arriving and the distortion pedals were kicked in and the gig took off. Led by guitarist and co founder Rene Rutten (along with drummer Hans Rutten), the band led the audience through their ethereal sound of dreamy layered backings of strings and arpeggiated guitars that allowed singer Silje Wergeland’s vocals to soar and cascade.
A minimal light set up and no backing screens meant the music was the sole focus and songs like ‘Maroon’, ‘Paper Leaves’ and ‘Saturnine’ were beautifully performed and warmly received by a dedicated following. By the time they closed with the building ‘Heroes for Ghosts’ the band had the crowd exactly where they wanted.
Returning for a brutal ‘Nighttime Birds’ from 1997 that bordered on industrial and even featured a crowd sing along they then closed the set with an incredible ‘I can see four Miles’. A fitting end with an extended instrumental outro featuring a fabulous guitar solo using a theremin that raised the noise threshold considerably, the way every gig should end. And with that, they were gone, amongst the thank yous there were plenty of smiles and thumbs up that showed the band were enjoying it just as much as the audience. Hup Hup! Welcome back.
Earlier in the evening local band Fragile Vastness had entertained us with a high tempo and uplifting brand of rock. Lead singer Elena Stratigopoulou showcasing her impressive vocal talents with a powerful performance of songs such as ‘Face in the mirror’, ‘Wall of Glass’ and ‘From East to West’, backed by a very tight band.
Supporting Phil Campbell and The Bastard Sons on 29/08/2018
Supporting Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons on 29/08/2018
“This is the most honest song we have ever written, and you guys must understand it more than most", related New model Army’s mainstay Justin Sullivan before launching into Purity. "You have seen it all”, The Greek capital roared in agreement. They knew.
Although New model Army are a quintessentially English Band it does seem that if anyone would get them other than the English it would be the Greeks. Songs of social injustice and small town violence rising up against the system have been written about here since the days of Homer. Turning such brutality into poetic verse was once, and in some quarters still is, a national pastime, It was with this in mind that the anticipation in the air was palpable as we waited in line.
‘The family’, as the New Model Army fans have become known, had come from far flung corners of the globe and dialects and languages from far and wide were heard around the venue. Fans greeted each other as old friends as they recognised each other from concerts past and tales were shared over drinks. The ultimate t shirt band, the merchandise seemed to go pretty quickly (no vinyl? Really?) And inside, a wide array of both vintage and modern logos and designs were on show. This is not a band where you hang around for a couple of records, the majority of this crowd have been there for the majority of their adult life and they ain’t going nowhere.
Opening with a 1-2-3 of Stormclouds, March In September and Winter it became clear that the concert would be split into two, with the first half relying heavily on more recent tracks from the excellent albums Winter and Between Dog and Wolf. Also noticeable was the lack of violinist which suggested (correctly as it happens) that fan favourites such as Vagabonds, wouldn’t be played. Still, it wasn’t missed as the four piece band provided a muscular and frenetic backdrop to leader Justin Sullivan’s vocals with his innate ability to swap between empathy and anger seemingly at will. The tribal beats of Michael Dean introducing songs such as Devils Bargain and guessing while Marshall Gill swapped between his chunky Les Paul and the thinner, but no less brutal, telecaster cutting an imposing figure stage left. Looming tall and menacing while the more active Ceri Monger swung headfirst into the music.
A ferocious, and set highlight, Born Feral set the scene for a change in feel as it was followed by the classic No Rest For The Wicked which signaled the band beginning to delve into their rich back catalogue. Purity, Wonderful Way to Go, Poison Street, I love the World, and, for this ex pat, a poignant Green and the Grey. A selection of songs most bands would sell out their politics for but New model Army can knock them out with ease. 51st State (“it’s relevant again, and thats all I’ll say about fucking Brexit”) was delivered with its usual disdain and the crowd lapped it up. A quick return for a short blast through 1990’s Get me out and then, they did just that. Both the band and fans may be older, they may be wiser and more of a well oil machine than the young punks they once were but they remain beautifully melodic, and really fucking angry. Wonderful.
Preceding them we had an energetic and entertaining set from local band Coyote’s Arrow (The name, I have no idea) whose singer entertained us with his antics as an excellent backing band gelled behind him. At times it just seemed like a flurry of action as dreadlocks, drumsticks and shapes were being thrown into the air. Lots of melodies above the noise and a funky backline meant that this is definitely a band worth checking out. They have a record called 'Desert' out.