Drums of death – with a healthy dose of fun.
All the talk pre-gig concerns Guitar Hero. Chris’ mate has just got into it and being a ludite when it comes to console games post ’91, I’ve no idea how it works. So, feeling a prat I’m given an education.
It sounds just like that dance-off game down the arcade halls which act as entertaining band interludes at ATP, but after much discussion I realise I’ve still little interest in it. Chris’ mate doesn’t, and apparently digs it so much he’s now invested in a fender strat.
However, just as I’m beginning to learn the inner intricacies of the blue and green buttons on level 4 of the Metallica version, Brooklyn’s own Games Master’s of Noize assemble in the wonderfully impressive Kazimier and it quickly becomes clear that should the makers of Guitar Hero wish for a spin off, Drum Hero has a leading contender in the mould of Benjamin Jared Miller.
Paraphrasing their modus operandi, HEALTH, proclaim to be a 21st Century Led Zeppelin, and in the form of Miller they’ve their very own John Bonham.
This grizzly bear of a man barely pauses for an intake of breath during their 45 minute set; jet-powering intros, sledgehammering through finales and even bridging the gap between tracks as the rest of team HEALTH rip out shredded bass strings and program mutant pneumatic beats on a stage which would double as a discount foot pedal shop. It’d take a well-drilled Aldi staffer six weeks to stack this lot’s sonic armoury.
The emphasis may always be on frenetic, sharp bursts of noize but with Miller at the helm, aided on numerous occasions by the leaping lizard John Famiglietti, a constant source of propulsive fun is injected into proceedings, as evidenced by the front two rows enacting their own form of air drum soloing.
Indeed, it’s primarily Miller’s primal thump which injects not only the party, but the humanity to HEALTH’s death disco. For where on record critics of the band are quick to suggest they’re simply soulless playboys for the Pitchfork generation – all snobbish indie clout backed with little emotional resonance – live they’re as expressive as they are brutal.
None more so than on the neckbreaker Severin which finds Miller slamming his kit so hard you think the sticks were piercing through the otherside of his skins. Death + acts as midset pogo as Famiglietti grabs an additional drum before bouncing around like a drunken soldier, as Jupiter Keyes dead stares the audience while shredding through a series of glasscutter chords.
Almost all of their recent longplayer Get Color is sent tumbling from speakers with the instant ‘pop’ of We Are Water and closer Die Slow working a treat as Jake Duzsik‘s mangled, near-incomprehensible vocals shred through the unremitting fuzz-din.
It’s as brief as it is beautiful. HEALTH don’t so much make you want to dance but force you to. And it’s to their credit, that not only do you submit to their drums of death, but you can’t help but revel in it.
HEALTH: Die Slow
Earlier in the evening, or should we say night – HEALTH took to the stage gone midnight – Balloons once again provided more reason to celebrate the continued upturns of Liverpool’s experiMENTAL pop scene with a set drenched in bazooka-sized riffs, angular keys and vocals which would scare the b’jasus out of Ron Mael. That said, there’s an aching feeling that their hysterical fever can reach new levels altogether.
Cougar, shifted from the now closed Korova, are tonight’s major surprise. Cinematic in scope, yet wrapped up in cuddly packages of melody, they blend widescreen post-rock with a poppy mathrock sensibility which is both instant and cerebral.
At times there’s four guitars circumnavigating clicks, glitches and intricate drum patterns but all at once they arrive into a blistering haven of explosive pop.
Clearly delighted by a crowd quickly won over and dancing in tandem, the NYC/Milwaukee quintet rifle through a faux-choir-assisted Rhinelander, an Explosions in the Sky-alike Stay Famous and the Popol Vuh-lite of This Is An Affidavit.
It’s a triumph – and one we’d have never experienced had Korova’s doors remained open…