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Ufomammut / Jex Thoth (live at O2 Academy Islington)

9 October 2015

October is the month of Samhain where the boundaries between other worlds and our own is at its thinnest. It is the time of ancient occult rituals to the ancestors and a sign that year is slowly crawling to its end. While the autumnal sun shine hangs in the air the creeping nights have more than a hint of chill to them. It is the perfect time of year for two great occult/psych rock bands to revisit the capital.

I’ve been lucky enough to see all of Jex Thoth’s London performances so far. So when the black candles are lit and the smell of sandalwood hits the air, you know the ritual is about to begin. Jex seems to almost put herself in a trance before each performance; so as the haunting melody of “To Bury” begins, she walks on like a witch possessed by the spirits of the conjuration. When the song finally crashes in, the audience at the front begin to shake their heads as Jex’s performance becomes more intense. Guitars and organ battle it out in psychedelic doom-laden swells and flourishes while the bass and drums pound, driving the rhythm forward.

Jex Thoth live October 2015

Throughout the set Jex lights her large stack of sandalwood incense and stabs it with a knife. She brandishes it around the stage, her eyes not leaving the burning sticks. She even takes it down into the audience and confers a blessing on members in the front row. But it’s the music where the real magick lies. “Separated At Birth” is powerful and anthemic as it gets the audience moving in its dance to the devil beat. “Banishment” is entrancing and “Raven” gets Jex doing her best to act out the lyrics, her performances outdoing each other with each successive song. Jex Thoth live October 2015You become transfixed by her as she weaves her spell over you and the darkness of the music slowly envelops you in its secret rites. Here though, because it’s a support slot, we don’t get a full Jex Thoth set and the band seem as disappointed as the audience when they are ask to leave the stage. I hope they will return to the UK soon, not with just a headlining show, but with also a new album under their belts as well; if so, I’m down the front again.

Ufomammut live October 2015

A loud bass drone and a massive smash of guitar heralds the opening of Ufomammut’s set. One thing tonight is going to be is loud, as already the guitar cabinets onstage are shaking because of the volume. Its an aural assault sent to punish the uninitiated, but works its true believers in to a frenzy. Their set comprises of tracks from classic albums such as Lucifer Songs and a small chunk of the latest album Ecate.

Ufomammut live October 2015

Poia’s guitar work is monumental, building riffs and destroying them in a hail of feedback. His sound is a cross between psychedelia meets sludge metal, and it’s both heavy a subtle at the same time as it plays a witch’s dance over the audience. Urlo’s Rickenbaker bass is turned up to 11 and shoved through a multitude of effects that makes it rumble at the lower end; but also make it kick in with Chris Squire-type leads. His fingers travel up the fret board with speed, but sometimes they just hit upon a good old-fashioned groove. Vita’s drumming is the powerhouse of the band; he clatters around his kit, pushing himself to the edge in every song. At times he subtly lifts pieces by travelling around the cymbals — but mostly he produces a barrage of sound that is almost unholy.Ufomammut live October 2015Screens play out videos with arcane symbols and images of occult rituals, and this melded with the music makes for an overwhelming experience; and at points you feel like a rabbit caught in headlights watching it. As their set draws to a close, Urlo lifts his bass above his head like it’s a sacrificial victim he’s just killed, a smile beaming across his face. Only one encore (the curfew for this gig is 10pm) and when they have finished, the band come down from the stage to shake hands with the members of the audience as if to say that the ceremony is over.

It was the night when London had dark magick crawl its old world streets, where the music summoned up demons from the past and newer elementals. Where songs to the morning star deity travelled through the dark sky’s to sing to their lord. It was everything a good gig should be.

-Words: Gary Parsons-
-Pictures: Dave Pettit-

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