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All Them Witches (live at The Scala)

London 4 October 2016

All Them Witches live at The Scala October 2016The Man Whose Head Expanded. Not in a good Mark E Smith kind of way, though. Oh no. Sadly not. In a kids-back-at-school, viral-laboratory, I’d-like-to-just-lie-down-in-this-ditch kind of way. Taking the bus down to The Scala, I wonder how long it will be until my eyeballs just pop out due to the pressure from my sinuses. But, Freq reviewers are hopefully made of sterner stuff, and so in a bravura display of stiff upper head, I marshal myself off the 73 and into the venue.

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The Flamin’ Groovies (live at The Scala)

London 25 April 2016

Just as everyone thought that Spring had really, finally, definitively arrived, fresh and rosy-fingered, Winter once more puts its cold, cold hand back onto our shoulders. Arriving at The Scala (always redolent with memories of all-night Eighties quadruple bills and marathon Shock Around the Clock gorefests1) it feels more like January again than practically May.

Inside, I stake a place at the front of the upper tier, crack open a ridiculously over-priced can of San Miguel, and survey the scene. Faded nostalgic ghost films flicker across my Kopfkino as I picture the tatty auditorium as it used to be in years gone by: the cinema cat walking across my lap during a showing of From The Velvets to Voidoids; the seat I was in for the last film I ever saw here, preposterous Greek “experimental independent surrealist underground art film” Singapore Sling, about incestuous mother and

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Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats / Spiders (live at The Scala)

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats live November 2015London 26 November 2015

This keeps on happening at the moment: two great gigs are on the same night. A couple of weeks back it was Graveyard versus Pentagram and tonight it’s Uncle Acid versus Om. It says a lot about the exponential growth of the doom/stoner/occult rock scene in the last couple of years that these two shows could coexist with each other on the same night in fairly large venues and both of them be sold out.

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High On Fire / Bask (live at The Scala)

London 12 November 2015

It was my friend Lee Nite who first played me an album by High On Fire. I knew and loved Sleep’s work, but had kind of considered that HOF’s sound was a little too fast for my doom/stoner rock ears. He slipped on their first album and said something like “this is fucking brutal and psychedelic”. And he was right (as with most of the things he played me); my musical world atlas shifted a bit in its orbit and suddenly High On Fire made sense and I had to get the album. Then we saw them at the Camden Underworld and I was once again worshipping at the altar of Matt Pike.

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Nazoranai+Flower/ Corsano Duo (live at The Scala)

Keiji Haino of Nazoranai live at The ScalaLondon 11 July 2013

So the first problem is always going to be that, writing after the fact, things get a bit distorted. Nazoranai were utterly amazing. To the extent that what, on any other night, would’ve been a totally formidable set from the Flower/Corsano Duo ended up falling flat in my retroactive estimations. That sounds a bit “damning with convoluted praise,” but it’s not meant as such.

Dues to the duo: starts off with Michael Flower very carefully pulling out a two or three note melody, steadily stretching it out but never veering too far away from his tonic. Modally, Flower’s definitely playing it steady for most of the set – there’s a tonic and it’s not moved away from

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Om/King Midas Sound (live at The Scala)

London 30 September 2012

Tonight is all about the HEAVY. Not so much the Metal, though its ghost and spiritual guidance flow out of everything Om do like ectoplasm, but definitely the HEAVY. In capitals. Always in capitals. On paper, given a reductive genre-based taxonomical description of each act, King Midas Sound, Kevin Martin‘s ultra-deep “dub” project, seem a weird choice to support Al Cisneros‘ ultra-deep “doom metal” band (well, apart from the bit where I described them both as “ultra-deep”, but that’s kind of key) until you realise that, like a particularly unbalanced game of Team Fortress 2, it’s ALL ABOUT THE HEAVY. Then it becomes clear that there are very obvious parallels.

King Midas sound take the stage, beginning with Martin himself whipping up a full-on sonic onslaught that’s almost Swans-like in its relentlessness, the vast spaces of their recorded work quickly becoming filled to capacity with brutalising

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Earth/Beak>/Sabbath Assembly (live at The Scala)

The Scala, London 12 April 2011

Sabbath Assembly is the rather surprising spin-off from noise-manglers and avant scribblers the No-Neck Blues Band. Surprising why, exactly? Not just because they show that, yes, they are actually good musicians, but that they can also play tight, Seventies-style power pop of the sort which has a solid groove at its heart and an earnestly-sharp, clear guitar raising the rooves, church-band style, as they waft in on a hefty block of incense which flames up like the herald of the light bringer himself. In this case though, singer Jex Thoth is praising Lucifer as well as JHVH and the Lord Jesus Christ through the medium of hymns penned by the very whacked-out hippy psychedelic sect The Process Church of Final Judgment. Once this rather odd factor becomes accepted, their music is strangely – and offputtingly – like

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The Orb (live at The Scala)

The Scala, London 11 December 2010

The first time I saw The Orb play live was at the time of the release of their album Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld. At that time the techno/ambient/trance scene was at an all-time high with a plethora of new bands using psychedelic images and pushing at making the underground become overground. The Orb’s “Little Fluffy Clouds” drifted through the spring and summer airwaves (well they did in my house), and their gig at The Fridge in Brixton was packed with sweaty dancing bodies.

Fast forward to 2010 and The Orb is a slightly different prospect. The gig tonight is only half full and I kept glancing around to see if there would be a final surge of people once The Orb hit the stage at 11.30. I’m not sure why there was a lack of people especially after their new album Metallic Spheres with

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Corrupted/Thorr’s Hammer (live at The Scala)

Corrupted London 26 July 2009

Thorr's HammerSouthern Lord have been doing good business resurrecting their roster from the first time round, with some spectacularly lavish re-releases from Burning Witch, for example, making it strange to reflect that their twentieth anniversary isn’t too far off yet… So it’s only to be applauded that Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley of Sunn0))) (etc) are back with Runhild Gammelsæter and the rest of Thorr’s Hammer for tonight’s post-Supersonic festival gig – the chance for Londoners who couldn’t – or possibly wouldn’t – make the trip to Birmingham for one of the year’s crucial weekends of stupendously good music from around the world to catch a moment of doom reunion.

One of the unique

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Jesu (live at The Scala)

The Scala, London 20 November 2007

This has been a long time coming. Last time I tried to see Jesu (supporting Jarboe, in this very venue) it got scaled down to a Justin Broadrick solo perfomance as Final, which consisted of him hunched over his laptop making incredible noises. Now, while this may have sounded awesome, on every other level there was little to distinguish between the experience and watching a young Paul Weller playing World of Warcraft. And when I say young, I mean very young indeed. Considering Mr Broadrick’s pushing 40, and the album which really made his name as King Of Distorted Guitars, Godflesh‘s Streetcleaner, is nearly half that old itself, he really does seem to have the fresh-faced, shy yet intense demeanour of a high school shooter. Drummer Ted Parsons, on the other hand, is his polar opposite, looking more like what I’d imagine

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Laibach (live at The Scala)

London 12 October 2003

 (Click for larger image)Witnessing Laibach perform onstage is guaranteed to be a spectacular experience – not in the form of flaming scenery, explosives or even sheer brutalist noise, but because they put on a show. A proper show with much too much in common with a political rally for some tastes, but a theatrical event nonetheless, and one which grips their audience with an impassioned fervour.

 (Click for larger image)As the group have moved on to a weighty Electro/Techno sound since their messing with the heaviest of Metal for their previous visits to the UK, they arrive onstage to the fading strains of the Blue Danube in high-collared black clubwear, heads shaved, or hair slicked back with bulbous shades for bassist and keyboardist respectively. However, their singer and lead throat, the man with the power to

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Damo Suzuki’s Network/Rothko (live at The Scala)

London 21 March 2001

In tow with the usual Krautrock London posse I arrived at The Scala just in time to hear lots of talk about how a lot of people have not been here since it was a infamous cinema. Though I never saw it in its glory, the building is still impressive with its loads of marble and Art Deco swirly tiles not quite lost in the stripped-pine modern re-structure. Other talk in the grand foyer was about the nearly embarrassing quantity of people here to see the magnificent performers on hand. It was true, there was a significant lack of bodies present considering the even to be, but nevermind, the Scala is a big venue, and most crowds might seem small inside it.

RothkoThe nights music began with Rothko, a suprise to me and a pleasant one to say the least. The bass

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Speedranch ^Jansky Noise/Stock, Hausen & Walkman/2nd Gen/Faultline (live)

The Scratch Club

The Scala, London 25th March 1999

First of all, the venue; once upon a time, The Scala was both the worst and best of London’s independent cinemas – terrible seats, ropey sound and a generally scuzzy atmosphere, saved by the murals, the cat and a programming selection which included all-night shod of the lowest possible taste, saved by the occasional hard-to-see gem. Then came the Clockwork Orange debacle, and all was quiet. Until that is the scaffolding appeared a year or so back, and it was obvious that something was on the move – would it be another Christian salvage centre of the New Millennial Jerusalem? Nope, The Scala is reborn as a club venue in the seediest part of town (Zero Tolerance policies excepted, and not much cop as it happens if tonight’s exterior street scene is anything to go by), and they even promise to

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