Live review: High On Fire, Lizzard, Jumping Jack at Tut’s, 4/2/13

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While perhaps Garage or Cathouse might have been a more appropriate venue for tonight’s action, the faithful are still out in force for tonight’s gig by the Californian metalers.

Guitarist/vocalist, Matt Pike is an imposing presence with his enormous sideburns and gigantic frame, despite an improbable resemblance to Robert Baratheon from Game of Thrones but before the monstrous trio take to the stage there are support slots from Jumping Jack and the possibly dyslexic, Lizzard.

On stage at 8.45, Jumping Jack deliver a set of loose, Mastodon inspired hard rock with the trio delivering a succession of fierce chorded breakdowns.

It’s not massively original but there’s plenty of energy to the trio and they’re a pleasant change from band’s whose default guitar setting is shred.

Their flamboyant drummer is definitely more Tommy Lee than precise rhythm machine but by the final bone crunching, knee sliding riff they seem to have won the crowd over.

Despite wielding a five-string bass, Lizzard actually prove to be substantially less heavy than anticipated, flowing through a short set of Soundgarden sound-alikes.

There seems to be an odd collision of elements at work with melodic singing meshing awkwardly with attempts at sprawling psych-metal.

They’re better when their vocalist keeps his mouth shut and the trio indulge their space-jam side but their set is dogged by problems with the bass.

This is a shame because once or twice they manage to capture a rolling, tank-like groove Rage Against the Machine would be proud of.

Finally the main event arrives and I position myself in the middle of the room, conscious that my yellow hoody marks me out in a sea of black clad figures.

A small core of fans are almost comically boisterous before the gig even starts but when the trio take to the stage and open with the first track from 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis, ‘Serums of Liao’ you can see the enthusiasm is justified.

From the noise they summon you’d never believe that there were just three band members and indeed Matt Pike is forced to quip that the band are “too metal” when his bassists amp catches fire a couple of tracks in, forcing a short break.

Neglecting ‘De Vermis Mysteriis’ excellent middle section in favour of a selection of tracks from across all six of their albums including the nihilistic ‘10 000 Days’ the band deliver a solid, punchy set of stoner-doom metal and though Tut’s doesn’t offer a lot of space every track inspires a frothing moshpit amongst the diehards at the front.

The brutal ‘Devilution’ pushes their sound closer to death-metal, with razor-sharp double-bass drumming and stabbing pistol-shot fills, while ‘Rumors of War’ sounds like a tribe of savages charging over the horizon.

Fearsome set closer ‘Snakes for the Divine’, the title track of their highly acclaimed 2010 record, is probably their only truly great piece of song writing but as snow starts to fall outside, Tut’s has been transformed into a shrine to fearsome musicianship, questionable facial hair and LOUD guitars.

Words: Max Sefton

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