Baroness/The Boan Trio/Atlas

Islington Mill, Salford 20 January 2010

by Eric Hanneman

The Islington Mill is an interesting venue, decked out as it is with shrivelled balloons, old mirror balls and with a bar consisting of some fridges on a table. It’s as though the apocalypse has catering by Iceland.

Interesting is unfortunately not the word to describe Atlas, however. Their sludgy stoner rock is incredibly loud, but also extremely boring. I expect if I was Swedish and 15 years old and it was 1992 I’d probably enjoy it, but not tonight. (5)

The Boan Trio (formerly Boanthrope) are next up and are instantly more appealing. Setting up a keyboard on a ironing board at the front of the stage and then kicking things off with the drummer and keyboard/guitar player playing trumpet and saxophone is an unusual start, but it grabs the attention of the audience and the rest of their set doesn’t disappoint. Building from a slow beginnings they push their songs into some terrific, raging experimental dirges recalling Fantomas, Fudge Tunnel and even Neurosis at times. (8)

Baroness do that thing where they are tuning their guitars, soundchecking and generally pissing about and then, without any fuss or introduction they start picking out the melody from Bullhead’s Psalm and the crowd is instantly enthralled as they head straight into the Sweetest Curse, also from the triumphant Blue Record. The sound is beautifully clear, and the band are tighter than the singer from Attack! Attack!’s trousers. Only the vocals, which are undeniably the weakest part of their arsenal suffer a little in the mix.

Centre stage is John Dyer Baizley – shaven headed, full-bearded, with wide eyes and an even wider mouth as he bellows along, reaching his peak during A Horse Called Golgotha and the whole room is swept up as Baroness charge to the song’s climax.

The set ebbs and flows, from the heaviest of sludge metal, to delicate melodic passages that hint at what Metallica might once have been capable of and Baroness highlight one of their key strengths, which is their refusal to rest on an idea. Their songs constantly shift and just as you settle into a groove, they switch up and do something different, but equally excellent.

Baizley eschews between song banter with his only comments coming towards the show’s end as he puts across how privileged the band feel to be “living the dream” by playing for us tonight and he urges people to come and speak to them after the show to see that they “aren’t psychos, or murderers or rapists, (at this point several audience members leave, saying “Pah! I was only here for the rape”) and definitely not rock stars.”

It’s a refreshing sentiment, and they while may not be rock stars; if they continue in this form, they’ll be one of the best bands in the world. (9)

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