Caïna, Hordes, Barshasketh
September 6 2013
We've been talking a lot about the rebirth of Caïna of late and we'll soon have a review of the new record, Litanies Of Abjection, as well as an interview with the man behind the project, Andrew Curtis-Brignell. With the excitement around new music building, Andy made the decision to step back into the live arena and it followed that I took a chance and arranged his first live performance after four years away from the stage. Of course, I couldn't review the event because that would be a huge conflict and so after putting a call out, Chris Thomson of Beer And Life Matching threw me a message and said he'd review the gig. Below is his honest account of the evening. Thank you Chris.
After weeks of uncharacteristic sunshine, a cold, grey gloom has descended on London today. I’m assuming this has been arranged to coincide with a Bleak Metal-curated night at The Unicorn, Camden.
First up are Barshasketh, who deliver a set drenched in despondent rage. Building on a foundation of hopeless guitar melody that suggests an appreciation of bands like Taake and Gorgoroth, soaring harmonic intervals intermittently offer up some belief that the crowd can escape the relentless misery, but those dreams are soon crushed when blasts of desolation inevitably return.
Tight, with a focused intensity, the band command attention but do occasionally look a little awkward on stage and uncomfortable in their own skin. Perhaps that’s because this is their first appearance in London and they’re overly eager to impress. Whatever the reason, I can’t imagine any awkwardness will linger much longer as I can see them playing on London stages bigger than this in the not too distant future.
Hordes, by comparison, have a more practised approach to their set. They turn off the stage lighting and are illuminated only by a projection on the wall behind them. The moving images soon disappear into the background of my consciousness though as the band starts to slowly, methodically shape a coherent noise before launching into a claustrophobic, oppressive onslaught.
Where Barshasketh brought a sense of space and melody, here there is none. The sound seems to be constructed around the drummer – specifically his snare – and he is fucking loud. It’s stifling, unyielding and the crowd are transfixed.
I’m not sure I would have the confidence to do what Andy Curtis-Brignell, the man behind Caïna, does next.
Following two accomplished, well-received black metal bands with nothing more than a guitar, a scattering of pedals and yourself in a pub on a Friday night in Camden just strikes me as, well, brave. But Andy uses that exposure, that rawness, that vulnerability to empower a performance that captivates his audience.
The unmoving wall of manipulated feedback, layers of looped distortion and desperate shrieks is mesmerising. Clearly completely improvised, at times it seems like Andy has lost control and his sounds are going to expand exponentially until they are torn apart, but he reins things in to such an extent that implosive collapse then appears imminent.
There’s a danger with this type of solo performance that everything can get a bit art school and pretentious, but Andy brings so much conviction and concentration to the stage that nothing feels forced or anything other than pure, honest expression. By the end of the night, the crowd are as lost in his music as he is.