The moment this gig got announced a few months ago, it was instantly the best gig of the year for me. How often do you get to see Conan and Bongripper, arguably two of the heaviest bands currently on the planet, on the same bill at one of Edinburgh’s “small” venues? If Humanfly had managed to get to Edinburgh as well, it would have made this gig even more unforgettable. Unfortunately the van they were sharing with Bongripper broke down somewhere in between Bristol and Edinburgh. Apparently this was after they already had a punctured tire earlier that day after leaving Bristol. Sometimes all bad luck just comes at once. Since Conan got all the gear up in Edinburgh already (as they have their own van), it was decided to fork out £220 and drive Bongripper up in a taxi from where ever they were stranded. Humanfly on the other hand went back to their homebase in Leeds to get the broken van fixed. It was a shame they couldn’t make it as their new album Awesome Science is one of my personal highlights of this year so far and after seeing them support Cult of Luna earlier in the year (see review of that gig here) I was looking forward seeing their blend of heavy prog metal live on stage again.
Anyway, the other bands made up for it though, starting with local doomers Atragon. Now, anyone who has been going to the heavier doom/sludge gigs in Edinburgh over the last couple of months would have seen Atragon at least once, maybe even 5, or 10 times. They play a lot of support slots for the heavy touring bands who hit upon Edinburgh, which makes sense when your bass player Ewen Cameron actually runs Pisschrist Promotions and gets all these bands to Edinburgh. Atragon, a relatively young band both in age and existence, have already been on a UK tour and playing all those support slots in Edinburgh definitely pay off. When I saw them supporting Monarch not to long ago the band looked more nervous and not always very confident, now there was a band that stood on stage with a very confident attitude and they played one of their best sets to date. It certainly helped that they were able to use Conan’s backline as they were the loudest I’ve ever seen them! Unfortunately, Jan Gardner’s vocals were lost a bit in the huge wall of solo-ing and riffing guitar noise produced by Ruaridh Daunton and Victor Vicart. But Jan played the crowd greatly spending more time of their set actually among the crowd than on the stage. Drummer Duncan McLaren has never been in such a zoned out state before as far as I know, with his eyes rolling in his head throughout most of the set. I was happy to see so many people already there and actually watching Atragon as these guys totally deserved it and if they continue like this I expect big things to happen to them.
After a short break it was time for Jon Davis, Paul O’Neil and Phil Coumbe to step on the stage and do their thing. Now, I don’t think I need to go into much detail about what this thing is. If you like your music heavy and doom then you would have heard of Conan, if not then you’ve done something wrong. These boys from Liverpool have been building a huge reputation over the last couple of years to be one of the loudest live bands in the genre. I actually would argue that Conan is heavier than any band from any particular metal subgenre. There aren’t many bands that produce a wall of fuzzy noise so huge and heavy making the trousers on your legs slightly flow and vibrate. I was standing right in front of the stage and I think my insides were doing rollercoasters at one point. I think I actually pooped my pants, but miraculously there was nothing in my boxers when I checked on the toilet later. I must have imagined it all. When I saw them last time in Glasgow at the 13th Note they were the loudest thing I’d ever experienced, but in the meantime they have upgraded their amp stacks to even heavier ones to be even louder! What I always love though is that even though it’s loud and very heavy and fuzzy, you’ll still here the details in this heavy mix. It’s a miracle you can even hear Paul’s drums, but he’s a hard hitter and he manages to work his way through the heavy doom wall. Can you imagine sitting in front of 6 huge amp stacks with your drum kit? I am a drummer myself, so I can. I’d probable poop myself again, imaginary or not. As always both Jon and Phil do the vocal duties, with guitarist Jon providing the high ear penetrating screams and bass player Phil the more lower bowel moving grunts. It all adds to their heavy sound. How many times have I said heavy now? Answers on a postcard to our editorial address please. Conan played 2 brand new songs, Foehammer and one of which I didn’t catch the title as I was way too zoned out, and these were absolutely brilliant. Their whole set was on the slight “uptempo” side as they wanted to provide a bit of contrast with Bongripper’s heavy and more slower doom.
By the time Conan was finished it was nearly 11pm and people were wondering if Bongripper managed to get up to Edinburgh in their taxi. Well, they did. They literally walked in the venue 10 minutes before they had to get on stage and by the time they did you could see their instruments condensing instantly from being in the cold boot of a taxi for many hours. Jon from Conan told me they drove up from Bristol to Edinburgh in around 6 hours; Bongripper did the same journey in 14 hours. You can imagine how pissed off they were! Bass player Ron was even more pissed off after he jumped on stage banging his head against a speaker hanging of the ceiling (even though it was clearly labelled with a sticker saying “Heids!”), and having to deal with a broken lead on his bass guitar in the first song. It didn’t prevent all of this for them to throw a heavy set of doom and fuzz into the crowd. When you’re thinking how can you get any heavier and louder than Conan, well, you add a second guitar player and you got it. Bongripper played a solid set, which consisted of only 4 or maybe 5 songs, but I’m not so sure anymore as by this stage I was on my 7th pint of Guinness and there wasn’t a set list for me to take home. Don’t read this and think this was a short set though as anybody who’s familiar with these guys’ back catalogue knows that 4 Bongripper songs can easily last an hour. Again standing right in front of the stage made me realise that if you’d ever suffer from kidney stones there’s an alternative therapy for you here. Instead of undergoing lithotripsy just go to a Bongripper show, stand at the front and I guarantee you that by the end of their set you’ll be pissing out tiny bits of broken down kidney stones when you’re on the toilet next. I only realised on the night that this was Bongripper’s first UK tour and therefore their first visit to Edinburgh and with this night being their only Scottish date of the tour the big crowd made them feel at home and more than welcome. Hopefully the whole state of affairs on the day didn’t put a downer on the band and they will come back to Edinburgh or Scotland soon!
Maybe it was the Guinness making the decision for me or the fact Bongripper had spent over 200 quid in a taxi to get to Edinburgh, but I was 40 quid poorer after visiting the merchandise table. But worth every penny as you should support touring bands especially when they come over all the way from Chicago!
Lots of great CDs were bought!
Read my interview with Dennis from Bongripper if you're interested to read more about this awesome band here.