By: Bruce Cowie

Photos: Bruce Cowie

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Bannermans Bar | February 21, 2015

Man, there’s a lot of beard in here tonight.

Quick flashback to last night – Weird noise, dark post-metal, shrieking lunacy and head spinning psych-doom. Rarely has a bag been so mixed.

Flashforward again – tonight looks mixed too. Heavy, heavier and heaviest.  And very, very beardy.

Locals Dune – only 50% beard – do NOT ease us in gently. Half an hour or so of dazzling sci-fi themed turbo-sludge just blast past. Dune are spectacular. Insanely talented. Ferocious. I’ve seen Dune a number of times before, but they have never sounded better than they do tonight. Victor and Dan share guitar and vocal duties, Dan mostly taking charge of the beef and Victor handling the fiddly garnish with his ridiculous 9 (Yes, NINE) string beast. Simon and Dudley are the engine of the spaceship, nimble fingers and sticks never (well, almost never, nobody’s perfect) missing a beat. A brand new, as yet un-named, song is a bit ragged, but it’s a work in progress and it sounds like it’s going to be a monster.

Dune_Sonic Mass


In the crowd, I see some folks who have never caught Dune live before. To a man, they watch slack-jawed in awe. One fellow turns to his pal. ‘Holy fffuuuuuuu…’ he mouths. Oh yes.

Dune are, as they say, going places, and rightly so. I think they have a plan, they’re all pulling in the same direction, and I’ll be damned if they’re not huge before too long. And they will deserve it, because they are breathtakingly good.

And relax…

Glasgow’s Buried Sleeper could never be described as ‘speedy’. Rather, they will bring us a set of elegant and mesmerising stoner doom. They’re another band whom I’ve seen a number of times before. Sometimes they have been excellent, sometimes not so much. Tonight, they are on top form and, just like Dune before them, I have never seen them better. Twin guitarists Harry and Bryce throw some impressive rock shapes, the latter adding some spooky, and oddly non-doomy, vocals which take a distinctly Eastern feel during set closer ‘Pangaea’. Apparently, this thirteen minute epic is to be the centrepiece of Buried Sleeper’s next album, and rightly so, because it’s a corker.

Buried Sleeper_Sonic Mass

Buried Sleeper

Buried Sleeper are, by turns, creepily atmospheric and crushingly hefty, neatly side-stepping many doom clichés with their mix of stately riffing and delicate ambience. There are many nodding heads in the crowd – it’s like headbanging, but slower – and it’s another winning set. Two from two.

Ommadon, up next, are simply the heaviest thing on the entire planet. Just the two of them, David Tobin on earthquake guitar and Ewan Mackenzie on keyboards, twiddly-knobbed box and occasional drums. The music they make is just colossal, a devastating wash of electronic drone and kidney-troubling guitar. Periodically, Mackenzie will leave his noise boxes running and take to the kit, smashing fifty shades of shit out of his drums. Slowly. And, now and again, Tobin will sing (well, I say ‘sing’…Tobin will make a noise like a sulphurous demon belch.) It’s a bit like Sunn 0))), but more interesting and with fewer silly monk robes. And a lot less smoke.

Ommadon_Sonic Mass


They play for 45 minutes, a new piece in two movements – presumably sides one and two of their next record – and it is something of an endurance test. Unless, that is, you can open yourself to the music and absorb it, let it take you over. And then it is bliss. Monstrous, ugly/beautiful bliss.

Torture or joy. It’s up to you. Tonight, the crowd opt for joy.

We’re all still reeling a bit from Ommadon’s colossal mountain of noise when our headliner for the evening, Stoke’s Space Witch, takes the stage. Stage-front, there’s another table full of boxes with knobs, all looking very home-made, and an interestingly retro looking keyboard. With more knobs. It’s like the flight deck of some ramshackle steampunk starship, the domain of Cap’n Peter Callaghan, and the source of the fabulously trippy electronic noises which take Space Witch’s hypnotic instrumental acid-sludge and swirl it off into…well, space. It’s impossible not to get totally involved with the music, to lose yourself in the throbbing and pulsing wall of sound.

Space Witch_Sonic Mass

Space Witch

I’m sure that there are ‘songs’ played tonight, songs with titles, but I have no idea what they might be. And I don’t really care. It works just fine as a forty minute barrage of gloriously head-fucking psychedelic riffage. Actually, I wish they would play for hours.

And so we’re done. This has been Edinburgh’s first Sonic Mass, and it has been a triumph, really. It could have gone horribly wrong, but no. The punters will go away dazed and happy. The promoters – Sander and Ewen (Pisschrist Promotions), to whom we must all bow – must surely be happy. The bands have been excellent. And probably happy. Nobody got killed. I think we can overlook the few little technical niggles from Friday night and declare the whole thing a resounding success.

Sonic Mass will be back.

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