Live review: Baroness, Royal Thunder at Cathouse, 20/10/13

Baroness_Cathouse_John Graham:Bassline Images_04It’s been a long time since I visited the Cathouse (it was nearly twice in a week, rather gutted I missed Holy Mountain on Friday) and I had forgot about the dungeon sweatbox come S&M chamber thing it has going on.

I’m not usually a metal advocate but I’m open to try anything, still it’s no surprise that tonight is towards the popier end of the genre, still I feel I stick out like a sore thumb with my tweed jacket in a somewhat burly crowd, who mainly sport t-shirts featuring one ‘metal font’ or another.

Baroness are tonight’s headliners and the American sludge bearers are powering to the top of their scene with three solid full lengths to there name, including last year’s fist pumping double album Yellow & Green, and tonight is sold out – or at least if they let any more people in they wouldn’t have much of a shout of finding a spot they could see or hear the band clearly.

The fact that they made headline news in the UK around this time last year when their coach fell 30ft from a viaduct down south hasn’t been a bad things in terms of publicity, but although the accident had no fatalities a couple of members did leave the band in its aftermath, including long time drummer Allen Blickle.

Support for tonight is Royal Thunder, a three-piece stoner metal band from Atlanta whose soulful yet robust howl, courtesy of Miny Parsonz, atop some darks rhythms and progressive guitar do more than enough to get the crowd warmed up for the pending onslaught.

Someone better versed in all things metal may be able to give you a more accurate breakdown of their sound, but it’s loud and aggressive but not overly so, there’s plenty here to keep you average rock fan interested.

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The same can be said for tonight’s headliners, whose colour naming albums draw comparison to alt pop superstars come annoying cheese merchants Weezer, but the comparisons stop there really, Baroness have been consistently churning out quality records since 2003 while Weezer stopped doing so in about 1998.

Opening on the instrumental ‘Ogeechee Hymnal’ and moving into probably their most accessible track to date ‘Take My Bones Away’ the band quick wash off any thoughts that new members and coach crashes can throw them off track, lead vocalist John Baizley and established guitarist Peter Adams lead the furor as they whip Glasgow’s top rock club into a frenzy.

Tonight’s set is mainly comprised of last year’s double record and while that record does via away from sludge metal roots into a more post-rocky / pop territory it can’t be argued that it doesn’t brim with quality, tracks like ‘Board Up The House’ provide shout-along anthems that could and should see Baroness playing bigger venues next time around.

Some older efforts do slip in, about half of 2009’s Blue record in fact, ‘A Horse Called Golgotha’ providing early hints at their more powerful side to their back catalogue.

That’s not to say the stuff from Yellow & Green isn’t powerful, it is, just not quite as heavy in the general sense of the term.

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Baroness put the work in through the Cathouse’s sweatbox conditions as Baizley comments mid set, after going topless: “it’s Europe in the fall it’s supposed to be cold,” he’s right and outside it is, cold and wet; inside though it’s just sweat drenching this four-piece.

Coming out for an encore Baizley announces: “we’re going to play the heavier stuff, prior to us becoming a full on pop act,” to an array of cheers from the more hardened fans.

The band launch into ‘The Sweetest Curse’ and ‘Jake Leg’ from Blue before finishing off with the pure power of ‘Isak’ from their debut full length, Red.

Baroness may have moved away from the full on sludge assault they were, but tonight they prove they have everything in their arsenal to break from that niche without upsetting too many loyal to them.

They’re confident enough to know they’re going down a popier avenue and I’m sure they realise their popularity is increasing, this may be the last chance they get in Glasgow to play an older number without running the risk that they might put off a new fan; that’s if the next album follows the same vibe, but you never know with these guys.

more photos

Words: Iain Dawson
Photos: John Graham

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