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Live review: William The Conqueror @ Exeter Phoenix, 10/11/18

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William The Conqueror, made up of Ruarri Joseph on guitar and vocals, Naomi Holmes on bass and Harry Harding on drums, filled their intimate gig with hazy indie-rock goodness.


Image credit: Luke Kellett, Headjam

The Cornwall trio’s modest yet self-assured performance kicked off with a couple of gentle numbers that caressed the guitar, chords melted into each other and a mellow but subtly jazzy bassline allowed the band to conserve their energy and build piece by piece on their performance. The drifty backing of 'Pedestals’ felt particularly dreamy, allowing for the prominence of Joseph’s unique vocals, a country-twist on Kings Of Leon’s Followill, to establish themselves at the forefront. ‘The Many Faces of a Good Truth’ oozed jazzy sex appeal, enhanced by Harding marking upbeats with the cymbal. As the instrumentals surged, the trio came together with harmonic lulls, their voices complementing one another's for lush, mid-song harmonies.

William The Conqueror began to gain momentum throughout the gig, with a lot of the audience members dancing freely to their more upbeat tracks from the debut album Proud Disturber of the Peace. ‘Sunny Is the Style’ was a particularly memorable performance; with Joseph’s implementation of the harmonica perfectly fitting the ambiance of an intimate gig alongside the song’s full-bodied harmonies.

However, the band came to life with the heavier rock-style songs that they seemed much more comfortable with. Joseph was invigorated: ‘Did You Wrong’ was introduced as “a song for the exes”, chock-full of indie-rock guitar chord distortions where Holmes and Joseph interacted with each other and fed off each other's energy. William The Conqueror’s best-known track from their first album, ‘Tend to the Thorns’ was also received particularly well with its perfectly frantic fast-paced chord progressions – Joseph’s vocals once again shone through. The band’s harmonies worked particularly well as a contrast, fuelling the emotive lyrics, “Cos I love you so, love you so”.

Album title track ‘Proud Disturber of the Peace’, arguably the most rock-style song of the evening, was played with zealous energy. Beginning with seemingly gentle, country-style guitar strums, the track found itself inundated with cathartic, minor key riffs. Holmes really came into her own here as the bass took the lead on providing a deep intensity that Joseph followed, both vocally and instrumentally. These hooks were some of the best performed of the night.

William The Conqueror certainly do not stray from profound, philosophical lyricism; conveyed to the crowd like an ancient storytelling tradition by the country-soaked tone of Joseph’s voice. Although Joseph’s unrestrained vocal melody was prevalent throughout the night, it was most dominant in ‘Bleeding on the Soundtrack’ and ‘In My Dreams’, standing out as the best performances of the night. The former radiated vigor in its country-esque execution and stood out among the downtempo selections from their debut record, while ‘Bleeding on the Soundtrack’ displayed the most country influence of the night, with such a heavy emphasis on the downbeat. It was on this track that Joseph’s conversational tone came into its own. The song felt like a moral message; “Don’t dance with what you can’t afford / If you lie down, you can’t take it back / Still bleeding on the soundtrack”.

William The Conqueror’s performance had a rich ambiance, and their quietly self-confident command was enough to take control of their intimate venue. It is the conversational tone of Joseph’s voice that really conveys the band’s message, allowing their uniquely profound lyrics to be deservedly appreciated.

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