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Festival review: I'll Be Your Mirror 2012


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London is hotter than the sun, but there is a darkness descending on Alexandra Place as a black-clad hoard gathers. Maybe it’s the heat from HELL! Slayer are playing, the excitement is palpable.

SlayerBefore hand there’s an array of crushing riffs and aural anger to assault our ear drums in the form of the monolithic metal of Storm of Light who lose none of their power from the subtle nuances of their surging soundscapes. All in all there’s not much to watch with the musicians performing under a veil of darkness as eerie images flicker from the back. Still SOL practically put on a light-show when compared to Wolves In The Throne Room. The three piece (how is there only three of them?) stand in the dark to perform their crawling, occult metal – encompassing the slowest, heaviest parts of the genre. Otherworldly howls lead the soundtrack to the underworld.

“Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go?” Come the chants. Where are we going? Rock nirvana is where! Hardcore/grunge legends Melvins dual drummer attack leads a hypnotically captivating set. Big riffs, big hair, big flamboyance – it’s all of rock’s best bits with none of the crappy parts. The revitalised (now) four-piece are back to their best – why can’t all heavy music be this much fun?

SLAYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEER! A band whose name you have to shout. The overlords of thrash metal - the band to set your soul ablaze. Nothing makes you lose your shit like a Slayer gig, no band plays faster, plays harder! Despite the heat the crowd descends into a sprawling mass of limbs. The play all the tracks of Rein In Blood (the best metal album, ever?). ‘Angel of Death’ kills it, “Jesus Saves” rules – but there is not a duff note – everything is perfect. SLAYEEEEEEEEEEEEEER! What else is there to say?

After that there’s two more days left - made up of the good, the disappointing and the sublime. Second day curators Mogwai have lost something, they used to destroy my mind and hold my heart. Opener ‘Hunted By A Freak’ drags and leads into a one-dimensional set that lacks the ebbs and flows that once made them so special.

The Music of Can was billed as some sort of unique event with the krautrock legends, but turns out to be one of the band (and a mate) pressing play on some unearthed tracks in a bright room and looking uncomfortable. Yes all the tunes are incredible, but the whole thing lacks spectacle and seems a little pointless.

The Dirty Three are terrible – there I said it! They do humour, who can’t laugh at a opening track called ‘I was a hemroid on bono vox's anus’ and Warren Ellis is a proper rock star, but after great starts each track descends into mindless, pretentious, self-mastabatory twaddle. They can play, they know they can play and they don’t care about the listener. It’s the musical equivalent of having sex with the most beautiful girl in the world, but being more concerned with watching yourself in a mirror!

Last night headliners Afghan Whigs are essentially U2 but from America and credible with indie-fans. They are the soundtrack to countless “emotional” scenes in shite US teen dramas.

But the rest of IBYM is full of goodness as well. Forest Swords work through a power-outage to deliver a hypnotic, dub-infused set of beautiful electronic soundscapes which makes for a perfect early listen. Berlin odd-ball Antoni Maiovvi’s dancing alone makes for an entertaining show, without adding the addictive nature of his dark, techno-pop.

The Soft Moon are exceptional – Luis Vasquez’s fleshed-out project (now a full-band) give everything fans of the darker end of the pop spectrum could want in a no-nonsense, lo-fi manner. A funkier Joy Division, a more pop Bauhaus – it’s all built on familiarity, but right for now. The playing is tight, the tunes engaging – the only problem is the daytime slot in the brightest room in the world which just feels wrong for music so dark. This same setting works brilliantly for Bill Wells and Aiden Moffat. The former Arab Strap mans soul-searching has found a perfect foil in the compositions of Bill Wells and the whole thing is smile-inducingly wonderful.

Mudhoney are doing something much louder at the same time as Moffat, and after all these years have lost none of their punch. Playing loads of old ‘hits’ (‘Touch Me I’m Sick’, ‘In N Out of Grace’, ‘Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More’) they prove why they were placed to be the world-beating Sub Pop act before Nirvana came along and stole their thunder (well, initially, they stole their sound too, but we can forgive them that). The grunge legends play with boundless energy amongst a fantastic amount of noise that leads us to our weekend’s main event.....

I am not a religious man, but I am a convert to the gospel of The Make Up – Halleujah! From the darkness comes a funk-punk epiphany of epic proportions. Revolution driven by a relentless groove, love put forth from pure punk energy and front-man Ian Svenonius  preaching to each and every one of the sweaty gathered throng. Him walking aloft in the crowd the love in the room is palpable. Each and every song lights my soul in new ways, with ‘They Live By Night’ touching me in all the right (and wrong ways) me losing it completely to the beat. The Make Up are pure, perfect rock and roll. AMEN BROTHER!

IBYM is over for another year and it was pretty awesome!

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