Psych-prog-alt rock outfit The Bloody Mallard, the brainchild of guitarist Tom Walding, write for us once again. This time he takes us back into the Time Tunnel to share his experiences of one of his greatest ever live experiences.
Earlier this year, The Bloody Mallard released their new album, Realm. It’s an album we loved on At The Barrier, and it’s a pleasure to welcome Tom back to the site to write about his experience of witnessing the might of Yob.
My last article for At The Barrier was about my love of King Crimson so it was nearly an obvious and not particular interesting choice for my favourite gig. They are undoubtedly the tightest band I’ve seen and taking my dad, who first introduced me to them, added an extra layer of value that elevates the experience from other gigs. Seeing them at the London Palladium will forever be one of the greatest gigs I’ve been to.
But is this fair or indeed right? I’ve been to great concerts (honourable mentions to Sabbath, Guns’n’Roses, Roger Waters, Metallica, Tool) but the best live experiences I’ve had are from the underground scene. Smaller venues give the immediate and obvious reality that you are closer to the band but also the audience, that we are all in this tight community for the evening experiencing something together. An underground band rallying its fans locally is powerful. You can instantly feel the electricity in the air. The unseen but present energy of smaller venue gigs done correctly has the ability to influence so much positive.
I’ve thought hard about this and going through my smaller gig experiences there is one show that I keep going back to. This gig was a prime example of the above and not only did it win over the people I invited along to the show it re-ignited my passion to do music again. So with the proverbial gun to my head, the best gig (one of the best) I’ve been to is Yob at the London Scala, October 2016.
It’s a cold, blackened-sky weekday evening as my wife and I wait outside Kings Cross station for two more friends to join us. A typical London weekday evening in autumn means it was dark when you went to work and was dark when you left, most likely raining or wet and you were likely tired from a long day with no sunlight. Almost perfect settings to go and see a doom band; a scene notorious for its slow, low-tuned, heavy and loud sound. Its roots clearly going back to 70’s Sabbath and heavy metal scene it can transcend a lot of age groups but divide metal and rock tastes. It also enjoys its purity with the worship of the riff and not deterring from it which leaves restricted outside innovation to the genre which arguably makes a lot of bands sound very similar. That’s just fine for this genre with the differences in bands being slight and noticeable for attentive and devoted fans.
Yob in my opinion hold something different. Their sound is heavy. Very heavy and woven into the riffs are melodies and harmonies that glide seamlessly and beautifully. Their song lengths usually average 10 minutes+ and are sometimes structured almost avant garde-esque. They write everything with purpose; a deliberate spiritual purpose. The songs are like meditations and when listened to (especially with headphones) immediately transport you to other realms. If that is your cup of tea then Yob are for you.
And that’s how I convinced my wife (definitely not a doom fan), my friends (one with eclectic tastes but a successful music manager in the punk scene, and the other friend very much into prog rock and metal) to come along to see Yob live. The common thread is that they had all heard Yob briefly but I convinced them that what we would see would be an experience; potentially near spiritual (yeah i gave them the hard sell). I didn’t know if this was wholly correct though. I’d never seen Yob live so this was going to be equally new to me.
Straight into the venue the loudness from the support band Black Cobra spilled through every wall like an omnipotent fog about the venue. Myself grinning to this classic doom frequency as we queued at the bar I noticed the slight hesitance from our group with one expression to me with a suggestion of “Really?”. Black Cobra are pounding doom and you can’t escape it so with a little unease and concern of how this would go down with my friends we headed in to see the rest of the set. Black Cobra finished and we headed to the bar again and smoking area where others in the area may have had some ‘other’ smokes smuggled in. Everyone was gearing up for what was about to happen.
Lights down. Yob hit the stage quiet and focused. Guitarist and singer Mike Scheidt begins by thumping his guitar body and neck to begin a sonic swell. The portal opens and we enter “The Ball of Molten Lead” a song that starts calmly and then kicks in with an oven-air-like heat. The best way to refer to what happens from hereafter is the physicality of the music creating a wave. The sound frequency and slow tempo moves together in perfect balance as everyone starts swaying and head banging to it. To move with it is elevating and to uphold against it is depleting. Myself feeling it completely I gaze around and everyone is moving back and forth like a synched school of fish in an ocean wave. This show is both the moon and the tide with Yob setting the momentum. It was a platform to really let go and closing your eyes would elevate you further. Looking at our group I see my wife swaying next to me and the others both in similar motion with eyes closed and smiles beaming. I do not know how long the set was, most likely over an hour, and included some amazing songs ‘The Lie that is Sin’, ‘Adrift in the Ocean’ though the highlight for me was ‘Marrow’ a song that takes you from grief and sorrow and ascends to the realms of hope and healing. Experiencing that live, within the wave, I was fully able to surrender to it. The dynamics of the set would go from loud and engulfing to so quiet that any jokers in the crowd would be met with a torrent of ssshh (cries of “Turn it up” and “What?” were still funny though).
The set finishes with ‘Burning the Alter’ a powerful song that finally cements the approval from the group and that finishes with an amazing crescendo, guitars left ringing out and underneath the crowd erupting into applause. The band remain on stage turning to their amps and purposely end the sound when they want. Mike Schedit then turns back almost leaning into the audience with both arms raised yelling a triumphant roar. The crowd retorts perfectly with the same along with claps, cheers and encore shouts.
Leaving the venue with ears ringing, the group elated of what’s just been experienced I’m feeling light headed and inspired. I don’t remember a lot that happened after that evening as I was just constantly replaying the gig in my head and thinking I’ve never felt that sort of sound physically move everyone to its rhythm.
Seeing Yob was a live experience like no other. It was a truly unique moment which served as a great inspiration for my own writing, aiding me to get going properly with The Bloody Mallard.
N.B. roughly an hour or so after writing this I was hit with a poignant thought. I’ve always felt you can distinguish good bands roughly into 3 groups. There’s bands who sound awesome no matter what decade, live or recorded. These are the exceptionals. Then there are the majority which I think are separated into two fence line distinguishers. Those who sound awesome recorded but struggle to replicate in a live setting and those who are amazing live but struggle to capture their magic on recording. In these times of isolation I’m concerned for the latter. At present most of the world is in lockdown. Therefore a recession fuelled climate will make it tricky for location based businesses to bounce back. Restaurants and bars are a fragile industry (I believe a near two thirds of these businesses fail and close in their first year) but venues that provide close proximity audience environments will feel the brunt further. Bands (underground, established or mainstream) who rely on live settings as their strength will REALLY suffer. It’s in a reflective sadness that as I write this as I share a dark reality that we may lose bands and music genres who thrive in live settings.
Our thanks goes to Tom from The Bloody Mallard for writing for us. Yob are an immensely powerful band. If you want to see what their sound is all about, you can view a recent Rockpalast show here.
You can hear more from The Bloody Mallard below, and connect with the band through their social sites. Be sure to try and support artists in as independent way as possible (e.g. through Bandcamp).