Norway’s Lonely Kamel have clearly discovered a wormhole to America’s Southern States at the back of their practice room. Singer Thomas Brenna bears more than a passing resemblance to Pepper Keenan – with a voice to match – and there’s a swagger and confidence to their jam-heavy stoner rock that instantly engages tonight’s audience. Long-haired heads swirl appreciatively as the band track a journey which takes in modern pioneers like Clutch, mid-period forefathers Lynyrd Skynyrd, and even a dash of Tom Waits’ dirty blues, spewing forth a compelling amalgam at gut-botheringly heavy bass frequencies.
Looking younger and less in need of a shave than those who have only heard them on record might expect, The Sword take the stage and instantly dispel any notions of mistaken identity with the sledgehammer opening riff to ‘Veil Of Isis’. They may share many of the same influences as Lonely Kamel, but this is a superior edit – a streamlined highlights reel of Southern metal – and, like contemporaries Baroness, they perform the rare trick of sounding thoroughly modern and utterly timeless all at once. Their innate ability to draw out the shining nuggets of a song and discard the flab sets them apart in a genre not always known for its brevity. It is easy to see what earmarked them for a Metallica support slot so early in their career; like the great method actors, there’s no doubt they’re feeling every note, but they still have a keen eye for what an audience wants and more than a smattering of showmanship.
Their impressive recent album ‘Apocryphon’ takes centre-stage tonight, with its title track and ‘Seven Sisters’ as rabidly received as old bruisers like ‘Tres Brujas’, and as drummer Jimmy Vela III toils tirelessly in the engine room in a set lasting over an hour and twenty minutes, J.D Cronise and Kyle Shutt pump out the sort of axework to which there can only be one response: pucker up that hairy lip and let your head swing back and forth. As a hundred Bristol brains collide in unison with the skulls that house them, the term ‘gangbang’ is well and truly redefined by a band at the top of their game.