BARONESS + Taint @ Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, 24th January 2010


The Hare & Hounds was packed out. Before the gig started the bars were full to the brim, with all tickets for tonight’s show sold out and a mad rush was on to get one of the ten or so tickets kept back for the door. Baroness have been gathering momentum and sizable column inches recently, and this jam-packed turnout was testament to their ascendancy.


In an inspired bit of booking nous, Taint opened the show and proceeded to set the loftiest expectation levels for the headliners, with their stoner-infused progressive metal sharing handfuls of similarities with Baroness. Having been regular visitors to Birmingham for ten years now, the adopted Brummies-by-way-of-Swansea are welcomed like long-lost expats. Over the course of that decade they have both solidified and expanded upon their influences which coloured the early trajectories of their career.


Added to the tried and tested systematic Fudge Tunnel / Helmet riffs are dashes of mid-nineties post-hardcore here and there, a constantly shifting set of tempos all washed in a discordant haze akin to ‘Undertow’-era Tool. Its a road that Taint have been following since their debut full-length, ‘The Ruin of Nova Roma’ back in 2005, and tonight really seemed to merge all their building promise and musical ideas into a fully-realised whole, most importantly one that showcased that they are far more than a mere sum of their influences.
Frontman Jimbob acted as a visual anchor onstage, impressing with both his musical dexterity and improved vocal range with bassist Chris West concentrating instead on churning out massive lead-bottomed riffs as burly as his presence. Drummer Alex Harries was super-tight throughout with his drum faces as impressive as his rhythm work. Yet it’s worth mentioning that the impressive sound acted as much as a fourth member, really allowing their output to shine with optimum results, causing those few members who weren’t grabbed by the material to be taken by the volume.


From way back when I first started reading fanzines there was always a constant argument thrown around bemoaning the lack of mainstream press for a number of underground British metal bands. Having a good ten years of knowledge and experience under my belt means that it’s not often I revert back to that point of view, but for the first time in ages, Taint popped the thought back in there. Not from a misplaced sense of patriotism – more from an exposure stance – as Taint certainly have the tools to stand toe-to-toe with a lot of their bigger, more respected peers, and after the many years they’ve spent on the circuit, I’d be hard pressed to think of any band more deserving.
And so to Baroness, currently riding a wave of momentum on the back of their latest long player, ‘Blue Record’, and making what seems to be an annual residency in Birmingham. With the main room at the Hare & Hounds packed from front to back, atmosphere was fever pitch and as the first notes drew out from frontman Jon Dyer Baizley’s guitar, Baroness could do no wrong.


This being their fifth Birmingham show in just over four years, this act have never failed to play a bad show to these eyes, and the knowledge that I’d have to review their latest meant that I was frantically leafing through my thesaurus in search of synonyms for ‘amazing’.
Concentrating mostly on their past two recordings, full-lengthers Red and Blue, their southern-flecked riffage positively drips with grandeur, yet retains an earthy, bullish swagger. These four Georgians gleefully straddle their inherent contradictions – never inaccessible enough to put listeners off, yet technical enough to inspire plenty of guitar hero adoration from the musically minded present tonight.


With all three ‘outfield players’ as I tend to call them (i.e. everyone except the drummer) similarly devoid of sleeve and hirsute of face, the trio acted as a magnetic force, with guitars held skywards, heads propelled downwards with such force it became less a bang and more of a plummet, and the delicious two and three-part vocal harmonies made for an irresistible performance as memorable as any that have preceded them.


Highlights from the set included the trio of ‘Sudden Curse’, ‘Jake Leg’ and ‘A Horse Called Golgotha’, all pulled from the latest LP, with the latter in particular the closest track the band have to a single, with its immediate melodicism and contagious chorus surely the apex of the set for a multitude of the crowd. Indeed, if this reviewer hadn’t seen fit to run to the bar before it was played and caught more than the last verse and chorus he’d have agreed unreservedly.


The set ends with a trip back to their first EP for a run through ‘Towerfalls’ which drew rapturous applause at its conclusion and nicely bookending one of the best gigs of the year. Granted, it’s three weeks into January, but I can imagine the couple of hundred present tonight would all be putting tonight’s show onto their best-of-2010 lists at the end of the year.

Review Duncan Wilkins
Photos Katja Ogrin

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