Thrash Hits

October 20th, 2009

Photos & Live: Burnt By The Sun @ Islington Bar Academy – 15 October 2009

Is this really the end? Were Burnt By The Sun really going to play their first, last and only proper London show on a cold Thursday evening in October? Yes, yes they were. Hugh Platt scribbled, Tom Blessington took snaps.

burnt by the sun relapse thrash hits band promo photo 2009

“The end of an era”. “You don’t know how much you’ll miss something till it’s gone”. “Criminally under-rated”. All phrases that get mooched about with such abandon in the music press that they’ve long lost any real meaning. In Burnt By The Sun‘s case though, they’re all more than fully justified.

That’s because once this European tour is done, so are Burnt By The Sun. For reasons we can’t quite fathom – and that make even less sense after tonight’s motherfucking blast-furnance of a performance – the New Jersey metal outfit has decided to split up. Again. Come on, say it with us: oh fucksticks.

Before that though, BBTS have roped in some local talent to get our tinnitus buzzing. Despite the band themselves describing their performance afterwards as “sloppier than Annabel Chong”, Astrohenge go far above and beyond what we’ve lazily come to expect from opening bands. They sound like Torche covering the soundtrack to Rollerball – and we’re talking the chilling-as-fuck 1975 original, not that nu-metal frottage from 2002. The wordless, implacable sound of Astrohenge fits the mood perfectly – you couldn’t stop it if you tried.

Equal parts post-rock and full-on riff dementia, it’s as if Mastodon piped a jam sessions through the ruins of haunted churches instead of amplifiers. Guitarists Matthew Rozeik and Hugh Harvey stride out into the crowd, almost confrontationally standing nose-to-nose with the early-arrivers. However, the cheeky glint we detect in their eyes later on when they appropriate a segement of ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ during ‘Toll in Hell’ shows that they can still play around with it though. This band deserves you to do more than just hunch around their MySpace in the hope it will give you an idea about what they are about; get your bony, filesharing arse out the house and down to one of their gigs sharpish.

Art of Burning Water provide a dissident, more obtuse form of noise battery. While there’s a colossal amount of brute force behind their rolling waves of smog-thick noise, it’s tethered with enough restraint that allows comparisons to Converge at their bleeding-rawest, and Iron Monkey at their most sullen. This is pleasure-pain sound warfare.

Mike McKenna gurns like a troll behind his kit, but he attacks it with a demented fury that it disguises the precision of his technique. The storm-faced performance of frontman Geith “Grief” Alrobei is tempered by his dry-quipping, lop-sided grin he can’t help but break out between tracks. Why can’t more British bands make sounding this fucked up look like so much fun?

Burnt By The Sun @ Islington Bar Academy photo gallery courtesy of Tom Blessington.

Opening with the bestial roar of ‘There Wll Be Blood’, if Burnt By The Sun are only going to give London (and no, the Kingston show doesn’t count), it’s clear they’re going to deliver a set that spans their entire career. From the off, a frenzied, maddening rabble swirls and seethes at the foor of the stage, an entire decade’s worth of expectation being released with raised fists. You’d think after so many years of anticipation that tonight couldn’t be anything but a disappointment – but no, tonight was anything but. From the moment Mike Olender leaned in to bellow into our faces during ‘Dow Jones And The Temple of Doom’, we knew this was gonna be a one-night-stand from hell, the kind where neither party was going home till the other was red-raw from the fucking being dished out.

After opening with a song from the final album, it’s fitting they should close it with one from their first ever release. Despite joking momentarily that they weren’t going to play it, ‘You Will Move’ proved to be the fitting final gesture of a band that – genuinely – will be missed by every damn person lucky enough to catch this tour. We’ve no doubt that in years to come, people who’d never even heard of BBTS when this gig took place will be claiming that they were here, down at the front, witnessing the end; such is the sense of history in Islington this evening.


To see more of Tom Blessington’s photos, go check out his online gallery. We like his Coalesce shots best.