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Karma To Burn | 30.08.2014 | Live Review

Southern instrumentalists Karma To Burn set the Underworld on fire with Sons Of Merrick, Desert Storm and Sons Of Alpha Centauri in tow. Check out HTF’s reaction.

Credit: Tour Poster

West Virginia’s Karma To Burn have a dedicated cult of fans following their stoner influenced hard rock instrumental sound. They recently hopped the pond in support of their latest release, Arch Stanton, bringing along southern tinged sludge mob Sons Of Merrick, stoner metallers Desert Storm and trippy progressive outfit Sons Of Alpha Centauri.

First up, Londoners Sons Of Merrick have the unenviable task of warming up a 6:30pm Saturday night crowd. Their groove laden, chunky hard rock stylings have a sludge edge that owes a lot to Pantera. They steadily begin to fill the floor and draw early punters away from the temptations of the bar with their tight, focused riffing. Vocalist Nick Berkshire prowls the stage with authority and confidence, and the quartet eventually get a more fitting reaction by the end of their set.

Oxford’s Desert Storm, despite missing a golden opportunity to add another ‘s’ to their name and writing songs about baked Alaska, kick off with two bluesy jams very reminiscent of Clutch. Indeed Matt Ryans gravelly, bassy vocal tone is similar to Neil Fallon by way of a lower Matt Pike, and is quite surprising given his somewhat lanky frame. A change of guitars also heralds a change of tone, the band effortlessly switching to darker, ‘more metal’ territories. There are still bluesy flourishes and deep underlying grooves, but they are built into faster, Swordesque passages, with Ryan’s vocals becoming a deep growl. Chris Benoist is a ball of bass-driven energy, and despite looking like one of the guys who works in your office’s accounting department, Chris White lays down some wailing, soulful solos.

Sons Of Alpha Centauri’s carefully atmospheric noisescape intro of morse code and synths is utterly ruined by a bunch of twats who insist on talking loudly throughout. Indeed, an undeniable minority of the crowd gab all the way through the instrumental trio’s suprisingly short set. If you’re at a gig, the theater or the cinema, shut the fuck up, or take it outside. The psychedelic, space-prog jams are full of nuance and sadly some of Marlon Aaron King’s guitar wanderings and textures are lost in the mix somewhere. The obvious talents of all three members don’t seem to prevent their sound seeming occasionally disparate or directionless, and their dynamic shifts just aren’t ‘big’ or punchy enough. That said, Nick Hannon creates some incredible bass passages, including some stellar slap work.

Main event Karma To Burn take to the stage to the sounds of Peggy Lee’s 1958 classic ‘Fever’. The opening guitar refrain of ‘Forty Seven’ goes down a storm with the audience, and the trio proceed to plow through a set that covers most of their back catalogue, from their 1997 self titled debut right up to their latest release. Their ballsy, bluesy and deep groove laden riffs are heavier than you could anticipate live, and the mosh pit erupting in the middle is a surprising bloody affair. Evan Devine’s drum work lives up to his name, utterly colossal and relentless. Bassist Rob Halkett lopes around the stage with a cheeky smile plastered across his face and dreadlocks whirling around him. ‘Fifty Four’ is massive and bluesy. Will Mecum is effortlessly cool throughout the set, leveling riff after riff without seeming to break a sweat, but there’s no doubt that he’s loving every minute of it. By the time they close, the crowd are sweat, sore of neck and universally ecstatic. What a lovely way to burn, indeed.

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