NO SPILL BLOOD  are an intense precursor to the headliners, playing what feels like a neverending set of repetitive, drum-heavy industrial post-punk dirge. This Killing Joke-meets-Bongripper techno-rumble could end up killing the vibe, but weirdly there’s something engrossing about the overbearing sonic hypnosis.
BARONESS  don’t need to rely on quite so much intensity to win the crowd over. In fact, never has a band been so organically goddamn brilliant. John Baizley is one of the most visceral yet understated frontmen you could hope to see. Having narrowly survived a serious bus crash in 2012 that shattered his left arm, it’s a miracle that their latest album Purple saw the light of day and even more impressive that he’s back onstage playing again. Corny as it sounds, you can sense he’s glad to be alive and tonight Baroness play with their hearts. The sludgy, fuzzy riffing is still there but the genuine smile on Baizley’s face adds a joyful dimension to the show. Even better are the new songs. Their back catalogue is brimming with awesome tunes but tonight Purple is given a proper airing and delivers some of Baroness’s catchiest material to date. Kerosene is welcomed with a massive cheer as its jagged riffing melts into a brilliant chorus, Morningstar’s melodic compass points straight towards the best bits of Red Fang and Mastodon and If I Have To Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain) is a perfect moment of reflection that ends in a valiant solo.
Take My Bones Away and Cocainium steal the show, but throughout there’s all sorts of brilliance on offer. There’s a simplicity to Baroness that should not be taken for granted; on the contrary, the no-frills approach allows the music to shine through with no-bullshit rhetoric, while guitar switches are kept to a minimum. Baizley cuts a strong figure in his Nails cut-off and is the natural focal point but the equally striking Peter Adams on guitar balances the stage.
Their playing is focused and fluid, navigating complicated progressive tempos and full-throttle riffs with ease, and if tonight proves anything it’s that filling a venue such as Koko is only a marker point in Baroness’s trajectory. In 2016, they are a must-see.