Black Peaks Live Review - Manchester, Deaf Institute

Black Peaks, Palm Reader and Toska rock up to Manchester.

Live audience at a prog gig
(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

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The venue is busy already tonight after the doors open, due to the strength of the line-up.

Toska are the prog metal project of Rabea Massaad, a well-known YouTube musician, and the other two players – bassist Dave Hollingworth and drummer Ben Minal – also form part of Dorje. Playing from their Ode To The Author EP, they’re well-honed and confident.

Palm Reader are an intense live prospect, assaulting the front row with powerful riffs and onstage histrionics. Unfortunately, though, their live show is intense and breathless. A lack of clear melodies drags a number of their compositions down, and though the audience respond well to their theatrics, it’s unclear whether they’ll have earned themselves any new fans tonight.

By modern standards, Black Peaks’ rise has been rapid, and they find themselves atop a wave of hype and anticipation. It’s well documented how much the experimental guitar music scene in the UK is in debt to early-00s post-hardcore and alt rock, and Black Peaks complete the circle, the true spiritual successors to experimental yet mainstream-bothering greats like At The Drive-In.

Coming from the experimental scene, their music is rather more accessible, but nevertheless carries with it the hard-earned knowledge acquired in the far reaches of the British progressive, math and post-rock scenes.

It’s not an academic appreciation of their complexity or unusual talent for complex fusions of styles that has brought them to this point – it’s their stellar songs. Cuts like the dynamic and heavy Crooks get heads banging, but it’s Say You Will that really grabs the crowd. With creeping arpeggio patterns, guitarist Joe Gosney outlines a sparse, sinister mood while Will Gardner’s restrained vocal counterpoints the atmospheric instrumental.

Closing their set with breakthrough single Glass Built Castles, its powerful, acrobatic riff is perfectly supported by Liam Kearley’s drum work, which never quite sticks to what’s expected and playfully messes with the timings in the songs. The crowd flatly refuse to leave so the band return and indulge with a razor-sharp Saviour, leaving nobody present in any doubt that this band will be huge.