Supergroups are, as a rule, total dross – pared down to the most stereotypical and dull elements of their individual output. Publicist UK feature talented underground musicians – among them journeyman drummer Dave Witte (Municipal Waste, Melt Banana) and members/ex-members of Freshkills, Revocation and Goes Cube – but avoid cliché with a sharp left turn into a heavy post-punk/prog style.
Their 2015 album Forgive Yourself offered a balance of introspection and power, but tonight the bag is mixed. Suited and bespectacled, frontman Zachary Lipez’s echoing baritone vocal has more than a hint of Ian Curtis to it, but it’s a bit like selling coals to Newcastle for this Manchester crowd – everyone and their mum has a Factory Records story in this town. At its worst the sound meanders. At its best, though, the band have some impressive elements that save them from pastiche, resulting in a bombastic sound that recalls a minor key Les Savy Fav, or Interpol with Marshall stacks. Either way, it offers a fascinating left-field approach to prog.
Pick scratch atmospherics and a generous amount of blinding green light announce CBP. Wielding a grand mix of facial hair, heights and hoods, the moody prog grandees look not unlike the Fellowship Of The Ring, albeit with a mere seven members. CBP are appearing with a changed line-up following founding member Justin Greaves’ trademark dispute with former guitarist Karl Demata. The latter’s replacement, Jonas Stålhammar (Bombs Of Hades), proves an attention-grabbing new addition, roving his Flying V fretboard with unflappable competence on No!, Pt. 2. Elsewhere, Greaves’ partner (in life and in cinematic-sounding duo Se Delan) Belinda Kordic’s crackling accent on the likes of Scared And Alone is enthralling.
Tonight’s date is the first on the tour, and some teething issues occur, which are handled with a lackadaisical air. “Where’s the icy wind?” asks vocalist Daniel Änghede at one point, amid awkward silence. A sound man duly obliges. “There. Do you hear that? That’s the icy winds of despair.”
When they really hit their stride, though, such as on encore We Forgotten Who We Are, it’s as if there’s some elastic substance holding the straining, disparate elements in one space. The ebb and flow of the lurching riff and cascading vocals are complemented by waves of bass whipped up to pummelling heights, before dissipating again. It’s an exhilarating balance, reminding us that few do widescreen, mournful prog metal with this kind of panache. Welcome back, CBP.