Even bearing in mind their considerable external commitments (Gallows, Sikth, the Radio 1 Rock Show etc) it’s hard to believe that – some 21 months on from their appearance at the 2013 Download festival – tonight is Krokodil’s very first headline gig. It’s even harder to fathom that a handful of tickets are still available on the door this evening, when one considers the band’s pedigree and the rave reviews garnered by last year’s Nachash album and indeed the sextet’s sterling support shows with Mastodon in November/December. Whatever, bolstered by a considerable music industry presence, there’s a genuine buzz of anticipation in the upstairs room of this bijou, black-walled Camden hostelry ahead of show-time.
Black Peaks feed nicely off this positivity with a confident showing in their 35 minute support slot. The Brighton post-rock quartet have amassed an impressive word-of-mouth buzz of their own since the release of 2014’s Closer To The Sun EP, and it’s easy to see why, with frontman Will Gardner’s emotive vocals drawing the packed room into his band’s intricate, poised compositions. New single Glass Built Castle stands out, but it’s surrounded by material of such quality that expectations will be high for the quartet’s forthcoming debut album.
The more observant members of tonight’s audience will spot Alessandro ‘V Man’ Venturella in the darkness cheering on the band he helped co-found this evening, and while his other commitments regrettably ensure that he’s unable to take on guitar duties alongside Laurent ‘Lags’ Barnard and Daniel P. Carter, Krokodil’s immense, forceful sound holds up manfully. It’d be a huge disservice to the stunningly capable rhythm section of James Leach (bass) and Dan Foord (drums) to say that Krokodil are all about the riffs, but few bands harness three interweaving guitars with such power and purpose.
Taking cues from Mastodon, Isis and Neurosis, the likes of Shatter and Reptilia Familiar slam forward on dense, roaring waves of distorted sound over which frontman Simon Wright unleashed a variety of inhuman, larynx-shredding roars and screeches, but it’s on the more measured Sun Riders – which marries post-rock delicacy with sludge-metal heft to beautiful, brutal effect – where Krokodil most effectively transcend their influences and perhaps offer clues as to their future evolution. Such considerations, of course, are for another day, and in the here and now, it’s best to just submit willingly to the perversely comforting oppressive crush of The Collapse and A Life Lived In Copper, But Painted As Gold as they steamroller across the room. Though conflicting schedules may mean it’s never going to be easy for Krokodil to build up genuine momentum, the thought, sweat and genuine love poured into Nachash merits a broader audience than could be contained within these walls: here’s hoping that this well-received outing signals only the beginning of this experienced collective’s sonic adventures.