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(Image: © Kevin Nixon)

O.R.K at The Underworld, London - live review

A strong performance from prog supergroup featuring members of King Crimson and Porcupine Tree

With the venue tonight at maybe half‑capacity, despite a headline act that includes members of King Crimson and Porcupine Tree, LizZard refuse to let the audience have a lazy night off. Frontman Mathieu Ricou doggedly works to whip some energy into the crowd, and his persistence pays off with a vociferous reception for the France-based trio.

The band hit hard with the abrasive guitar riff that opens Singularity, and their set is jammed with clever songwriting, balancing intricate, odd measures with hooky melodies. Ricou makes nimble use of a loop pedal to layer guitar parts on top of each other in Vigilent and Leaving The Dream, while drummer Katy Elwell never seems to miss a step, even in the twists and turns of The Roots Within (Majestic).

The instrumental Shift, the title track of their new album, builds from a looped guitar lick in 54 into an absolute monster, with Elwell rumbling around the drums as Ricou and bassist William Knox pile on the intensity. There’s a hint of Tool in the riffage of The Orbiter, another barnstormer, while Passing By sounds like a proggier Biffy Clyro. Don’t miss this marvellous lot the next time they come through the UK.

O.R.k. are one of those bands that seem to have an innate aversion to the conventional. For a start, their setup puts Pat Mastelotto’s drum kit at the front on the left, facing across the stage to guitarist Carmelo Pipitone. That leaves bassist Colin Edwin and singer/keys player Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari sandwiched in the middle, with Fornasari having to front the band from the back. To further confound expectation, they open not with one of their own songs, but with Therapy from Fornasari’s album Hypersomniac.

Mastelotto brings some seriously heavy hands to the drums, hammering out the groove of Breakdown, but he’s always matched by the restless momentum of Pipitone. Despite the heaviness of their sound, Pipitone plays an acoustic guitar, not the Gretsch Power Jet (possibly a Duo Jet) he used on their last visit. But running the acoustic through his pedal board means he still produces the attack and aggression required for the manic No Need, while Collapsing Hopes plays like a freaky, sleazy blues that peaks with a huge crescendo.

Fornasari touches on Mike Patton territory with a range that covers a deep, almost spoken delivery to the dramatic vocalising of Pyre. Likewise, Too Numb is reminiscent of Faith No More circa the King For A Day… and Album Of The Year records. They encore with a crushingly powerful, psychotically unhinged cover of David Bowie’s I’m Afraid Of Americans.

A band this strong should be on every prog fan’s radar, not rocking the hell out of an under‑filled Underworld.