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(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

O.R.k. live in London

Prog reviews O.R.k. live in London

It’s an early start for Komara, taking the stage at 7pm sharp, but there’s already a decent crowd to see the first of King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto’s two bands tonight.

In Komara he’s joined by David Kollar on guitar and electronics, and Paolo Raineri on trumpet and vocals. Together the trio make a wonderful noise – a fearless and often ferocious expression of jazz rock that’s heavy on both improvisation and volume.

The Earls Of Mars seem to have arrived from the late 70s, with their classic metal guitar riffs and psychedelic rock. Frontman Harry Armstrong is a ball of energy, bellowing out his vocals and playing keys with one hand while gripping a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale with the other. Landskap’s sound blends Danzig, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, and the London rockers have an ear for a good riff. Thumpermonkey, by contrast, are a little too clever for their own good. Their set is packed with ambitious arrangements, but they’re short on hooks.

Then it’s time for the main event as Mastelotto returns to the stage with O.R.k., alongside Porcupine Tree bassist Colin Edwin, guitarist Carmelo Pipitone and singer/keyboard player Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari. It’s clear from the off that the twin engines powering the band are Mastelotto’s powerful drumming and Pipitone’s angular guitar riffs. Pipitone is a perpetual motion machine, throwing himself into the music and headbanging away. By contrast, Fornasari struggles to fill the frontman role. He only leaves his keyboard once to take centre stage, during Jellyfish, and it falls to Edwin to handle the banter between songs.

The setlist comes entirely from their debut album, Inflamed Rides, but the live arrangements are beefed up. Funny Games becomes a groove-laden beast, while math rock polyrhythms and odd time signatures abound in Vuoto. There’s an edge of darkness, both tonally and lyrically, in brooding tracks like Bed Of Stones and Dream Of Black Dust, but this is no gloomy shoegaze performance.

Given the pedigree of the players, the sheer power of O.R.k. is no surprise, but it’s invigorating to encounter an unashamedly progressive band that can knock an audience back on their heels.