Oktopus live review - Boston Music Rooms, London

Birmingham trio Oktopus cram in the tunes for London show

The crowd at a prog gig
(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

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Brevity is often a dirty word in prog. As a genre that values complexity, instrumental prowess and wide-reaching ideas, fans want to see boundaries extended, especially those of time. Birmingham trio Oktopus play by different rules, trimming down their name from Progoctopus, issuing a debut album, Worlds Apart, that clocks in at under 35 minutes, and tonight serving up a set that doesn’t take much longer. Eyes Open sets out their stall, a tumbling riff leading into a catchy opening section, the likes of which you might find on a Ben Folds album. Moves from Rush’s later years lead into a fusion middle eight, until the song’s refrain cements itself into our heads, with time for one last solo from guitarist/vocalist Alistair Bell.

Worlds Apart starts similarly, but slips into a funky opening verse, allowing bassist Sam Roberts to show his chops, aided by deft percussion from Tim Wilson. A funk metal side to the band rears up, allowing Wilson to break loose, but the band rein it back and return to the main melody. The rest of the song sees classic rock, blast beats and more jazz rock.

Introducing it with, “This next song is a very simple instrumental number,” clues us in to the fact that The Adventures Of Jerry Troutmonto (Part 1) will be no such thing. Their shortest song tonight, it veers between sections at breakneck speed, guitar and drums upfront and thunderous. That’s followed by a cover of Muse’s New Born. Faithful to the original, it’s easily the most straightforward number of the set, showing that Oktopus can rock out, plain and simple.

“We’ve just got one more for you tonight.” “Aww!” “It’s 10 minutes long.” “Hurray!” That’s the pantomime introduction to set closer Minotaur. See what I mean about prog fans and long songs? Still brief by comparison to what most would call a long track, it’s about mythological creatures and is their most traditionally prog song. However, soaring vocals, less jazzy solos, ferocious drumming and funk metal elements put the band’s own stamp on it.

Succinct as it is, no one can accuse Oktopus of not covering a lot of ground in tonight’s set. They may have taken the ‘prog’ out of their name, but a genuinely head-spinning array of styles crammed into the 40-minute set make this band as prog as they come.