What is it with these people? First Ben Ward and then Dave Chandler are both seemingly obsessed with the fact that people have actually turned up to this gig on a Wednesday night.
Both the giant Goblin frontman and the Vitus guitar gringo express amazement at the fact that there are people inside the place. What should they be doing? Staying at home nursing a cup of the new One Direction franchised cocoa? And if they’re so stunned at the huge turnout, why do the bloody gig in the middle of the week?
OK, moan over. And that really is the sole complaint about the night. The gig is at a venue hardly known for being a benefactor to metal maniacs. Usually it’s… well, Ward sums it up best when at one juncture he exclaims: “I want to feel your Viking warrior spirit… Oh dear, I shouldn’t have said that in a place like this!”.
But the location works. It’s dingy, grimy, dark, generating a real metal atmosphere. And Orange Goblin certainly benefit from the experience. It’s a hometown gig for them, and the crowd are right into the groove as soon as they spark into Scorpionica. The band are in a ferociously feral mindset, with the charismatic Ward demanding – and getting – full fan commitment. And the Oranginos draw from across their extensive career, parading new songs Sabbath Hex, Heavy Lies The Crown and Into The Arms Of Morpheus alongside the more established Blue Snow and Quincy The Pig Boy. They even revisit debut album Frequencies From Planet Ten for the little-aired Saruman’s Wish.
However, the highlight is the expanded They Come Back (Harvest Of Skulls), which allows Joe Hoare to expose his considerable guitar talents. It’s a monumental maze of metal majesty.
Nobody will ever replace Motörhead. But the Goblin are cut from the same granite, and here they explode. Remember the name in all its glory: Orange Fucking Goblin, baby!
The problem Saint Vitus face is that they are a little more low-key than what has gone before. And the place noticeably thins out before they clamber onstage. Well, those who chose to make an early exit miss a peerless example of the Vitus doom craft.
Living Backwards and I Bleed Black kick straight in, with the band’s trademark intensity ramped up to full impact. While they are pioneers of the doom tirade, Vitus don’t play at a mournful pace live. They vary the regime, often sounding like an amalgam of Budgie and Blue Cheer, with the occasional MC5 shudder. Vocalist Wino is in imperious mode, hugging the microphone stand as if he’s on an acid trip and mistaken it for the gothic beauty of actress Eva Green. His voice drips with an insolent rage as Let Them Fall and White Stallions are torn from the band’s catalogue, with Chandler delivering almost every guitar trick imaginable; he even plays with his teeth, as if it’s something he’s just thought up. Spellbinding, rather than clichéd.
The main set ends with Born Too Late and a shoal of feedback, before the four briefly return for the anthemic Saint Vitus, and a promise to return next year. It’s an imposing performance from Vitus, but they can’t quite match the pure power posse that is Orange Goblin.
“Saint Vitus and fucking Orange Goblin on the same bill,” an aghast Ward had said earlier. “That’s the best package you’ll see anywhere in the world right now.” You know what? He could be right.