Turbowolf, Live In London

Support: God Damn, Empress AD

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After an afternoon spent debating the various ways in which rock music is not dead with one Gene Simmons, it seems fitting we should head off to a sell out show in Camden to check out Bristol psyche band Turbowolf on the last night of their biggest UK headline tour to date. Behemoth, The Cadillac Three and Taking Back Sunday are all in town as well, but rock’s still dead, right Gene? Bless him…

The last time we visited the sweaty enclave of Dingwalls (the perfect cesspit for a garage rock gig) was for The Subways, who took Turbowolf out as their support band not all that long ago. Fast forward to tonight and it’s Turbowolf topping the bill. They might not have as many hits under their belt just yet, but with sophomore album Two Hands due out next year, that’s all set to change. Tonight’s set consists of no less than six brand new tracks, and considering only two of them have gone to radio and have been heard by anyone outside of the band, the crowd’s reaction is astounding. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

We arrive just as opening act God Damn (8) take to the stage. The Black Country duo are one of many two-piece rock bands taking names at the moment (see also Slaves and the chart topping Royal Blood, who also took tonight’s headliners out on tour), but they just so happen to be a lot louder than the rest of their peers. When their debut album drops next year, you’re going to hear a lot more from these noise makers. They’re everything rock music can and should be; majestic, groovy, nasty, vulnerable, harrowing and really fucking heavy. Imagine Nirvana, Led Zeppelin and Tom Waits being played by two cavemen, turn it all the way up to 11, and you’re half way there. God damn, indeed!

Next up it’s Empress AD (7) who take the psyche-out vibes in a different direction, alternating between moments of Muse and Mastodon, dressed as Topman models. It’s a complex and sometimes convoluted package to get your head around, but if there’s ever a crowd willing to approach a performance with an open mind it’s the one in attendance, and considering tonight’s line-up is rounded off by a last minute replacement drummer following the departure of their full-time sticksman, the wall of sound they manage to create is both proficient and precise. The room fills up nicely during their performance, and they succeed in wetting our sonic palettes ready for the main event.

Make no bones about it, tonight belongs to Turbowolf (9). They always manage to draw crowds from all ages and walks of life, and everyone is here tonight for a common purpose: to lose their minds to one of the most exciting live acts in the UK. Turbowolf are one of the few acts around not only keeping psychedelic and garage rock alive, but also updating it for the modern age. That alone makes them a unique and important band; there’s no one else writing songs about invisible hands, severed heads, ancient snakes, rabbit’s feet, and other bat shit mental subjects in such entertaining, engaging and accessible ways.

From the moment they hit the stage (or wherever else frontman Chris decides to roam) they’re completely unstoppable, and hits like Solid Gold and Read & Write morph into towering juggernauts that shake your foundations and demand that you dance. The band lock into the groove so tight, there’s not an ounce of fat between the notes, and the excitement of watching them masterfully recreate the live sounds that’ve always been in their heads is an intoxicating brew. It seems as if Turbowolf have finally evolved into the full package they always promised to be, and although they’ve always been something of a tour de force in the live environment they now look primed for the big time, if tonight’s show is anything to go by.

Matt Stocks

DJ, presenter, writer, photographer and podcaster Matt Stocks was a presenter on Kerrang! Radio before a year’s stint on the breakfast show at Team Rock Radio, where he also hosted a punk show and a talk show called Soundtrack Apocalypse. He then moved over to television, presenting on the Sony-owned UK channel Scuzz TV for three years, whilst writing regular features and reviews for Metal Hammer and Classic Rock magazine. He also wrote, produced and directed a feature-length documentary on Australian hard rock band Airbourne called It’s All For Rock ‘N’ Roll, and in 2017 launched his own podcast: Life in the Stocks. His first book, also called Life In The Stocks, was published in 2020. A second volume was published in April 2022.