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Lantern For A Gale at The Retro, Portrush

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ATL | 19:19 UK time, Monday, 10 October 2011

Lantern For A Gale, The Assailants, Black Dunes
The Retro, Portrush
8th October, 2011



After an overdose of music and sport, it feels like we might be suffering from exhaustion, but the cobwebs are rapidly cleared by Black Dunes and their heavy, ‘kick in the guts’ music. 

It’s dark, heavy and oppressive with almost no vocals (bar some barked out indecipherable words in a couple of songs, recalling the likes of Om and Sunn O).  Their dirty rock and roll draws heavily on the dark side of the blues – sparse, bleak, and raw - all the while slowly gathering a hypnotic momentum, drawing you into its groove, and feeling rather reminiscent of the likes of Two Lone Swordsmen.

It’s impossible to ascertain song titles as the interaction is limited to a few comments which can hardly be picked up due to a failure to use the microphone – a sign of the rawness of this band, and something that should mark them out as being worthy of being watched as they develop from this impressive beginning.

The Assailants seem to take the lack of vocals from our opening act as a cue to use up their quota with overlapping vocals, banter and abuse between the members, before and during their melting pot set.

Throwing punk and hardcore into the mix, over a ska base, there’s plenty of throbbing bass, politics and social commentary in what they do, but they’re less of a party band than contemporaries such as Pocket Billiards. There does seem to be an internal struggle as to where they want to go musically – are they ska or are they punk? – and when it works, it works, but when it doesn’t there is a lack of focus.

In contrast, Lantern For A Gale have no such dilemmas. They’re (north-coast) hardcore and proud of it, taking advantage of being on home-turf to warm up for their forthcoming tour.

An extended instrumental intro feels like a summoning of spirits as though they need to psych themselves up for what is to come. What links them to their north-coast brethren (in particular ASIWYFA and Axis Of) is the feeling of intensity in what they do – there is no flab here, no excessive indulgence despite them pacing the assault with moments of big, blue sky expansiveness. It’s the same energy that links the likes of hip-hop, dance, and punk – a defiant vitality and purpose, delivered with a bludgeon. Their pre-tour rehearsals have been to good effect, as the songs flow from one to another with only a change in tempo or riff as a cue that the song has changed. 

Visually they’re defined by both their front-man, who prowls like a caged beast, and their drummer, a relatively slight guy hammering out rhythms of more subtlety than the genre would suggest.  It’s hardcore with ideas and ambition to match its intensity and energy.

William Johnston


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