Camden Underworld, March 3rd

To the uninitiated it must seem like they've not even played the first intro before they're in trouble. The screwed up timings, feedback and staccato drums of "Catalyst" swerve into a choppy guitar duel and then, suddenly, it's straightforward riffing. It's difficult, but as soon as vocalist Mike Vennart starts to sing the first verse, hearts and minds are won, and heads begin to nod as if everyone's suddenly "got it". He switches effortlessly between Thom Yorke stylings and incoherent rantings, perfectly reflecting the different moods within the music itself, at times beautiful and intricate, at others brutal and bludgeoning.

Those of us that have witnessed the incendiary four guitar assault that is "One Day All This Could Be Yours" know what to expect, but some of the audience are obviously stunned by the end of the second song. Despite a few stumbles mid-song - shrugged off with a smile - it's incredible. And it's loud. Really fucking loud.

"This is a song about death..." says Mike gleefully, as he introduces "Massive Bereavement". On record this is an amazing track - swerving through more emotions than most albums manage - but on stage is where it really comes to life. Starting gently enough with a hypnotic bass line, delicate guitar and hallucinatory vocals, you begin to feel a sense of foreboding, like there's a storm coming. As it weaves through a dense middle section of scrawling guitars, Mike whispers "God looks on..", then things really kick-off. He delivers the lines "Choking, choking... choking!" and "Is this not what you expected" like a man possessed, and at times it's difficult to believe that a noise such as this can be sustained without collapsing under it's own weight. And then it's over, the sudden silence almost as deafening as the noise that preceded it.

Like many other bands, Oceansize have a very definite sound. All of their songs are hewn from the same rock but each has something that sets it apart from the others. "You Wish" is the most straightforward of tonight's five songs, boasting superb riffing, another incredible vocal performance and some thunderous drums, whereas set-closer, and crowd-favourite, "Saturday Morning Breakfast Show" is anything but straightforward.

Definitely one of the more "prog" tracks on Effloresce, it's a 9 minute epic trip that calls to mind everything from Radiohead and Pink Floyd to Tool and Pearl Jam. No, really. It's such an amazing, eloquent, pummelling track that I'm left wondering how on earth they could possibly top it.

Earlier, Mike announced that the band had just signed a deal for their second album, joking that it would contain "Cardiacs covers, Serafin covers and covers of the first band - dunno who they were but they were fuckin' good..". So it looks like we'll soon see where Oceansize's musical odyssey takes us. As long as it doesn't have any Serafin covers along the way( for they are a truly terrible band), it should be a great trip.

Richy [ March 7th, 2004 ]

SET LIST: Catalyst, One Day All This Could Be Yours, Massive Bereavement, You Wish, Saturday Morning Breakfast Show

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