Opening act, Knife cutter, are a strangely elemental rock two-piece who take stoner and post rock elements and kick them out with decent levels of ferocity and near over-whelming levels of volume to the small but appreciative crowd. A local Nottingham act, they deserved a better attendance and have a really cool, original sound. My own unfamiliarity with the band’s material made it hard to pick out highlights but they’re a band that, on the strength of this performance, I’d like to know more about. Indeed, no duo should make this much noise but knife cutter do, and theirs is an exciting venture that puts many larger acts to shame. One song did stand out – ‘battle’ which not only rocked like a beast but which also saw the guitarist’s strap come off mid-song resulting in a battle between gravity and the power of music. The music won and the guitarist commendably finished the song hugging his guitar to this body, the waves of distortion washing over him and into the crowd with undiminished fierceness.
With incense burning and an atmosphere of fading grandeur, ancient vvisdom take to the stage. Their show is an enthralling communion, the like of which few bands can conjure, but ancient vvisdom’s passion and sincerity, not to mention intelligence, is compelling and theirs is a show to treasure far above your average rock performance. Ostensibly popular in the metal world, to which they most comfortably align, ancient vvisdom attract a wide cross section of music fans, both young and old, and can be in no way pigeon holed.
Music at its very best should be more than just about a song, or a frontman. It should take you on a journey beyond the confines of the dank, musty, beer-stained room you’re standing in to another place. It is a way to wash away the troubles of a 9-5 life and connect with a deeper energy. This is what Ancient vvisdom achieve over the transcendental forty-five minutes that they own the stage. The songs are fine, the performance intense but there’s more to it than that – the music is hypnotic, intense, often beautiful, and utterly mesmerising. Everyone in the room stands loosely gathered close to the stage lost in the moment, and Nathan Opposition makes a commanding frontman without throwing any conventional moves; rather, with his shades and duster jacket he looks like a cross between Layne Staley and Michael Gira with the magnetic personality of both at his command.
The set opens with ‘Alter Reality’, Nathan intoning the opening mantra “this is life’s journey, see what tomorrow brings, we are the end of everything” with a blazing intensity that only simmers on the record. With the live environment a chance to play with arrangements and alter the restrained sonics displayed on disc, ‘forever tonight’ comes out much heavier here, the guitar and percussive elements crashing through the PA with a ferocity that would cause serious strife with your neighbours if you tried it at home. Yet it’s not heaviness for the sake of it – the levels of volume and powerful bursts of guitar add to the ritualistic nature of the show and it’s notable that the whole band are working together to conjure the same sense of atmosphere – there is no room for ego here. ’Necessary evil’ sees Nathan demand “surrender your soul to me” his sweeping gaze across the assembled crowd clearly suggesting he means all of us. A highlight in the form of ‘lost civilization’ is next with the melodies telling the tale of a lost and forgotten people superseded by the lies and violence of organised religion.
Almost half way through the set and it feels like it’s only just started so intense is the level of attention the band’s performance demands. Nathan brings out a bunch of chains for the creepy ‘devil brain’ which sounds immense – an evil blues grind that’s part AIC part Robert Johnson at the crossroads. The track then segues into the equally disturbing ‘world of flesh’ which hauls itself out of a heat haze of crashing cymbals and distortion. The final song of the night arrives far too soon and in the form of recent single ‘opposition’ (see video below). As good as the song is on record, that’s as nothing compared to the rousing performance the band give on stage, with Nathan’s vocal gathering particular attention as he rasps out the second verse and the band create the beautifully melodic backdrop upon which he weaves his magic.
There is no one out there quite like Ancinet Vvisdom. Theirs is a subversion of the conventional notion that doom needs to be heavy in the traditional sense. And yet, for all that the guitars are acoustic and the melodies beautiful, Ancient Vvisdom are heavy – lyrically and musically they conjure up an atmosphere more commonly associated with a neurosis or Swans performance. The ritualistic, communal nature of the event dictates the gamut of emotions you’re likely to run at an Ancient Vvisdom performance and with the band’s intense performance, the incense billowing and the stage lighting set to an infernal deep red, you had no choice but to submit to the music. As the band left the stage and normality intruded once more, you could feel the atmosphere they had conjured dissipate, but for 45 beautiful minutes we were all somewhere else, lost in the intricate web woven by the band; a truly remarkable performance and one that I, and undoubtedly the other members of the audience, will treasure long into the future.