Mad Hatters, Inverness
Saturday, March 3
TO say that Slioch had a mountain to climb for this gig would barely be the start of it.
On the weekend that saw the blizzardous weather conditions of the Beast from the East ravage the country, the Highland metal band – named after the Munro in Wester Ross – had found themselves the sole survivor of the Mad Hatters bill, after their down-south cohorts in Defacer and Minches were snowed in by the chaotic weather conditions.
On top of that, Slioch were playing a free show at Mad Hatters on a pay weekend. People wandering in half-drunk to take up the candlelit cabaret seating the venue had so thoughtfully set up for this metal gig were perhaps unprepared for 45 minutes of distorted drop-tuned guitars bashing out capital-letter RIFFS and dreadlocked frontman Mata Druim screaming in their faces – a few times literally.
Yet for all that the already half-full crowd slowly dwindled and peeled away, those who stayed – true metal believers and arts critics trying to get out of the house during their holiday alike – were treated to a gig that was by turns bracing and blistering.
When Slioch call themselves a metal band, this is metal as lifestyle as much as genre. Song titles are roared through ragged lips, finger horns are thrown up between songs, and the band ooze the nervous, certain energy of the true believer.
Their commitment to the cause counts for a lot though, and Slioch have the melodies to back it up – songs like Operation: Anarchy and set-closer Darkness Devoured have hooks for days. I never thought going into the gig that I would leave it with the chorus of a song about mythological Scottish cannibal Sawney Bean stuck in my head – but there you are.
And that crackling energy extends to their performance. Frontman Mata Druim is an electrifying presence as he prowls the stage, leaps onto the speakers, jumps into the crowd and, yes, roars in the faces of the bewildered punters at a few points. Indeed, despite his repeated attempts to bring the crowd closer to the stage, they refuse to – at times it feels like he’s single-handedly trying to make up for their lack of energy.
I can see why a performance like this would be offputting to some – there’s a sincerity here that’s completely lacking in irony, that when combined with metal’s already serrated edges can be an intense and uncomfortable experience.
Not I though – I’m no metalhead, but this night is the most fun I’ve had at a gig in Inverness that managed to lose half its audience. This was more than a band simply playing their songs – this was a show, a performance and one I’d happily experience again.
“We’re going to get you into metal by the end of the night,” Mata states at one point, after another fruitless attempt to bring the crowd forward. For this reviewer, that goal was very much achieved.
For more information: slioch.bandcamp.com
What did you think? Comment below or tweet Kyle: @spp_kwalker