Only in Newcastle would a bar use the volume of spirits that they sell in a single serving as a unique selling point. I’m referring to the uniquely North Eastern phenomenon of the “trebles bar” – establishments hell-bent on recreating Hogarth’s Gin Alley in the 21st century. After visiting the men’s room and hearing a sound like a Dyson vacuum cleaner coming from one of the cubicles I made a sharp exit for the city centre.
I only mention the earlier part of my evening to set the scene for what, by contrast, happened later. On the one hand you have bars that seem to be after your dignity (and possibly your liver) and on the other you have independent promoters and labels that want to deafen you and steal your ears.
At the Northumberland Arms Inverted Grim Mill Recordings put on a night of excellent doom and drone. So, seeking out a kind of despair that couldn’t be provided by cheap vodka I descended into the bowels of the welcoming boozer. The first band on were improvisational noise merchants Oppenhiemer who kicked off proceedings by locking us into an oppressive groove.
Next on were Sunderland misery mongers Neolithic. They play drone – the point at which heavy metal and experimental noise rub together like lazy tectonic plates. Neolithic treated us to layers of sounds, heavy glacial riffs and occasional anguished yelps. They played solidly for over an hour enveloping us in tortured soundscapes. At this point I feel honour bound to mention that you will never be uplifted by this music. Instead you will get an aural manifestation of misery and despair – sometimes it’s good to look into the abyss.
Headlining were Edinburgh doom band Of Spire & Throne. They started their set as they meant go on with a crushing riff heavy groove. The highlight of their set was Legacy, which was as ominous as it was slow. Although Of Spire and Throne are spritely compared to Neolithic they still play at a ponderous enough pace to be able to get away with closing their set with one third of a new album track!