On a swelteringly hot Friday afternoon in London, I found myself working my way up the hill in Alexandra Palace for the first night of the mini All Tomorrow’s Parties festival – I’ll Be Your Mirror. This year’s festival was curated by Scottish post-rock lords Mogwai, and featured an eclectic lineup over the course of the weekend. We were there for the heaviest night of the bill – Slayer performing their trash classic ‘Reign in Blood’, the recently-reformed Sleep, Melvins and Wolves in the Throne Room. New York’s A Storm of Light and doom metal merchants YOB completed the lineup.
We arrived at Alexandra Palace shortly after 4pm to catch the first act of the day – A Storm of Light. The band is fronted by former Red Sparrowes man Josh Graham, who is also responsible for Neurosis’ visuals. Indeed the first thing that struck me about ASOL was their similarities to Neurosis. However, unlike the dynamics and experimentation that typifies Neurosis’ sound, A Storm of Light were pretty one-note. Sledgehammer riffs and a barrage of apocalyptic visuals began to wear me down after a while. I dipped out afterwards to get some much needed libations, so I unfortunately missed YOB.
A quick note on the non-music activities at ATP. The food selection was great, none of this standing in a field with a £5 pint of flat piss and a greasy burger. There was a good range of grub on offer, from Mexican to Asian, as well as an ‘organic chip’ stall (oh the irony of the black-clad Slayer masses queuing at a multi-coloured VW van for the Hippy Chippy!). There was also a great programme of movies on as well, curated by The Prince Charles Cinema. It was cool to see classics such as John Carpenter’s ‘They Live’ and ‘Seven’ (the latter being chosen as it is Kerry King’s favourite film) getting an airing alongside the bands. A small Rough Trade concession stand also gave you the chance to browse through a quality selection of punk and metal records.
Next up were the Melvins. It’s crazy to think Buzz and co. have been on the go nearly 30 years at this point. I can happily report that they still absolutely rip live. Having augmented their lineup a few years back to include former Murder City Devils drummer Coady Willis and bassist Jared Warren (together the two make up Big Business), the Melvins’ sound is arguably even heavier than ever before. I’ve always admired how the Melvins have skirted various genres – punk, metal, sludge, grunge (Kurt Cobain was a huge fan), while carving out their own unique sound in the process. They put on a great show, only hampered slightly by the daytime setting and the sheer size of the main hall.
Next up were my most anticipated act of the evening – Wolves in the Throne Room. Previous attempts to see them in Glasgow a few years back had been hampered by the snow, so my expectations for this gig were quite high. I was slightly hesitant that the atmospherics conjured up on their studio recordings wouldn’t translate to a live setting, but as soon as they took to the dry ice covered stage my fears were immediately dispelled. They sound was fantastic, the mood suitably dark. No crowd banter; hell you couldn’t even see the band clearly, but everything sounded pristine. Indeed ‘Dea Artio’ from 2007’s ‘Two Hunters’ LP sounded especially huge. Definitely a highlight of the evening for me.
Sleep were the penultimate band of the night, and as they took to the main stage a warm fuzz enveloped the whole room. Pure tone is probably the best way to describe the 45min or so set that followed. Matt Pike and co. pretty much wrote the book on stoner-rock and we were treated to a selection of meaty slabs off of ‘Holy Mountain' and ‘Dopesmoker’. I have a huge soft spot for this kind of primal groove-laden stuff, and Sleep had me grinning from ear to ear by the end of the set. Last up were trash titans Slayer performing their 1986 masterpiece ‘Reign in Blood’. This album is over 25 years old but has lost none of its pissed-off ferocity in the process. You couldn’t have possibly faulted the bands performance. Even if you did you would probably have been set upon by an army of shirtless middle-aged Slayer fans who bear the scars both mental and physical of one moshpit too many. The band made it look easy, knocking out solos at a blistering pace. An obvious choice, but hearing Tom Araya knock out ‘Angel of Death’ was amazing. I’m not sure if there was much of Alexandra Palace left on Saturday after Slayer pretty much destroyed the place, but I heard reports the rest of the weekend went swimmingly. I would say to definitely check out future All Tomorrow’s Parties events HERE for a welcome alternative to your usual summer festival horror shows.