Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
Mae’r Gath Ddu yn rhuo ar ben y mynydd!
Born of the rugged hills that their hometown Merthyr Tydfil nestles into; born of the tight knit rows of terraced miner cottages that are at the heart of the heritage. This is a moment that has been six years in the coming; innumerable miles, riffs, rhythms and beats to arrive at this juncture. The Black Cat, prowling high above the valley, looks down purposefully. Now is their moment with the stars above aligning; an astral confluence. A course has been charted; navigation is underway.
The unleashing of debut long-player ‘Weight Of The World’ has bore witness to Welsh hard-hitters Florence Black set a high bar. A mountainous peak will require ascent to equal this powerful output. Release day and there is only one place FB are going to be. The recently reopened Patriot Rock Club down in the valleys south of Abertillary.
The downtime of lockdown has been utilised to the absolute maximum here with Ang and Dean and their loyal staff achieving an ambition held of several years. A doubling of capacity created by knocking into the back room behind the original sounddesk; an excellent covered area out front along with an overall freshening up and all around sprucing. Many changes but the same warm, convivial Patriot welcome.
The Merthyr trio take to a darkened stage – all bar a couple of strips of flashing lights – as dry ice billows. The gentle intro strains of ‘Zulu’ are a signal of intent. Guitarist Tristan Thomas raises his right arm before those sensitive notes are knocked laterally out of the ballpark by the crunching riffs and bass lines laid down by Thomas and his four-string compadre Jordan ‘Foz’ Evans. All this rumbling about atop a thunderous beat hammered out by piledriving tubthumper Perry ‘Perk’ Davies. The sold-out crowd, packed into The Patriot, fervently devour as Thomas’ gravelly vocals
are stretched to breaking point without ever relinquishing the metaphorical reins. A rambunctious ovation greets song end as Thomas roars “It’s great to be back muthafuckers!”.
One song in and it’s utterly indisputable that Florence Black are a completely re-energised force; it’s not only The Patriot who have utilised lockdown to produce a massive positive end-result. The bloodcurdingly whispered intro of ‘Inside Out’ sends chills at 50 paces before the powerhouse trio piledrive the bone-destroying riffs into the basement. At this rate The Patriot is going to need a second refurbishment; such is the force that is being outputted.
No pause for respite herein; the delivery is relentless. Davies is an utter percussive demon behind his kit with Davies bridging the span to Thomas’ flaming fretwork outfront with a furious, yet engaging, rhythmic bass. A bluesy six-string intro brings in metalliferous offering ‘On The Ropes’ with no diminishing of the level of kinetic. Structurally destructive riffs alloyed with pounding beats and sinewy vocals cultivated on a strict diet of gravel and broken glass are the strict order of the day.
These orders are, however, torn up and thrown out of the window with a calming of the storm. A beautiful beam of sunlight breaks through shining down as Thomas picks out sonorous note after sonorous note with precise echoes of Gilmour and Rothery. Play-listed by Planet Rock ‘Sun & Moon’ is met with acclaim as the triumvirate engage and knock-off the power with sublime control. The Patriot crowd are in fine voice with Thomas roaring like a banshee carried on the storm-front. This track, a personal favourite, is set to be a live mainstay for a long time.
It’s the gathered horde’s turn as they sing “We love Florence Black” to the tune of Kid Creole’s ‘Give It Up’; there’s an ironical humour at play here in the valleys. Powerhouse rip-roarer ‘Can You Feel It?” offers a “one way ticket to hell” with Thomas adding a blues-edge to the track’s solo to contrast neatly with the overall buzzsaw feel.
We’re taken, sensitively, by the hand by the sweet-tempered vibes of ‘Grove Street’ replete with its soaring chorus. The Black Cat glances up as the solitary raptor glides high above the surrounding hills. The atmosphere is red-hot; the crowd is swaying as they gather their collective breath from the initial onslaught.
Celtic masterpiece ‘Black Cat’ claws at the heart with every listen; it’s an utter privilege to witness it being played live. The shades of light and dark therein summarise, concisely, the very best that these Merthyr rockers have to offer. Alternating from Lizzy to Metallica and back again this is resonance of the highest order. An engaging story is told and leaves a tear to be wiped away with a longing for the homelands of the shire.
An individual, in the crowd, shouts birthday greetings to Tristan, and before you can even say “Happy Birthday” the entire gathering is raucously singing Tristan a round of greetings. Great stuff folks!
Well received festival appearances at Steelhouse and Rockin’ The Bowl have well and truly oiled the cogs of the inner machine. ‘The Deep End’ is at the Titanium-rich core of FB’s strength. It’s a furious, frenetic, thrashing monster of a headbanger; precisely what the good doctor has prescribed.
Prior to untethering ‘So Far Away’ Thomas looks out into the crowd and pays testament to the efforts of Ang and Dean on how fantastic the club is looking. He thanks the crew and the crowd alike; gratitude that is born of humble sincerity. A soulful intro transitions into the dark, gritty main body with FB switching between degrees of shade whilst, all the while, gathering momentum building up to a humdinger of an ending. The indefatigable maelstrom of intensity has just made a soulful connection.
White-hot sparks fly from the stage as the roof is brought down with rocking album-closer ‘The Light’ creating seismic forces. Its 110% monster chopping riff turns up the fervor to feverpitch.
Having served up the entirety of ‘Weight Of The World’ Florence Black are not about to throw the towel, far from it. Launching into the foundation-quaking crowd favourite ‘Ghost’ they set about completing the structural destruction brought about from 45 minutes of album-induced mayhem. With its rock crushing riffage and lofty chorus it’s quintessentially Florence Black.
Balls-to-the-wall stomper “The Ride”, lifted off the aptly entitled “The Final EP”, goes down the proverbial storm as Thomas instructs “Take it around the world”. The Patriot is bouncing, raw power crackles in the air as the assembled show their appreciation for a track whose title shamefully eludes me; next time I’ll ensure I catch it promise!
It’s hot and sweaty, a proper gig and Florence Black sense it as they whip up the passion further with closing brace of ‘Smoke’, with it’s Clutch-like heavy groove and early Metallica powering, and the mercurial re-working of Budgie’s ‘Breadfan’. The crowd bounces and moshes along as if there’s no scheduling of tomorrow; FB have succeeded on reaching 11 on the dial!
The Black Cat Roars Atop The Mountain Top!
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM