Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
The time of the liturgical calendar when the dead are remembered is impending. The point of dedication, Allhallowtide, to saints, martyrs and the deceased alike is convergent.
The very cusp of All Hallows’ Eve draws near; spirits stir and the souls become restless. Those seeking connection sense solace within the walls of The Old Fire Station; a mellifluous musical seance undertaken by five eminent South coast rock n’ roll mediums.
Their eminence precedes them; illustrious denizens, within a sinistral populace, that draws upon the macabre creating a romantic noir.
Underneath Holdenhurst Road, seething and incensed, is flowing, unseen, a river of psychomagnatheric ectoplasm. Sensitive and responsive to the human emotional condition on the street above portals begin to open.
With spirits released the inanimate becomes animated; writhing upwards the tortured and anguished souls from a previous dimension are unleashed.
A buggy suddenly veers, violently, out across the kerb; manhole covers upheaved. Ethereally transitional; Bourne Heath and Wallis Down flicker in the haze. The notorious Isaac Gulliver and his band of white-haired smugglers, upon the remote and barren heath, are, once more, running the gauntlet of the revenue troops.
Who is gonna answer the call? The sirens wail, the roller door is raised and the old ambulance – plated SOS1 – roars, like a bat from the depths of hell, onto the street tyres squealing. Hook and ladder no. 8 style, right out of Tribeca.
Vampiric apparitions commence painting the town; burgundy, rose, carnelian with a further forty plus seven pipelined.
The clock strikes and distant bells chimes. The quintet of spiritualists, one by one, take to the stage accompanied by two SOS dancers. Strips of white lights flash either side of bat-winged coffin sybols. The gathered ensemble chant; musical incantations via a haunting intro tape sets the mood.
Raw power crackles, expectancy runs high. Vocalist Joey looks to the heavens and boom! Launching into ‘Let Us Prey’ the reign of terror begins. Signs aloft. We Prey! No way! The horde are well in tune, winged demons swirl about whilst outside the occupants empty from SOS-mobile. Let the supernatural shindig commence.
A furiously paced ‘Hate In Me’ emanates forth with enigmatic guitarists Starfish and Kodi and steadfast bassist Dee, alongside Joey utilising the large stage to full effect. Prowling and stalking out front of hard punching skinsman Pip; it’s loud, it’s proud. “You guys are awesome!” exclaims Joey at song end. The positivity is palpable; channelled and focused to challenge the free-roaming apparitions terrorising the south coast resort.
By now in full flow the Salem crew rattle headlong into a supercharged version of ‘Nail In The Coffin’. Fists pump the air and the crowd roar along; it’s a two-way conduit of energy transfer and inspiration.
The punky punchy chorus raises the roof; riffs head to the heavens entwining about the ghosts of what has been as the spectral corralling progresses. Skittish incendiary hellions swarm high on leathery wings as the addictive ‘Severely Yours’ is borne from tribulations of the temptations of what is ultimately unrequited.
Sounds like you’ve got a lot of energy! We’re blown away by how this has taken off” reflects Joey afore dark romance of ‘Made To Be Mine’ captivates one and all. Out on the street the adoration raises the levels of positivity; the streams of protons given forth from the Particle Throwers are readied to be crossed. Total protonic reversal on a phantasmal level awaits.
Upon the stage a thundering outro gives way to exceptionally loud cheers; guitars and bass aloft the joy of playing to a packed hometown crowd is clearly evident. Crow masked dancers take to the boards, capes swirling.
Joey stalks the front of stage; this is their crowd. Offering his mic to them the words of ‘No Plague Like Home’ are sung back in perfection; the chorus barked out with punk horror attitude relating of an anguished state of mind.
The halfway point is reached, it’s hot, sweaty and Joey expresses their collective privilege “It’s an honour to play this venue, it’s been a long time coming.” Slowing things down for an emotionally charged ‘Demons Are Forever’ explores the darker aspect of mental health. Pointing a finger at his head Joey sings “I’ve got friends on the inside”.
Hands wave side to side throughout the throng; it’s healthy to bring this subject to the fore.
Dee’s low slung bass along with Starfish’s diamond white Jackson and Kodi’s shining black Gibson Les Paul prowl the stage. Joey leads the Coven in worship at the igneous altar; by now stripped to the waist Pip stands up from behind his kit for a thundering outro.
Against the darkened background of haunted medieval castellated ruins the gothic romance of ‘Dead Hearts Don’t Break’ escalates the fervour.
Starfish bounces about manically; folks seriously consider what occurs when feeding your gremlins caffeine in the post-midnight hours. Kodi and Dee whirl around in synchronised time whilst the front rows adoringly accept fist pumps from Joey. All awhile Pip lays down a infectiously metronomic rhythm.
Velvet Revolver’s anthemic 2004 single ‘Slither’ receives a raucous reworking Salem style whilst the ongoing paranormal conflict reaches fever pitch; a crucial tipping point draws close. A blast from the past follows; self-proclaimed as straight from the womb to the tomb The Coven are rewarded for their undying loyalty with a hyper-paced rendition of Al B Damned’s ‘My Queen Of Halloween’.
Pre-launch Joey quips “We said we’d never do this but it’s Halloween!”. The leather clad dancers return to share confectionary treats as Salem hurtle headlong like a fevered New Model Army. The sensitive mid-song is wondrously reminscent of Sabbath’s ‘Planet Caravan’; it’s a moment to savour.
As the glowering streams of protonic matter are combined so the paranormal powers are contained. Harnessed the demonic energies are released in a double-barrelled closing volley of ‘Pretty Little nightmare’, a pleasurable connection with the darker perspective, and the heavy as heck stalking riffs of ‘Cold Day in Hell’.
A shade over an hour and the call has been answered. The reply being “South Of Salem that’s who you’re gonna call.” It’s been a triumphant homecoming of epic proportions; the phantasmic presences of Texas Drag Queen Massacre and Al B. Damned look on approvingly.
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM