Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
Tempestuous briny narratives are yarned over a pint or three in the safe harbour of the waterside tavern. Here the log fire crackles as the hearthside hound gently steams. Wait though for a moment, for there might just be a droplet of truth amongst the anecdotes of which most register amongst tall.
“The general synopsis at midday.” The shipping forecast crackles in and out of the FM static, the vessel tossed upon broiling waters as though it were a child’s toy. “Lundy …. Westerly 8 or 9, rough …. Make way for the big, green terror!” Captain and mate look at one another, puzzlement then their ship shakes from bow to stern.
Looking for’ard the green tentacles wrap themselves in an embrace from the nautical depths. Terror strikes to the very heart, chilling in its desire. Such abyssal gigantism rarely seen upon the ocean’s surface. This is no mere spectre of the seas; this can only be the fabled ‘Green Terror.’ Otherwise hailed, in the regal acknowledgement of the fireside prose and shanty alike, as ‘King Kraken.’
The time has arrived and the most revered of the inky depths arises. The power and inner fury to be deftly released upon a knowing faithful. This evening Merthyr Tydfil’s impressive Redhouse Cymru venue has turned verdant, the Tŷ Gwydr Cymru for one night only.
It’s a sold-out event, has been for weeks in advance, such is the anticipation of the first entire unleashing of ‘MCLXXX.’ South Wales, as noted on many occasions, is an extremely fertile region for matters of metal and rock. Ahead of doors a healthy number of VIP guests are given a sneak preview with access to the soundcheck. There’s Kraken cupcakes and, naturally, a certain brand of rum miniatures; all greatly appreciated.
Opening the night’s foray into the rock n’ roll navigational charts are Plymothian quintet Six Sins Till Sunday. Hollering right out of the underbelly of the Devon port where Drake once bowled pre-Armada and the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for lands anew these five chaps mean business. An eerie tolling of a distant bell, a resonate bass rumbles and with a veritable cloudburst of percussion so our Devonian visitors firmly and squarely announce their arrival.
With a chilling groove we’re invited to ‘Bring Out Your Dead.’ We’re firmly at ground-zero, right at the epicentre of the maelstrom. Vocalist Chris Newman is right into the midst of the crowd as quick as the shake of the Kraken’s tentacle; engaging in the only way he knows … head-on! ‘Masks’ bursts manically from the cellar within which it dwells, stomping and rattling as it ferociously chases the stars.
Contemplate a completely notched up Clutch and you’ll be on the right highway for sure with Pantera for road trip companions. Given that this motley crew double up as a Rod Zombie tribute act a stonking version of ‘Electric Head’ is little surprise and goes down an absolute storm.
Last seen opening for South Of Salem well over a year ago it’s most apparent the massive leaps forward SSTS have taken. ‘Cardinal Sin’ is ripped and shredded whilst the devil’s herd snorts through fiery nostrils in ‘User Guide.’ By the time set-closer ‘Allegory of the Cave’ rattles its final roof-beam this West-Country outfit has most certainly endeared itself to an already healthy sized Merthyr crowd with their in-your-face attitude and approach to being ‘metal as anything!’
The middle slot of the evening is occupied by Brummie metallers Straight For The Sun. Formed back in 2017 this five-piece are a completely unknown quantity to me but set about quickly impressing. Striding onto the stage to a stirring intro of neo-classical vibrancy.
The rousing notes burn through as the longships break out of the swirling murk. Vocalist Callum Green connects immediately, motioning the Redhouse crowd forward as the band storm into their third single ‘Unbound’, released in 2019 ahead of their debut EP ‘No Tomorrow’, feisty and uncompromising it grabs and demands attention in equal portion.
With a marauding, broad rabbet brand-new number ‘Nerve’ is released into the wild. This quintet are a hungry bunch and certainly keen to road test new material – always a good thing in my book – with another in the form of ‘Alive’, powerful and emotive, being aired towards the end of their allotted 45 minutes.
It’s a set that catches the ear with anthemic carousing of ‘Buzzwarni’ full of Norse strengths and the nu-metal punch of ‘Remember Me’ standouts. The intense omnipotence of ‘Scapegoat’ maintains the levels before the demonic cacophony of ‘Villains’ sets a lofty bar.
The darkened, shimmering waters beckon within ‘Sirens’, enticing with a harkened urgency SFTS are merciless. An infectious hook-laden chorus with a prog-fringed solo ensures ‘Walk’ ends a set of much variance ends on a collective high.
With the hall suitably warmed up for the evening’s main course the stage is, most appropriately, bathed in shades of green. On cue the lights darken and tentacles (yes tentacles!!) flash vividly. As storm clouds send forth sky bursts a frantic mayday is heard through the static. “This is an emergency!” comes the cry. Odin’s warrior angels ring out orchestrally.
The components of King Kraken – guitarists Pete Rose and Adam Healey along with bassist Karl Meyer have a sense of purpose around them whilst drummer Richard Mears settles behind his sizeable kit – assemble. The final piece of the Kraken jigsaw – kilted vocalist Mark Donoghue bristles – joins his compatriots. He raises a can in salute of the sell-out crowd patting Karl on the back.
The bassist lets fly before the twin guitars, growling, join in for the underworldly ‘Devil’s Night.’ The packed room laps up the stoner metallic offering with Adam’s intricate solo dovetailing precisely with Mark’s guttural vocals. The opening track of the much-lauded ‘MCLXXX’ is followed up with the complete beast ‘Bastard Liar’ – introducing Sabbath to Slayer in an atramentous alley – and hurtles into signature track ‘Green Terror’ for an album 1-2-3.
With no breath being drawn, cranking up the gears, this as heavy as osmium quintet don’t come up for air until the freight-train groove of ‘War Machine’ smashes, uncompromisingly, through the buffers to complete a rumbustious quartet. Mark expresses sincere gratitude to the crowd “It’s taken a long time to get to this spot. It’s all down to people like you.
With a dash of Orange Goblin, the horror-metal of Halloween-infused ‘Haddonfield ’78’ seeks its prey with a frenzied fury. The punky thrash of ‘Veins’ harnesses the kinetics of the storm, no mean feat considering that KK are hellbent upon maintaining a smoking pace. Industrially craned in off their self-titled 2019 EP ‘Under The Sun’ and ‘The Grey’ see the band rattle off another quadruple salvo. I stand back and note how many notches King Kraken have ascended since our paths last crossed, it’s a considerable number based on this stunning showing.
The early era Metallica usherings of ‘Man Made Monster’ whip up dust-clouds whilst ‘Walls Of Jericho’ tempt the first crowd-surfer of the night into action. Mark looks stunned “Thank you so much, holy fucking shit!”
Obsidian riffs utter from the bowels of the abyss, “Now the devil gets his daughter back” growls Mark in ‘Proctor’s Ledge’ as respect is paid to the 19 innocent souls who were hanged in the infamous Salem Witch Trials in 1692. Incredibly it was only 2016 that this location was confirmed as the true execution spot.
With a furrow as voracious as Blind River or Orange Goblin ‘Chaos Engine’ turns up the dial further. Smiling broadly at the crowd, with a glint in his eye, Mark sings “Welcome to my show.” Most apt with all things considered. The unstoppable momentum of ‘Castle of Bone’ coupled with a surprise ‘Freak’ bring a faultless and well composed 75 minutes to a high-grade crescendo.
A second crowd surfer clenches both fists triumphantly, roaring as he clatters on to the stage. It’s been that sort of night bands and fans as one. King Kraken have worked damn hard to arrive at this moment and deserve every last cheer and second of pleasure. They’ve been as tight knit as any band I’ve seen. To open with not one but two back-to-back four track volleys is a noteworthy feat of the highest ilk. King Kraken have made an emboldened statement of intent here tonight in Merthyr Tydfil; The Kraken is on the rise.
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM