Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM
Having not been to the Rescue Rooms this year I was keen to see how 2023 had been treating it. Getting inside was super easy, has there been a management change, it was refreshing to be met by human beings who have great customer service. I was overwhelmed by the change from my last visit that being reason I stopped covering bands here.
The pit is the same tight squeeze although I was reassured that they had forgot to put out the boards for a deeper pit, wow, we are being spoilt here, super impressed. In fact, my fellow tog, Rich, and myself are joined in the pit by security, who pleasantly chat away with us about life and not the usual chest beating of old. So far, it’s been a great reintroduction to The Rescue Rooms. Well done one and all.
There is an intimate crowd of around 250 in for tonight’s hump-day show, it’s always going to be a struggle to fill a venue mid-week. The crowd who are in are sporting old school band tee’s, coloured hair and dare I say some guys even have eye liner on, it’s got to be as the coal mines have long since ceased to be.
As 8pm passes, the lights dim and one of Priest unknown, Sulfur creeps onto the stage wearing his lightweight plague mask. He gets the night off to a start with sequencing some beats which has the crowd on their toes. Ex-Ghost member, Salt, also in a plague mask, wanders across to his synth station, lights flowing from the hand torches, he’s wearing, as he passes by. The tune builds with the addition of the extra sound source.
The logo ‘PRIEST’ is emblazoned on the back drop between them both as a dark shape and a red glow flows onto the stage and looks into the crowd. The momentum takes on a new tempo and with it the lyric to ‘The Pit’ emanates from the dark shape at the front of the stage, this starts the evening off proper. Frontman ‘Mercury’ is creeping around the dark stage his face obscured as he has is wearing his own studded lightweight mask, complete with ‘Terminator’ red eye.
The stamping bass beat is moving huge amounts of air as it blasts across the room in seismic proportions, this will be the ‘thing’ for the night, its punctuated by a synth processed sound and ‘Mercury’s’ effected lyric. The crowd are hard core fans as they join in the singing. Whilst the instrumental passages play out ‘Mercury’ is dancing across the dark stage, his red terminator eye glowing eerily in the darkness. With a quick greeting to Nottingham, we get the breathy introduction to ‘Neuromancer’, one of five tracks from the 2019 E.P. Obey.
The BDSM style masks ad to the mysteriousness of the band, not dissimilar to GHOST, however the erotica attached to such items is missing from the ‘act’. ‘Dead Ringer’ from 2020 is next. The steady walking beat is there behind a dark breathy lyric. Keys are tinkled over the top in a repetitive riff. That harks back to the time when ‘Techno’ was being played, every-night in clubs up and down the country.
The slightly distorted vocal continues with more dark and brooding beats. ‘A Signal in Noise’ from 2022 continues the massive beat as we go back in time to ‘Beacon of Light’, 2020, and ‘Nightmare Hotel’ from 2017’s ‘New Flesh’. The lighting is subdued as the tunes slam out, threatening to flatten all in its path.
‘Mercury’ is dancing across the stage, reaching out at one point to connect with a fan before darting off to the other side of the stage. Everyone is getting a good look at his glowing red eye as he throws some shapes and grooves to the beats being laid down. As the beats crack out, ‘Sulfur’ joins Mercury with some dad dancing at the front before racing back to ensure the next sequence is queued in on time. You can see the concentration in the eyes behind the mask as he does so, illuminated by the laptop screen in front of him.
The crowd has swelled in numbers as the set progressed. “it’s getting hot in here, let’s take off all our clothes” sings ‘Mercury’ as he removes his jacket. 2017’s ‘The Cross’ continues with the atmospheric thumps of bass, and sampled instruments, the crowd are singing along to the chorus. ‘Sulfur’, once again jumps out and dances for a moment before leaping back and finishing the song from the sequencer. ‘Salt’ has donned his keytar and is stood over on stage right hitting the keys as the song builds towards the key’s solo licks. The lights are flashing on the beat as the songs repetitive lyric is repeated over and over.
A distorted ‘Mercury’ asks to see Nottingham move as ‘Blacklisted’ slams into their faces. The bass pulse is moving my trouser legs such is the air being moved by the bass bins positioned along the underneath of the stage, yes, they are slamming air out hard. Lyrics are traded with the crowd as ‘Let Your Body Go’ plays out, a seemingly firm fan favourite as they sing “go” when prompted. There’s a disturbing canned scream and laughter as Mercury helicopter spins across the stage. Crouching down he starts singing to the crowd, it builds momentum and as it finishes ‘Mercury’ has climbed onto the bouncer step, the security aren’t far behind.
‘Salt’ is again, keytar wearing, he is clapping encouraging the crowd to do the same as 2022’s ‘Nightcrawler’ kicks in and has the crowd, of all ages, instantly throwing shapes before the 2019 E.P. Title track ‘Obey’ gets and airing, one of two tracks from it being played tonight. The atmosphere is hot as the 80’s throw back sound is thrust across the venue, the lyric is sung by the crowd as ‘Mercury’ climbs back on the stage, ‘Salt’s keytar is screaming a synthesised lead lick, Mercury retorts “now that’s what I call a keytar solo” as it finishes in a rumble of synthesised, processed noise.
The band is introduced to the crowd, by this dark figure in black before asking everyone to sing along to what has been remarked as their best song to date ‘History in Black’ from the debut album, 2017’s New Flesh. The crowd accept the challenge and with another visit to the security barrier, and the microphone is passed around the crowd to sing along, there is a surge so that everyone can get their karaoke moment.
The night is finished with a trip back to 2017, they close out the set with ’Vaudeville’. “Is this what you call entertainment Nottingham”, “yes”, replies the crowd! “back in the days we call in Vaudeville”, “it’s the last song of the night for us” announces ‘Mercury’, the every present Swedish lilt in his voice as he speaks. The bouncing beat and hand claps start as the shouted lyric hits you square in the jaw, the clapping has now stopped and the crowd are singing once more. They are having the time of their lives.
The set has had a Depeche Mode meets Kraftwerk feel to it, with a liberal dosing of gothic darkness thrown in for good measure. A fun 45minute set of old school techno dance music. If the Ghost connection had got you wanting the lampoonery connected with Tobias and the Unnamed ghouls then you would be disappointed. This was a far different show, equally as talented but possibly more grown up.
With a simple set to clear away, we are ready for Combichrist to hit the stage. Sadly, it’s not the full band, something I’ve yet to witness, tonight’s show is Andy LaPlegue on vocals with a blonde-haired friend who I didn’t catch the name of, on MacBook, sequencer and synth.
The set starts off with blondie winding the beats up from his desk, the lights are dimmed and the shouts and screams die as the music washes over the crowd drowning them out.
The industrial sounds ebb and flow as we are joined by ‘LaPlegue’, dressed as a dystopian assassin creed type character, his hood drawn up he patrols the stage, his aggressive singing cutting the through the mechanical sounds laid down by ‘Blondie’. The lighting is dark and red, very atmospheric as ‘At the End of It All’ from Today We Are All Demons kicks the night off with the subtleties if a house brick in the face.
“20 years of Combichrist this year”, “We have come to celebrate this sin with our own sic, it’s an honour to be here today”, “did you come here to dance, will you dance with us?” The crowd respond with cheers as the pacy repetitive beats of ‘Are You Connected’ threatens to cut everyone in two. The hair is flowing on Blondie, he’s is grooving whilst laying down the beats. It’s a hard-hitting vocal thrust at you with the wall of sounds coming from the mixer, screams and sirens play out as a gentle drum rattle breaks the silence, canned voices and sirens take over as the cacophony of sounds build and pulverise the room, my god what’s that all about, I find myself nodding my head with a huge grin on my face, looks like I missed a trick back in the day.
‘Blut Royale’ from 2005 continues the onslaught with machine gun sounds and repetitive shouts of “Hey”, the crowd are joining in as the steam hammer, wall of sound continues relentlessly. ‘Electrohead’ from 2006 and with a round of “here we go here we go “ he flows into ‘Feed Your Anger’ from 2005. Tonight, is a journey back to the early days with a greatest hits selection from albums 2-3-4 and 5.
The industrial undertones are akin to Rammstein, aggressive and bloody loud. The melody lines are swirled over the top mixed with a discord of unharmoniously synthesised sounds from that dystopian world that we long to play in. The percussive beats are slammin, the heads are down as ‘LaPlegue’ growls as he paces the stage.
Standing at the back the full effect can be witnessed. The stage is dark, cut by laser beams of light, hood down ‘LaPlegue’ is up front and the crowd are reaching out to him like he’s the messiah. This is a master class in one man and a box. The sounds have your attention as does the aggressive lyrical outpourings and sonic sounds that catch you, if like me you are too familiar with each tune played.
The relentless wall of Industrial hammerings and aggression continues with ‘Fuck That Shit’, as it starts there are more, older fans entering the hall, they are probably fed up with the quiz going on next door and want some live music. This one is like the rest, is hard hitting and in your face, the arms arm up and the whole room is a sea of dancing bodies. In fact, as it plays out, I’m reminded of the scene when Wesley Snipes walks into the night club in Blade, the bodies are twisting and the lights are strobing as LaPlegua conducts the rituals via the form of music and dance. ‘Get Your Body Beat’, ‘I Want Your Blood’ continue with this vampiric sci fi aggression of dark menacing beats and uncompromising vocals.
Watching several shows on YouTube where LaPlegua has been on stage with the live band, something I was looking forward to, I have to say I don’t feel cheated at all. The thunderous tunes and uncompromised delivery has more than compensated for it. Its more in keeping with the ‘time’ I guess, so a brave move, maybe not as it works in this, it’s most uncompromised raw form. The fans certainly think so, the energy in the room is unmistakeable.
The intensity continues with 2010’s ‘Fuckmachine’ full of its derisory comments about a sexual partner, today with gender awareness and identity it can be directed at all. The fizzing sounds and popping beats go on and build as the crowd join in with the degrading lyrics, the beat has nodding heads and feet shuffling in the now crowded venue. LaPlegua is crouching down as he delivers the romantic words. The crowd are reaching out to him as he does so.
The aggressive beats, dark lyrics and screaming synth breaks continue with more thundering slams to the nether regions, the concussive wave of bass throughout ‘Today I Woke to The Rain of Blood’ (2005), flows into the enhanced mechanical vocal of ‘This Is My Rifle’ (2005). The heavily distorted saw-like buzz and repeated canned female voice, presage ‘Without Emotions’ (2005) the now sweaty crowd are heads down, lost in their own world. ‘They’ (2010) demolishes the night of hard hitting ‘Aggrotech’. They synthesised sounds swirl and crash around before bring the thunderous set to a temporary stillness.
A moment of quiet gives the room breathing space, the Rescue Rooms has moved post codes with the aggressive onslaught of dropped bass beats and amalgamated synthesised poly rhythms. To finish the night off Nottingham is treated to another two ‘bangers’. The inappropriately named ‘Shut up and Swallow kicks things off with a steam hammer of a beat that changes key, whilst sending out a muffled almost whale song before the dystopian aggression kicks in with a stricken vocal delivery amidst the fog horn and other sequenced sounds that are entwined in this multi layered delivery, stunning energy in the room and on stage.
This is an extra tune that I’m pleased to say wasn’t part of the Wolverhampton set, the opening night of the tour, this being the second night.
The final song has the roof lifting on this intimate, steamy venue the aptly named ‘Like to Thank My Buddies’ from 2005’s Everybody hates You. The canned voice talks about the knife in his back which eventually gives way to a solid beat that has solid, throbbing undertones. The heads in the crowd, are nodding side to side with the beats, arms are over head seemingly climbing invisible ladders as this one plays out. The heat is over whelming as the final ‘Twisting the Knife in My Back’ sounds out and the cheers erupt from the crowd.
Well, what can I say, that wasn’t what I was expecting, I didn’t expect to enjoy the manufactured sound anywhere near as much as I did, the lack of a band made no difference at all. The professional performance was a spectacle to behold, and as a venture into the darker side of Industrial metal, I found it captivating to the point I stayed for the full show.
No, it’s not Gary Numan’s view on a Dystopian World, nor Killing Joke’s, but what Andy LaPlegua has built has a following that is loyal and dedicated, after tonight’s showing you can see why. Another great ‘hump-day’ spent watching and listening to Live Music, you must try it