Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
Something supernatural is occurring in Bristol, the sunny spring evening subsides, hauntingly shimmering into shades of grey and hues of black. A clinging fog shrouds the wharfs and quays of the docklands, shrouding all it touches.
Grotesque hunky punks, free from their ecclesiastical perches, flit between the monolithic presence of the wharfside cranes. Batlike, gargoyles skitter in and out of the broken panes of the long-abandoned warehouses, cackling gutturally as they go. The inky waters broil, the emanating steam hissing as it alloys uneasily with the fog. The scene is readying itself, enveloped by the murk the once deceased, bloodless, take to the streets unwitnessed.
A sturdy vessel, not a light to be seen, ghosts alongside. Silently it awaits its cargo. Through the heavy miasmic effluvium stride shadowy figures. Mooring ropes are cast shoreside, skeletal hands assist the berthing, and a mournful, forlorn call emits. The time arrives, the cast iron cauldrons atop the Redcliffe lead shot tower glow a ghastly red; for tonight it will be molten rock being dropped into a vat of solidifying horror punk.
This evening is fright night aboard the Thekla, articulate punk ghoul Wednesday 13 has returned from his Stateside roost bringing the nascent gothic talents of South coast horror rockers South Of Salem in support.
Known as the mainstay of the oft dress-wearing Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13 Wednesday 13 has embarked upon a solo career since the breakup of noire punkers Murderdolls in 2004. Often described as the coming together of Motley Crue and the Misfits the Murderdolls was renowned for being a side-project of Slipknot’s drummer Joey Jordison.
Barely a week since tearing up the UK and Ireland with legendary shock-metallers W.A.S.P. this evening’s main support South Of Salem is back out on the road. As cross-Atlantic pairings go they are an ideal fit, their take on the aesthetics of horror punk crossover rock dovetailing quite serenely with that of our headliner.
Formed from the ashes of Al B Damned and The Texas Drag Queen Massacre this powering inferno literally exploded on to the scene with their 2020 foundation-quaking debut ‘The Sinner Takes It All.’ Since then, it’s been a rapid ascent for these rocking hoodlums and deservedly so.
The Thekla’s former cargo hold is packed tightly come the moment drumming force James Clarke with a cascading roar of thunder announces their arrival on-stage. Vocalist Joey Draper, straining every sinew, quite appropriately screams “Bristol let me hear you scream” as way of introduction.
The reign of terror begins with the vampiric essences of ‘Let Us Prey’ as the quintet threaten to tear apart the boat rivet by rivet. Energetic guitarist Kodi Kasper genially ‘machine-guns’ the crowd as Bristol is systematically daubed in a half-century shades of red.
The loyal members of The Coven are out in force as an emphatic “South Of Salem” chant breaks out. Gleaming Joey encourages “Let’s see you jumping!” From six feet under the tombstone horror rock of ‘The Hate In Me’ pervades with new six-stringer Californian Denis Sheriff shivering the timbers with a scintillating solo. Now that’s how to announce your arrival!
With its gothic noir barbed-romance aspect ‘Made To Be Mine’ enthrals with James a blur of sticks and hair alike. Somehow bassist Dee Aldwell maintains a precise synching with this percussive force. This is a turbo-charged hell on ten legs; Kodi indulges in a bit of behind the head six-stringing, but the cramped environs of the stage have clipped his wings a wee bit. There’s no detriment to the rocking output but it’s akin to caging the wide-roaming wolf.
SOS clearly love this venue with Joey extoling “Second time at Thekla, it’s so cool this venue.” Dedicating the infectious sleazy rock of ‘Pretty Little Nightmare.’ Engaging with the crowd Joey plays to the phones held aloft with Kodi, up front and centre, to despatch a trademark incendiary solo.
The Wisht Hounds swarm, unleashed from their granitic kennels high upon the moorland, for the demonic overtures of ‘No Plague Like Home.’ All too quickly the final song, to a chorus of disapproval, is announced. The fires of hell are stoked to the absolute maximum as the predatory anthem ‘Cold Day In Hell’ rages. Arching backwards Dennis sets afire his fret as Joey raises his mic across the top of the crowd before slipping, quite unexpectedly, off the stage and into the masses.
Goosebumps have been raised and the boat well and truly rocked. Underworld kinetics industrially employed. A voice, from within the depths of the crowd, notes “That was too short!” At about the 30-minute mark I wholeheartedly agree but this is the lot of the support act. It’s not that far in the future when South Of Salem will be headlining venues of this size and larger.
Come the end of nigh-on an hour and a half of oft-theatrical, seriously all-consuming, and genuinely rousing from beyond the crypt I understand a slice more about rock n’ roll. I need cogitate no longer as in tonight’s headliners Wednesday 13 I have the answer as to who’s the mainstay of influence for South Of Salem.
Striding on to the stage looking like someone had dropped Kiss on to the set of Tarantino’s ‘From Dusk till Dawn’ Wednesday 13 and his four accomplices are in a mean, determined mood. Opening night of their UK tour, returning for the first time in four years, they pack a hefty punch with their blend of industry, glam and downright sleazy punked up detonative rock n’ roll.
Assembling to an overcast, damnable intro the very metal fabric of the Thekla shakes and groans. Davy Jones’s locker judders open, the abyss widening and setting free the tortured nautical souls. In the distance a drum rat-a-tats and a bass drones. With an enquiring “Are you fucking ready?” from the frontman we head into the ghoul infested Western realms of ‘Bloodsucker’ where Rod Zombie and Ghoultown await.
A 21st century Blackie Lawless is untethered to profound effect in ‘Halfway To The Grave’ served up from last year’s ‘Horrifier’ release. The firestorm seethes and bristles with an unholy ferocity; a blackened path is left in its wake. Wednesday 13’s crowd engagement elicits a truly blood-curdling vampiric scream that will haunt for a good while. Low slung guitars and bass are order of the day afront the hi-velocity stampede of ‘Scream Baby Scream.’
In a remarkable set Wednesday 13 visit all bar one of their nine studio albums with only 2011’s ‘Calling All Corpses’ missing out. “Our first show [in the UK] in four years, it’s great to be back” enthuses Wednesday 13. With glam Kiss-like riffing ratcheted right up the rasping infectious plague rock of My Home Sweet Homicide’ brings in glorious technicolour elements of the likes of The Ramones and Misfits.
With bridging segments between tracks, it’s a rapid-fire output with Wednesday 13, out front, the horror ringmaster dealing the deck at his calling. The good ol’ hard rock n’ rolling of ‘Good Day To Be A Bad Guy’ would surely go down well at the fabled Titty Twister. With a punky “Oi, Oi” the rapturous crowd respond noisily in kind.
To a destructive low-end rumble, we’re instructed to ‘Get Your Grave On.’ Its underworld bawl right from the depths of Hades. Demonic warriors gather, their skeletal forms threatening. ‘I Want You … Dead’ bursts volatilely with a vicious undercurrent of The Damned in their formative glory. The Thekla crowd, awestruck, are in the complete control of Wednesday 13 and his cohorts. However in amongst the barrage of intensity there’s room for subtle humour with the frontman, playfully, striking the bassist’s head in time with the intrusive cowbell.
Witches burn as the dark arcane proficiency in ‘Haddonfield’ follows. Carried along upon the molten lava flow we’re taken ‘From Here To The Hearse’ distilling a 100% spirit entitled Halloween; with a line or two of Alice Cooper’s 1971 single ‘Under My Wheels’ slipped in at the death for good measure. Fists punch the air, the crowd entranced as one as all the while dry ice swirls. I’m left in absolutely no doubt that Wednesday 13 is, indeed, the bastard offspring of Rod Zombie and Alice brought into the world by the hand of Iggy Pop!
Monstrous demons awaken, pounding right out of the catacombs Wednesday 13 pull the lever fully back to deliver ‘Insides Out’ to the horde. Howling and wailing ‘Decompose’ is full-on shock rock with more than a tasty touch of Alice in the vocals.
There’s a first time for everything and I can safely state I’ve never witnessed a drum solo being heralded by the segment of Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’ that was utilised by ‘The Exorcist.’ Rather appropriate in fact. The bombardment of ‘Keep Watching The Skies’ volcanically erupts with a fusion of White Zombie and Sepultura spewing forth.
The Murderdolls’ ‘Nowhere’ is emotionally dedicated to the memory of Joey Jordison. “I wouldn’t be here without him” explains Wednesday 13. It’s spiky and fiery, a seething turbulent anthem. Capacious in its intensity ‘Die My Bride’ shines a light upon Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13 as the set constructs towards its finale. Thekla bounces to the anarchic undead pugilistic strike of ‘I Walked With A Zombie’, think The Wildhearts alloyed with Kiss and dropped into a midnight graveyard, and you’ll get the idea.
The crowd bay for one more song and are given three! Darkness the bringer of nightmares offers the grooving monster ‘What The Night Brings.’ Scaly demons skitter hither and tither, terrorising the obsidian hours with ‘Bad Things’ surfing on an undead wave. A mosh pit breaks out in the depths of Thekla as the spirits of The Cramps and Misfits look upon proceedings favourably.
The contagion has maximised and with middle digits raised from bow to stern and port to starboard ‘I Love To Say Fuck’ brings the roof down. Originally recorded by Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13 it’s been re-recorded by both Murderdolls and Wednesday 13. There’s clearly an affinity herein. A clamorous rabble-rouser it’s the best conceivable way to end the set. Judging by the loud cheer at the end I’m clearly not alone as the Motorhead breakneck lifeblood pulses. Chanting “F. U. C. K.” the ranks of the crush repay the spooky dividend right to the very end.
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM