Home Gigs Gig Review : South Of Salem – The Samhain Supernova Tour With support from She Burns Red Exchange, Bristol

Gig Review : South Of Salem – The Samhain Supernova Tour With support from She Burns Red Exchange, Bristol

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Review by Gary Spiller for MPM

Encompassing the period of the transition from the end of the harvest season into the beginning of the darker half of the calendar The Samhain Supernova tour has fast become one of the hottest properties on the underground grassroots rock scene.

Featuring the wild incandescent aptitude of the rapidly heightening South Of Salem, along with stellar support from the similarly ascending mastery of She Burns Red, tickets have quite literally, like a bat out of hell, flown out of the proverbial door.

Tonight, nearly halfway between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice, under the fullness of the Hunter’s moon the tour rolls into Bristol for one of several sold-out shows. Here, in parallel to the liminal aspects of Samhain, the boundary between the day-to-day humdrum and the escapism of the ‘Otherworld’ blurs. We’re permitted, for a few hours, to step across the threshold and pass through into a dimension where kith and kin embrace coming together to be free of wearisome everyday burdens.

Having warmed up to boiling point for this tour with an incendiary set at last weekend’s Station 18 Festival in Swansea Scottish hell-raisers She Burns Red are the perfect accompaniment as support for this tour. Their debut album ‘Out Of Darkness’ has landed with a hefty thump. Based upon their impactful set at this summer’s Love Rocks Festival, in Dorset, I predicted that the album would be one of the best of ’23. So it has proven, with this Caledonian quartet tearing down trees, with their bare hands, wherever they play.

With his trademark red face paint, every imperial unit of measurement the Scottish clansman, bassist and frontman James McCulloch roars “Is it a school night?” Bone crunching to the nucleus rampant set-opener ‘Touch’ gets a spine-tingling half hour underway. By the time the quadrumvirate close with the forceful anthemic chimes of ‘Out Of Darkness’ they’ve somehow managed to compress in all bar ‘Stronger’ off their album and not forfeited the slightest ounce of impact.

Demonstrating an acute sense of belief their set is despatched in album running order. The Exchange is already rammed by the time guitarist Andy Moore takes the lead vocals for the imperious ‘Rise And Fall’. Out on stage left fellow six-stringer Naz Scanferlato, reaching out with both hands, encourages a responsive crowd. There’s a high level of Celtic kinetic at work herein.

McCulloch’s vanquishing basslines in ‘Killing Time’ place a severe enquiry upon the building’s structural strengths. The apocalyptic thunderstorm gets ever approximal. Sticksman Scott Hanlon weighs in on proceedings with a strongarm percussive that augments the raging furnace draft out front. Espying a horror clown in the shadowy crowd Moore notes “I gotta say the fancy dress is freaking the fuck outta me!” adding “Welcome to my worst nightmare!” A wag in the crowd rapidly quips “That ain’t fancy dress!” Well, after all it’s a Sunday in Bristol I guess.

The dual vocals of Moore and McCulloch compliment as ‘Crosshairs’ are trained upon the crowd. The clown somehow survives the stampeding powerhouse before the latest single ‘Heavy Is The Head’ follows the last. The Exchange is bouncing, there is no doubt in my mind that South Of Salem are a brave bunch as they’ve got to follow this! SBR are pushing the headliners every inch of the way.

Evoking the spirits of Rannoch and Culloden, the shrouding mist churns about the boggy peat moorland. Heads nod as ‘Run’ enthrals and all are swept along with the profound fury. Helter skeltering ‘Crack The Sky’ is unrelenting in its energies. She Burns Red have delivered an impact that pounds the chest before tearing out the inners with autocratic authority. This is the coming of something truly special.

Faced with such a furious onslaught there are many bands who would wonder how on earth do you follow that? Tonight’s headliners South Of Salem are not of that ilk. They’ve purposely brought She Burns Red into the fray so as to push them to the maximum. This is a tour that matters so much in so many ways to this terror-raising South coast five-piece. It’s a surefire conclusion, following an hour plus set, that South Of Salem won’t be playing venues of this capacity upon their next headline tour.

Support slots, this year, with W.A.S.P. and Wednesday 13 have accumulated more fans, further expanding the loyal ranks of The Coven. Their set is a marker in the sand, 14 tracks – their longest to date – a fermenting tumultuous blend of the stellar debut ‘The Sinner Takes It All’, a surprise cover plus a healthy number of new tracks shows the Salem juggernaut is in full overdrive and going for nothing less than the jugular of the business.

‘Left For Dead’ – the lead single from the forthcoming sophomore release ‘Death Of The Party’ has hit rave reviews upon release a couple of weeks ago. With the lyrics being sung throughout the crowd tonight I cannot see this muscular V8 rocket from the crypt being anything other than a crowd favourite for many years to come.

Lights tremble, piercing the darkness as John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ theme tune elevates already high levels of expectation. One by one the band filter onto the cramped environs of the Exchange stage and with a sudden detonation, it’s swift and fatal, the vampiric metaller ‘Let Us Prey’ sinks its teeth into the willing prey. “Let’s see those hands in the air Bristol” cajoles expressive vocalist Joey Draper. “I wanna hear you scream!” The ‘nightmarish’ scene has been set.

As with ‘The Sinner Takes It All’ so the hair-raising, spine-tingling ‘The Hate In Me’ follows. Toxic guitar twins Kodi Kasper and Dennis Sheriff fretwork receives a raucous reception. All the while partners in rhythm bassist Dee and drummer James Clarke provide a super-strength backbone. There’s a clear connect between those on-stage and those in the crowd. The band lap up the unwavering adoration, lyrics are sung word-perfect an audience unified under the conjuration of simply sublime rock.

Low-slung and bursting forth from the grave ‘Another Nail In My Coffin’ rounds off an opening triple salvo from ‘TSTIA’. How do you follow the strengths across the board of this splendid debut? The answer lies within ‘Death of the Party’, the title track of the forthcoming long-player, and its compatriot ‘Static’ and ‘Bad Habits Die Hard’. Alongside ‘Left For Dead’ we have a blood-drenched insight into future exploits. These four tracks blaze a searing trail that brands itself upon all in its path.

The band are ultra-keen to unleash the album and rightly so. “We’re buzzing to get it out” expresses Draper on behalf of the band!” whilst Kasper adds astutely, deeper into the set, “If everyone coming to this tour buys one copy, we will chart top 20!”

Staple live favourites ‘Made To Be Mine’ and ‘Demons Are Forever’ shriek and screech out of the catacombs; kinetics raised ever higher with every advancing moment. There’s a most welcome return to the live realm for the now seldom played ‘Dead Hearts Don’t Break’, a romantic offering from six feet under. A fiery bat right out of hell rendition of Billy Idol’s swaggering smash ‘Rebel Yell’ raises the stakes even further.

It’s been wall-to-wall anthemic output with every last ounce of effort and energy expended but there’s time for one final triple offering from ‘The Sinner Takes It All’. The gloriously mephitic ‘Pretty Little Nightmare’ is coupled with its brethren the contagion ‘No Plague Like Home’, all punked up pugilism, and the raging torrent of ‘Cold Day In Hell’. Snarling with canines bared SOS have brought their A++ game out on tour with them. How far they have travelled since we, and a large number gathered here this evening, first saw them in action down the A38 at The Cobblestones in Bridgwater a couple of years previously. Much lies in store too with bars continually being raised and cleared.

Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM

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