- by Steve Rhodes Rating: Release Date: Label:
Partly through tonight's set Soft Kill's frontman Tobias Grave exclaims “you can tell we listen to a lot of bands from Manchester”. It's perhaps the understatement of the year for this four-piece from Oregon, who revel in the doom and gloom of Manchester's past. With the intensity of Adam Bulgasem's drumming echoing Stephen Morris and the mood set at early Factory Records, it's Middleton's The Chameleons that Soft Kill are drenched in the DNA of, as disconsolate vocals and spectral guitars envelop the tiny Castle venue on a dark Monday night.
The band though are far more than a Manc tribute act. There are nods to recent psych-dwellers, such as Autobahn, on 'Be Alone', in its Gothic undertones as Tobias' rasping vocals are supplemented by a dense, serious and hypnotic, symphonic atmosphere.
'Wake Up', an especially strong early number, has glacial twin guitars presenting over the top of high-sticked drumming and frantically strummed bass, more in tune with The Cocteau Twins or The Bodines in the Batcave, or Six By Seven at their speediest, as well as the usual early Cure and Factory reference points, but still sound as contemporary as ever.
Certainly swirling guitars are the order of the day, such as on the pacey 'Do You Feel Nothing', as relentless drumming and acutely-reverbed guitars sit well with some of Piano Magic's best work, along with the intense and direct 'Pretty Face', as a John McGeogh-guitar haunts proceedings, before opening out to a wall of guitar noise in the chorus.
There is room for more upbeat numbers too, especially on the newer material, which may hint at a subtle change of direction to come for the band. The live debut of 'Hard Candy' feels lighter as the guitars soar rather than bleed. There's still plenty of melancholy but it's rather less intense than much of the set. Tobias' vocals seem buried and overwhelmed by the instrumentation, but it doesn't matter when it's such a joyous noise. A brand new track, which may or may not be called 'Matty Roo', goes a step further setting foot into dream-pop territory, as the drums shuffle rather than pound, and Tobias' vocals are more ethereal, with a hint of James in the delivery.
A fantastic performance all round from a great band, perhaps nicely summed up by Guitarist Conrad Vollmer's feel with the music in shutting his eyes at regular intervals, akin with a large proportion of the audience who do the same, allowing the blissful melodies to drift through them whilst nodding along in unison.
It's an interesting contrast that Fields Of The Nephilim are across the way playing in Manchester tonight, which perhaps denied a few more audience members from experiencing Soft Kill at their best, but the Nephilim been replaced by the new guard, shed of the pretentiousness and expensive millinery budget, with just direct and focussed mood music instead to nourish the soul.