Black Celebration – Halloween Concert

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Concert Review by Mark Bayross

LA2, London – 31 October 1999

Featuring:  Man(i)kin, The Borg, Leech Woman, Chaos Engine, Inertia, Covenant, C-Tec

Halloween. The spookiest of all nights. Perfect for a goth get-together, especially this year, what with this being Tony Blair Witch Millennium year, and all that.

Such was the thinking behind tonight’s event, although none of the bands featured could be described as “goth”. The brand of scare on offer this evening was the crap-your-pants heaviness of pure industrial techno.

The first band on the bill is Man(i)kin, which is a rather girly name for a rather scary band. Two drummers pummel away over a thick electro backing while a shaven-headed frontman growls his way through a bruising set. Lots of pounding, not much tune.

The Borg arrive onstage to a rousing build-up of piano and strings, during which their rather frightening bullet-headed frontman stands glaring at the crowd through Matrix-style shades, dragging away on a cigarette. We wait in anticipation for the beat to kick in, but when it does, horror of horrors, the DAT starts to jump. Singer and audience both cringe in embarrassment and, after a minute or so trying to get it going, the song is abandoned and another one begins. Once again, the backing track goes pear-shaped and the singer screams in frustration. Poor bloke. We don’t feel scared anymore – we feel pity.

A roadie rushes onstage with a cushion for the offending machine while singer and keyboard player swap obscenities, while we try to forget this almighty cock-up and concentrate on the music. To our immense surprise, each song is a beauty. Melodic and heavy darkwave techno in a :Wumpscut: vein oozes forth and we are won over by the sheer quality of the music. By the end of an all-too-short set, the singer has given up trying to look cool and tries to debunk his own performance by clowning around, but the audience is having nothing of it: The Borg leave the stage to raucous applause.

Leech Woman provide a major change of style. I had heard them described as “Sielwolf unplugged”, which should have given me a clue, but I was not prepared for the noise assault that followed. Leech Woman are terrifying. They make Sepultura look like Belle and Sebastian. Three semi-naked crusties beat seven shades of shit out of bass and two drums while the singer screams his lungs out to breaking-point. They sound like a riot in an iron foundry and they are utterly mesmerising. The audience’s gaze is fixed on the stage while the band work on building a tribal rhythm that turns the room into a kind of primal trance. I bid them farewell, ears bleeding, pondering a lucrative sponsorship deal for them with Nurofen.

Leech Woman will always be a hard act to follow. Unfortunately, Chaos Engine are not the ideal band to try. They are competent enough, but nothing special. They do present a good opportunity to go to the bar. Inertia follow, providing their usual blend of energetic, heavy rhythms and Reza Udhin’s gruff vocals. When American drummer Alexys, sporting a fetching pair of angel wings, starts to add her seductive vocals to the mix, the music moves into a new dimension.

After a bit of a wait, Covenant appear, shrouded in smoke. Blonde frontman Eskil Simonsson and pals look dapper in their suits, and start to leap around like rabbits on speed. As always with Covenant, we are treated to layers of beat-heavy noise with deep melodies buried inside and Eskil’s showman vocals on top. They run through a superb set, mostly from their “Europa” album: “Leviathan”; “I Am”; “The Wind of the North”; “Tension”, plus new single “Tour de Force” – and finish with “Speed”, although Eskil can’t resist singing “Hey boy, hey girl…here we go!” over the Chemical Brothers bits.

The reason for the long wait before and after Covenant becomes apparent when Das Ich fail to appear and the headlining band, C-Tec, takes the stage. Given the experience and quality of the band’s two frontmen, it should to be a good show, and it is. Both stay true to form: Jean-Luc De Meyer (Front 242, Cobalt 60) provides the main focal point with his deep, accented vocals and trademark cyborg shades, while Marc Heal (Cubanate, Ashtrayhead) takes the role of shouty, rabble-rousing Master of Ceremonies. “Foetal” and “Flowing” are delivered with smart-bomb precision, while “The Lost” is complemented by a beguiling lightshow. They finish with a blistering “Let Your Body Die” and encore, naturally, with “Epitaph”.

It’s a powerful end to a supremely enjoyable Halloween – one which was, I am pleased to say, considerably more “treat” than “trick”.