The Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh is a pretty good sized club venue but can be slightly awkward for gigs as they have club nights on seven nights a week and so the bands have to play to a strict curfew. This meant that when Dutch proggers with the venue appropriate name, A Liquid Landscape, started their support slot before 7.00pm and there weren't that many people in there to see it.
That was a shame as A Liquid Landscape turned out to have a lot to offer any discerning fan of progressive music. Touring in support of their second album, 'The Largest Fire Known To Man', they put on an understated, almost dream-like performance of ethereal yet powerful music.
Billing themselves as alternative prog they use no keyboards or samples and create their complex, atmospheric vibe with just two guitars, bass, drums and vocals. Kudos must go to guitarists Niels van Dam and Fons Herder for creating such a big lush musical landscape.
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Fons Herder's almost falsetto style of singing fitted their style and their songs had a way of starting out mellow and building slowly into powerful, insistent things demanding the room's attention. The small but growing crowd appreciated their set more and more as they went on and despite a between songs presence which was so quiet it was almost non-existent they ended their set to a warm ovation from the audience.
Crippled Black Pheonix are a bit of a mystery of a band. They started out as an idea from the minds of members of the Iron Monkeys and Mogwai and have such a mixture of influences and styles they are hard to categorise. Maybe they fit best under a prog heading but tonight they use three guitarists, two keyboard players and five of the band sing creating a huge, meaty, heavy kind of sound unlike any prog band I could name.
They even add an extra female singer on some songs. Their tunes can be atmospheric and almost introspective like the beautiful and mesmerising ten minutes of 'We Forgotten Who We Are' or big and ballsy like the thundering rhythms and vocal harmonies of new song 'Let's Have An Apocalypse Now'.
The crowd was far from the biggest they have ever played in front of but were enjoying the groove and intensity until a slightly awkward pause ensued due to an amp failing. Once things were fixed they launched straight into their unexpected cover of Journey's 'Of A Lifetime'. A bit of a what the hell moment for those who don't know the band well they play it pretty straight keeping the beautiful guitar hookline intact and letting piano player Daisy Chapman do her best Steve Perry vibe although the big moments of the song are beefed up compared to the original.
Complaining about having to keep to a curfew the band hit the audience with song after song and it seemed like no time at all before it was time for their traditional set closer 'Burnt Reynolds'. Starting off with an other worldly Pink Floyd like vibe it drifts along with some superb guitar playing working around the catchy hookline, the choruses rising and falling away until it's time for the crowd to sing that hookline along with the band and then over the big finish to the song. Given the small size of the crowd this worked very well and it was nice to see members of A Liquid Landscape in the crowd joining in.
I thought an encore would be demanded but I wasn't expecting the crowd to start up the chant from 'Burnt Offering' again until the band returned to the stage and joined in with it! The first part of the encore turned out to be a repeat of the end of the last song. After that the band attempted to lighten the mood after all the dark edged songs that came before with some more uptempo stuff including 'Bella Ciao' but for me this just wasn't as strong as the material and the vibe that had gone before.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Crippled Black Pheonix live but founder member and guitarist/vocalist Justin Greaves should be proud. His creation took on a small crowd, an early show and some technical issues and came up trumps. They describe themselves as confusion with a whiff of the macabre which is pretty accurate but you can add in that they play big, loud but beautifully crafted music which was a joy to experience. Good value too as they cut the set short due to the venue curfew and still played for over two hours.
Justin Greaves – electric guitar, drums, saw, keyboard,acoustic guitar, banjo, effects, samples
Daniel Änghede - Vocals, electric guitar
Karl Demata – electric guitar, dobro, slide guitar
Christian Heilmann – bass guitar
Mark Furnevall – synthesizer, keyboards, backing vocals
Ben Wilsker – drums
Daisy Chapman - Piano, Vocals