Live Review : A Pale Horse Named Death + Transport League @ Rebellion, Manchester on March 23rd 2019

What better way to spend a Saturday night than with Brooklyn based Lords of Doom A Pale Horse Named Death?  When APHND first arrived on the scene in 2011 with their debut album “And Hell Will Follow Me”, they were touted as an absolute must listen for fans of Type O Negative.  Now 8 years on, they are riding the waves of adoration in the wake of the release of their third album “When The World Becomes Undone”, a deliciously gloomy journey laced with melancholy.

Being a bit of a goth on the inside, APHND have actually been on my wish list for a number of years, ever since I first heard ‘Die Alone, and I have been looking forward to this night for a long time. I arrive at Rebellion early enough to spend some time with front man Sal Abruscato before the gig and then have enough time before the support act to run back to the Salisbury for a pre gig pint. I suppose I could have gone somewhere closer. Whatever. The Salisbury is my pub of choice in Manchester.

Support tonight comes in the form of Swedish sludge/doom metallers Transport League. Initial listens lead me towards White Zombie and I’m not even remotely shocked to see frontman Tony Jelencovich sporting a brightly coloured White Zombie vest, and an awesome cowboy hat as well. Aside from being aesthetically striking, Transport League are a little faster than I expected and surprisingly groovy despite the thick sound that is utilised in the guitars in doom metal.

Stand out track of the set comes in the form of the latest release ‘Monster Human, which I anticipate will set the tone of the new record (due out August 2019). It’s a blinder of a song and it’s  got a seriously interesting video to go with it (mops, furry costumes, taxidermy… everything the modern metal head needs in a good video). Impossible to keep still whilst watching them, Transport League brought a party to the stage of Rebellion and infected me with some kind of dancing virus. I feel like I’ve discovered a massively underrated gem in this band, despite their lengthy career and impressive back catalogue (which I now can’t wait to get stuck into).

*Note to self – head banging and holding a pint is hard. And I’m a woman (supposedly), I’m supposed to be able to multi task.*

 Where Transport League had me dancing, headliners A Pale Horse Named Death have quite the opposite effect. I end up still and fixed on watching the stage, breathing in the fullness of the music, and observing in quiet awe.

As the band takes the stage, Sal announces “Get ready, this is going to be a long one!”  A lengthy set  opened by ‘To Die In Your Arms’ allows them to play all their best loved tracks from the first two albums, whilst also showcasing the new songs such as ‘Love The Ones You Hate’ and ‘Vultures’. 

I’ve always found their music incredibly beautiful with its gloomy overtones, and tonight’s set blends doom with grunge and some elements of classic hard rock.  Sal Abruscato delivers a strong vocal performance, and is genuinely thrilled and humbled by the crowds reactions to the songs. Add into the mix he’s wickedly funny as well, he keeps the audience singing along for the full 90 minutes.

The band frequently draws comparisons to Alice in Chains and Type O Negative for the use of melody throughout their music, and ‘When The World Becomes Undone’ is a shining example of this.

What I’ve witnessed tonight was a genuinely honest and raw performance, well-crafted and laced with despair. It was heavy in every sense of the word and yet the audience responded in a way that was euphoric.

Sad music can actually have a positive effect on the brain, and by the time we get to ‘Die Alone’, I’m practically buzzing with happiness. The song itself is quite possibly one of the most depressing things I have ever heard, with its slow tempo and painful minor chords, and it was that song which made me fall in love with APHNDs music.

Lords of Doom -  a well-earned title.

 And as cliché and overused as this expression is when talking about the band, they are an absolute must for Type O Negative fans. Shout out to Fraggle, my friend in the Type O t-shirt on the front row, who was planning to fanboy drummer Johnny Kelly after the gig. I wonder if he managed it…

As ever, I have to run for the train at the end of the night. What I actually want to do is stay in Rebellion with a few more pints, standing awkwardly on my own in the corner or chatting absolute nonsense to randoms in the smoking area.

Until next time Manchester…

Words by Sarah Cummings
Photography by Paul Nash of Rebel Rock Photography