Live Review : The Obsessed + Bong Cauldron + PIST + Alunah @ Rebellion, Manchester on July 19th 2019

It's been a rough week for Rebellion and there is still an air of dazed and confused about the place. However, there is also a very British aesthetic of keep calm and carry on. In a remarkably short time, Rebellion has become a second home for many of us and tonight the scene has rallied around to ensure that it is business as usual. 

Alunah are first up and come across more classic rock than I expected. This is subtle, fragile and highly atmospheric doom. The tombstone riffs are there but they are used sparingly. Sian Greenaway's vocals are mesmerising and float ethereally over the subdued but still pulsating slabs of doom. There is a real warmth and depth to what they are doing. It's not in your face. It is reserved and almost minimalistic in place but the less is more approach means that Dean Ashton's guitar has plenty of room to breathe. Colour me highly impressed.

Pist are a veritable Mancunian institution. Guitarist John Nicholson is a permanent fixture at Metal shows across the city. In fact, I don’t feel a night is complete unless he has stumbled past me, pint in hand on his way to the front of the stage. They have become part of the very (grubby) fabric that makes up Manchester’s heavy Metal family and it is only fitting that in Rebellion’s hour of need they are here to lift the mood. They play sludgy, distorted doom with a big dollop of irony. They are not a comedy act, but they steadfastly refuse to take themselves or the music they play seriously. This is all about producing tunes that are fun, flirtatious and just a little bit dangerous. As always, they land just on the right side of chaotic and produce a hugely enjoyable half hour of primal distorted riffs with added self-deprecation. By the end of it all, hang-overs from the previous week are gone and there is just a deliciously mischievous grin on all our faces as you just can’t help being seduced by a bunch of lads that are enjoying themselves on stage as much as Pist are. Wonderful.

There is a collective moment of shock for us all as Brummie sludge lords Bong Cauldron announce that this is their last but one show. They go on to produce a loose and remarkably relaxed set that further strengthens my theory that bands on the verge of calling it a day perform better as there is nothing left to do than kick back and enjoy playing. They play with real conviction and passion, like weights have been lifted from their collective shoulders. There are points in tonight’s set where it feels like we have stumbled upon a private jam session as Jay, Biscuit and Ben trade licks with each other and tempos bounce back and forth. Yes, this is heavy and pounding but it also has a real playful feel to it. Bong Cauldron are just joyous to experience and have leapt straight to the top of my Bloodstock must see list.

There is a serious dose of fanboy going on here and plenty of conversations in the bogs between grown men gleefully exchanging tales of bumming into Wino around the venue. The Obsessed are very much a band of the people and there is no fanfare or grand introduction here , they just merge straight from set up into 'Streamlined’. Straight away, it is evident that Reid Raley is AWOL (which explains the cancellation of the first part of the tour). No excuse is given, aside from a snarky remark about being let down. However, let’s not kid ourselves, seeing The Obsessed is about one man and one man only, Scott "Wino" Weinrich. They might be classed as Doom but this is the Blues and Wino plays it beautifully. It is an utter joy to watch him extract beautiful rich soulful riff after rich soulful riff from his guitar. This is earthy and impassioned music, full of emotion and you cannot avoid getting swept up in it. It has a raw guttural quality but it is also full heart and tenderness.

We get a good dollop of tracks from the classic “The Church Within” album, a record that showed that heavy music could have pathos and sentimentality. ‘Blind Lightning' and 'Streetside' may be over twenty five years old but they come across as fresh and innovative. Wino doesn’t even bother leaving the stage at the end of 'Sodden Jackal’. He just shuffles to the back of the stage, takes the heartfelt applause and then heads back into battle with a one two of 'Lost Sun Dance' and 'River of Soul’. I know, I come across as some sort of hero worshipping obsessive (pun not intend) but Wino is remarkable tonight. He comes across as humble, thankful and down to earth. And boy, can he play guitar!

Words by Stewart Lucas
Photography by Paul Nash of Rebel Rock Photography