Wolves in the Throne Room/Rose Kemp @ Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 01.12.10

And so it was on this dark frost-laden night in Leeds that the dedicated few trudged out of their snowed-in homes and made the journey to an unlikely venue for a night of pure sacrilege.

Dec 1st, 2010 at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds / By Jack Sibley
Wolves in the Throne Room Yes, the Brudenell Social Club is rarely home to a gig of such unholy magnitude with these sorts of bands usually preferring the dungeon-esque setting of The Well, but it served it fabulously. With the stage decked out with evergreen branches laid out in front of a backdrop of creature silhouettes, there was a beautifully fitting forest theme thrown against the normality of the brick walls and white paint which set the scene for what was to come perfectly.

So our first act took the stage, though it was not a mortal woman but a dark Wiccan image that strutted forward complete with long black dress and thin black headband. Though Bearded was expecting a band to come on and provide some backing, it quickly became clear that this would have been peripheral to her needs. Being the daughter of Maddy Prior and Rick Kemp of Steeleye Span, she has picked up clear influences (though it seems slightly demeaning to reference them here since she is a fantastic musician in her own right and not one of these generation of ‘the children of the famous’ like Lily Allen and La Roux) and the spirit of folk clearly runs through her veins. Her music is beautifully trance-like, sending drones out of her Fender guitar whilst singing elaborate and beautiful modal melodies over the top with trills and turns and other ornamental devices that only the experienced singer can accomplish.

It’s certainly a unique sound and watching the crowd swaying back and forth, hypnotised by her ethereal yet deadly music was quite an experience. When it came time for Rose Kemp to leave the stage, she dropped her guitar and threw her plectrum behind her in a final act of strange defiance perhaps against some perceived possessing spirit.

Next up were the magnificent Wolves in the Throne Room and, whilst Bearded went through to the other room to fill our pewter tankards and have a ‘schoolboy crush’ inspired talk with Rose Kemp, the Wolves prepared their stage. Walking back in, we found them lighting gas lamps and candles and positioning them around the stage in a ritualistic fashion. Not long after, they started playing and commenced a set of highly developed black metal tracks with any blank space filled with the eerie sound of the wind in the trees.

One of the things we love about these guys is their ability to get everything they can out of a riff – playing it over different rhythms and with different harmonies and literally bleeding it dry but never treating it as a disposable object and this worked so well live. With riffs going for what seemed like an eternity, a similar trance-like state to the support act came across especially when they hit a half-time section. This is well evidenced in their latest album Black Cascade which feels almost symphonic in its development of themes. Overall, this set was as dark as the night outside and, exaggerated by the fact that the stage was shrouded in mist throughout, as mysterious as the forest spirits they attempted to evoke.

With Bearded leaving in a state of fear and near-paralysis, it’s hard to say we didn’t enjoy ourselves. Both acts performed to perfection and hopefully inspired the venue to stage more events with this level of beautiful heathenry.