Live Review: Wallowing – Manchester

Live Review: Wallowing - AATMA, Manchester
9th May 2024
Support: Pist
Words: Dan Barnes

Another Thursday night and another new venue in Manchester’s North Quarter. It’s all a bit intentionally artsy round here, so it’s a wonder why I haven’t found myself much in this location before. You go off the main drag, up a side street, into a narrow alley and through an inconspicuous looking doorway. Up to the first floor and through another, equally non-descript door, and there you are.

I went up too many flights and almost found myself in a life drawing class. Now, I’m not adverse to tasteful nudity as long as the money is right, but I had a job to do so, grabbing my pants and making my excuses, I headed back downstairs.

The hall of AATMA is small and dimly lit, and very much the sort of venue you need to see the most Underground of bands play. The aged walls and solid ceiling supports look like they have a story to tell all of their own, so when local outfit, Pist, step up, plug in and crank out their hybrid of ripping metal with sludgy riffs, it’s as if the room was waiting for them all this time.

I’ve been watching Pist for many years now and they only seem to get better and better. There’s a wee microphone issue, but nothing an intervention from the teckie front of house bod can’t easily fix. Otherwise, it’s business as usual for the band, as they blast through their set of excoriating ferocity. Combining aggressive heavy metal with some blacker elements and mixing them in a bowl of Sludgecore, lends the Bury lads something of an indefinable sound.

They appear to have brought their very own fan club along, and there’s a nervy moment when they play a delicate intro and you can’t but worry they might have gone a bit neesh and be reaching for mainstream success with a power ballad. But – phew – it gets dirty and groovy quick, so that’s a bullet dodged. The set ends with Death to All from last year’s excellent The Bleak Unrest album and I’m reminded that not all great music needs costly productions to sell it to a crowd; sheer force of will and a passion for what you’re doing works just as well.

Wallowing‘s set up is a strange one: the front of the stage is dominated by a mixing desk, while the more traditional musical elements stand back in the shadows. The five-piece take the stage in hats and masks, making them appear to have just come from a bee-keeping convention. The stage is washed with green light and, periodically, a fog machine pumps out plumes of smoke, masking the performers even more.

Existing in liminal spaces between the genres of extreme music, the Brighton outfit effortless merge electronic noise with black metal, doom, death and sludge to create an unholy symphony. Duo vocalists, Zak Duffield and Mark Roberts stand behind their mixing desk, manipulating frequency and volume like a metal version of Daft Punk.

Blackened doom and drones fill to room and the profusion of fog further obscures the performers; ear-splitting, otherworldly walls of noise crash forth yet, from somewhere, there comes the fragment of musicality, among the onslaught can be found a classic rock progression and a shredding solo. One of the vocalist – Zak, I think – even ventures into the front of the crowd, leaving the dissonant cacophony behind him.

Such is the intensity of Wallowing’s performance that when it ends after around forty-five minutes it does so leaving all emotionally exhausted. There’re are few bands with this aesthetic, band who dig deep into the depths of their creativity and find the darkness there. Fewer still, those artist who would grasp what they find and drag it, kicking and screaming, into the light. Lovecraft did it; Wallowing seem to be following in his footsteps.

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