Hey Colossus – The Ferret, Preston 20/10/23

The Ferret has the look of a place that’s always been there (and I hope always will). Even the punters looked like they were from the eighties, when I first started frequenting sticky floored back room dives on cold wet Wednesdays to see bands like The Fall, while men in donkey jackets and steel toe capped boots rubbed shoulders with unkempt grebs, smoking rollies and drinking copious amounts of gaseous beer. It’s nice to see nothing much has changed.

I really should have been aware of Hey Colossus, with their brand of heavy noise rock and their DIY ethics. I mean, they’ve been going for 20 years and are touring to celebrate that, but I’m afraid they just somehow slipped under my radar. I love a band who plough their own furrow and fiercely defend their independence, from Cardiacs to Fugazi there’s something to be greatly admired about those who refuse to compromise and battle tooth and nail to do it their way. This is where the seeds of the future are grown.

Tonight Hey Colossus give us a master class. This is a tight, professional unit, each person playing a unique role in presenting a cohesive whole, disciplined, heavy and assured, and ripping the Ferret a new one. There are many terms to describe the kind of music they do but descriptions like Stoner, Doom, Sludge, Drone etc really fall short of the mark. What they have is an almost psychic link which comes partly from sharing similar tastes/outlook and vision, and partly from just playing and playing, and, once the band kicked into gear midway through the set, they were simply able to ride, trampling their way through the assembled crowd and generating so much white hot excitement it was palpable.

This is one of those bands that is more than the sum of its parts. While bludgeoning us with head shattering riffs like opener “Memory Gore” they are still able to paint delicate touches of light and shade while never letting their foot off the metal pedal, although “TV Alone” is pretty balls out! “Can’t Feel Around Us” and “Black and Gold” benefit from extended motorik workouts, with the band getting locked into a trance-like groove, shifting gears easily, and providing one of the main reasons why I would recommend seeing this band live, up close and visceral. As Iggy Pop might say it’s a helluva ride.

There are some obvious references here. This is a band that grew up with the Black Sabbath blueprint, and I could see that Robert Davis was at times channeling the spirit of Malcolm Young, staring intently at the rest of the band, keeping them in check with psychic will. There’s the bloody mindedness of The Fall and the spirit of grunge rockers Sonic Youth and Sebadoh, and in singer Paul Sykes, who appears to channel a cross between The Cramps and Guided By Voices, they have an engaging focal point who, at best, projects the Lovecraftian lyrics with a tightrope sense of drama and reality.

Casting around trying to find a word to describe this band I came across an interview with the band, and Sykes mentions the word alchemy. That’s it – alchemy, that spreads its weight around the members of the band, even stretching to the artwork and lyrics until, before even the band are aware, they have created an inferno from a little spark, and it’s a privilege just to witness it.

Setlist: Memory Gore/I Could Almost Care/Perle/Donkey Jaw/Dreamer is Lying In State/TV Alone/Can’t Feel Around Us/Black And Gold/Oktave Dokter/A Trembling Rose

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Review by Andrew Wood

Pictures by Ali Blair and Andrew Wood

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