Bristol’s maddest bunch of neo-hippies tear Birmingham to shreds

There’s a quote on the Empress AD Facebook page which claims that they sound like four guys playing a Mastodon song while riding on a whale. Rather more helpfully the band later describe themselves as being “heavy prog from London.” Frankly either shout does us just fine. And, funnily enough we can see what that first writer means (ok maybe not the Whale part) as there is a large dash of Mastodon about them. Initially they suffer a muddy sound mix, but that’s sorted in time for the intricacies of their sound to come through well. The likes of “Invisible Conductor” are huge, pulsing heavy slabs of something that is not quite metal, isn’t prog but sits somewhere in some experimental hinterland in between. “On My Return” adds more melody and vocal layers to the pot before an enormous breakdown and Empress AD are very impressive in their short set.

It would be nice to think that the huge crowds snaking back down the road when MVM arrived about 7-15 tonight were for the same gig as us. They aren’t, they are here for retro singer Imelda May who is playing the big room here tonight.

Which is why we find ourselves in the Temple venue upstairs with about 200 others who have braved both the temperature up here and a draft that is more akin to a gale to watch Bristol’s Turbowolf. The band have toured for so long – and so often – that it’s easy to forget they only have one full length record out, and that came out over three years ago. There is a brand new LP to be released in the spring and the band are now signed to the rather large Spinefarm stable, so perhaps their rather eccentric sound is finally set for that unquantifiable “next level.”

If awards were given out for originality then the quartet would be sunning themselves on a beach somewhere already having made enough money to retire, but the world ain’t like that, although they have recently supported band-of-the-moment Royal Blood so that’s not a bad thing for the CV.

So how the hell do you describe their music? Psychedelic. Stoner. Blues. With a shitload of synth. Let’s just call the band unique, that ought to do it. Or you can look at the assembled throng. There are Maiden and QOTSA shirts yes, but there’s plenty here who we would hazard a guess would know more about modern indie than classic metal. Taking tonight’s crowd as a straw poll then they have a broad appeal.

There is no more time to ruminate on this as the band demand attention. Birdsong greets them before singer Chris Geordiadis appears. Happily he still looks like a cross between Derek Smalls and Frank Zappa and his band still tear through songs at breakneck speed as if lives depend on doing so.

The beauty of Turbowolf in a live environment is that they are genuinely heavy – far more so than on record. And the clutch of new songs they play bode well. “Rabbit’s Foot” slams as if to prove the point that they are back, as well as having a touch more crunch than previous work, with the others sticking to the anything goes template.

The band are in possession of a number of superb songs like “Solid Gold,” which affords them the chance for a jam here, as well as featuring cowbells, and “Rose For The Crows” which has a chorus to cherish, the singer merrily knocks this one out while crowd surfing here.

As befits his appearance Geordiadis is not a conventional frontman – at one point he tells us the song they are going to play is “boring,” at another he leads a singalong of Bobby Vinton’s “Roses Are Red My Love” – but he is engaging and extremely good, an epithet that could apply to the rest of the band too.

Right towards the end of a set that didn’t dip throughout it’s near hour, the frontman says: “this next song is very good and everyone’s gonna like it” with that Turbowolf race through “Read + Write” and he’s not wrong, an absolute killer of a track, it remains the bands peak so far.

In typical style they follow this up with a cover, which sounds to us rather like Nik Kershaw’s “Wouldn’t It Be Good” but turns out to be MGMT’s “Electric Feel” before a suitably apocalyptic “Let’s Die” brings the curtain down.

Turbowolf then: Barmy. Quite possibly mad. Perhaps geniuses. But always brilliant, and when all is said and done isn’t that all that matters?