Abduction, Ofnus, S.W.H.
Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff
Live Review by Simon Black
Fuel in Cardiff, for those who have never had the opportunity to visit, is what can be described positively as quite a ‘cosy’ venue. Located on a side street surrounded by other similar sized venues, it’s the studded and inked jewel in the Womanby Street musical enclave. For a city this size it’s a shame that we don’t have anything bigger for the Metal community though, but the positive side is that we locals pretty much live in the place and the snug live room doesn’t need to have too many people in it to create a great vibe and atmosphere, especially when the bands are cracking. And tonight, there are a lot of familiar faces in the building and lots of love for what’s happening on that tiny stage.
S.W.H. is a multi-genre one-man instrumental project otherwise known as Sam Heffernan, one of two acts on the bill that came into being after local Black Metal heroes Agrona fizzled out before their time earlier this year. As another member of that erstwhile act joked with me while we were watching him, Sam was without doubt the best guitarist in Agrona – even though he was in fact their drummer. That’s rather the point, as Heffernan’s skill as a musician is enough to make most give up the axe in disgust, since he’s clearly one of those incredibly talented people who could pick up a pair of traffic cones and find a way to make incredible the most incredible music flow out of them.
S.W.H.’s thirty-minute stint runs the gamut of styles from the Black Metal tropes you might have been expecting, to some blistering Progressive shredding, some solid head-banging melodic riffing with the odd bit of Synthwave thrown in for good measure. Heffernan is clearly in love with many different flavours of our beloved musical canon and throws nods to so many directions, all the time delivering a distinctive signature to his fretwork which looks effortless but is little short of incredible.
If I have a criticism, it’s only that the drum machine sound in the click track sounded a bit 80’s and that with some samples from the meaty drum kit gathering dust in their place, this would have sounded much richer, but that’s really a minor niggle when you are standing there with your chin on the floor at the man’s virtuosity. These kinds of one-man projects can go very badly wrong and although some of the early attendance tonight may have been based on past local loyalties, he wins a sizable thumbs up from me on the grounds that this performance stands on its own two feet very nicely and loyalty is renewed.
And so it begins…
Ofnus has been bubbling around as a side project for a year or so, drawing its alumni from local established acts Agrona, Black Pyre, Blind Divide and Democratus. As is often the case when experienced players who know how the business works come together, things gel very quickly, hence even though this is only their second live show, they are playing it to a full room of people who are fully aware of the project and are impatient to see them. With an album pending from Naturmacht later in the year, this is the first time most have had a chance to hear what this Atmospheric Black Metal outfit have been cooking up all year, and with six of the seven tracks on that inbound opus getting an airing tonight I suspect that the pre-orders will be racking up nicely soon enough.
What they do next, they do on the basis of sheer quality.
Generating a PR buzz is one thing, but to move on from that you need to stand and deliver, and Ofnus manage this with aplomb… just very, very sadly. This is moody, powerful and gut-wrenching stuff, and within minutes this five-piece have Cardiff in the palm of their hands. Having got a prime spot at the front for the first half of the set, I make the schoolboy error of visiting the facilities midway through their set, after which I have absolutely no hope of getting more than halfway back into the room, such is the reception the band are getting.
The songs don’t rush, taking their time to build mood and sweep you with them, and in no time at all I’m sad but I’m smiling from ear to ear. This is helped along by a quite frankly exceptional sound mix for a support act in a venue this size, so much so that long after their set has finished my testicles and kidneys are still going at 160 beats per minute (although the left nut still quivers in 9/8 time just at the memory). The only thing wrong here is the act that we only get forty-five minutes, which goes by way too fast. They will be back, but a stage this size I doubt will contain them…
The future’s sad; the future’s Ofnus..
Headliner’s Abduction have their work cut out for them tonight. With an audience here to see what came before, they have the hard task of keeping people in the room who all want to go and say hello to Ofnus, but with their support acts making a point of walking back into the hall for their set the remainder follow suit once they’ve, err, refuelled…
Once they’re back in the room, they stay, because this is an electrifying performance from what might be the most terrifying thing to come out of Derby (with the possible exception of their football stadium). With most of the band hiding half their faces with bandanas in case you recognise them from other acts, all eyes remain on the quite frankly terrifyingly electric performance from frontman and multi-instrumentalist A/V.
He’s the backbone of the band – originally starting as a one-man outfit, so he really knows how to command your attention and gets right under your skin from the opening moments. If you’ve never seen his stage gear, this is quite frankly chilling. It has to be seen to be believed, but sadly my normal gig partner ‘Snapper’ Hutchings is booked elsewhere tonight, so mere words will have to suffice.
His hooded presence, with its burned and blackened three-quarter mask is exactly how I imagine the eyeless Myrddraal from the Wheel of Time novels to appear, twisting and contorting his body and wringing out every drop of Blackened emotion. Given how tiny the stage is, this is no mean feat, and you really only have eyes for his creepy performance, yet the Progressively complex Black Metal undertones of the music really support the roller-coaster feel of the show. There’s an almost Psychadelic feel to the sound too, which really helps encourage the ritualist feel of the show and proves that you don’t always need a shit tonne of pyro and gadgets to command an audience effectively. His voice is as chilling as his look and would probably have held the attention without the stage gear, but the unnerving performance has the audience hooked, and once again things are over far too quickly.
Cardiff has always had a lot of love for the Black and Extreme Metal scenes, and Fuel really is deserving of its reputation for encouraging shows like this rather than prioritising more commercial genres. Long may it continue, because this was a truly memorable night.
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.