Morpheus Rising – The Duchess, 28/01/12

It’s the end of January and I’m on my fourth gig of the year already. If I can maintain this average, records could be broken. Tonight it’s a solo outing to the Duchess to see a homecoming gig from a favourite band.

“WE! ARE! LOST EFFECT!” barked Dave Wells from behind both his keyboard and an impressive amount of hair that, at times, turned him into a more than passable double of Cousin Itt from the Addams family. At first glance and first listen, Lost Effect appear to be heavily influenced by the Scandinavian Death Metal scene – Dave’s death growls bring to mind the heavier moments of Opeth, while the facial hair sported by Steve Wells (guitar) and Shaun Wainman (bass) give them a look of Norwegian fisherman (all that’s missing is a couple of cable-knit sweaters). But once you get past the near-brutal guitar and pounding drums (courtesy of Pete Rutherford), there is a whole lot more going on. Dave’s growling ends up being used sparingly while still being an integral part of the set, while his keyboard playing gives the songs a more symphonic, melodic and, in some places, progressive sound. Even better is the centre-piece of the band. Visually, vocalist Emily Burt could give a fair few of the current crop of femme leads a run for their money and, more importantly, vocally she plays the likes of Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish) or Amy Lee (Evanescence) at their own game. It’s a shame, then, that she looks so uncomfortable head-banging along with the rest of the front line – it might just be the lack of numbers watching them, but despite a stunning performance, she occasionally looked as though she wished she was anywhere else. Despite being in places a bit too extreme for my tastes, I found myself liking this set overall. I didn’t catch many of the song titles – Dave’s speaking voice is a heck of a lot quieter than his growling one – but I think that, among the set, we got Wolves, Archangel and something that might have been called Embrace The Silence, which ended the set with a superb assault on the ears. I’m not sure I would want to see Lost Effect as a headline act (yet, perhaps) but I certainly wouldn’t shy away from seeing than as a support act.

Bastrad were described by Simon Wright (and if you don’t know who he is, read on…) as possibly being the new Judas Priest. That didn’t help me much as, I have to admit, I don’t really remember the old Judas Priest. Looking about as far removed from a rock band as it is possible to – vocalist Tristan Fayers was sporting a pencil-tie… – they are another twin guitar band but one with a slightly lighter guitar sound than Morpheus Rising but with the same powerful and, during One Thousand Tears Of Pain, staccato drums. Fayers’ vocals seemed to struggle a bit during some of the quieter moments, during the more melodic Lost In Mind (again, I’m struggling to remember song titles) for example, but there was no denying his overall power. A much more lively band than tonight’s openers, their music at times came across as a little chaotic but always worked, especially during the fast and furious Drive, which was a great way to end a set.

It was at this point that I stopped taking notes. I’ve seen Morpheus Rising, tonight’s headliners, a fair few times now. Their debut album, Let The Sleeper Awake, was one of my top ten albums of 2011 and tonight saw them returning to York for the last gig of the tour promoting it. You only have to compare the backs of the two tour t-shirts they have produced to see how far this band have some since 2010. While that year’s tour saw them play ten dates spread out over more than a month (and including two in York and one at a forces festival), this year saw thirteen gigs in seventeen days, taking the band across the UK, with gigs in Wales and Scotland. I’m told that the tour was a great success and the band looked to be really enjoying themselves on stage tonight, with Pete and Daymo trading smiles during their guitar solos, Gibbo sending forth huge grins from behind the drum kit and even Andy cracking a rare smile or too when venturing forward from behind the speaker stack. Simon was in particularly manic mode, stalking across the stage between vocal sections, filming the audience and producing his distinctive laugh. Musically, they were as good as, if not better, than usual and now that we’ve had a chance to hear recorded versions of the songs, the live versions seem somehow more complete. You can’t beat live music but, in my opinion, it always helps you appreciate it when you have heard cleaner versions of the songs. There’s not much else I can say about Morpheus Rising – my regular reader will know that I think they are brilliant. Tonight’s set contained no surprises, concentrating on tracks from Let The Sleeper Awake and ending with the band’s anthem, Lord Of The North which now not only has a video but has also provided one of the two props used tonight – a huge Morpheus Rising flag which threatened to do some damage to the ceiling of the Duchess when Simon waved it during the encore. (The other was a horn which, apparently, had no special meaning but had been blown at least once during each gig of the tour. Drinks provided by the audience during the set don’t, in my opinion, count as props.) A superb live act, and now with a more than decent debut album under their belts, it seems that Morpheus Rising are hell-bent on getting better. 

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About Ian

Regular gig-goer in York, both to see local and touring bands. Huge music fan, with more CDs than my wife thinks any one person should own. I also collect American comics, read a lot of SF and fantasy and am a season-ticket holder at Leeds United.
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