Review and photography by John Bentley

Uncle Acid and the deadbeats, Manchester Gorilla, 19-11-15

Some of the mystery surrounding cult psychedelic-doom-rockers Uncle Acid and the deadbeats is beginning to lift, as publicity photographs of the band finally emerge. But after tonight’s Manchester Gorilla gig, where the band members are shrouded in hair, smoke and shadow, you still wouldn’t recognise them in the street. But the heavy vibes stay memorable and many ear drums will be ringing well through the night.

Spiders, Manchester Gorilla, 19-11-15

Kicking-off this evening of heavy rock is Gothenburg quartet Spiders. Spiders are a hard-working band who have received much acclaim in their native Sweden and have supported some big names in rock, including Metallica. They certainly let things rip tonight, with their own brand of fast, driving rock, which nods towards bands as diverse as MC5 and T-Rex. Clad in leather trousers and gyrating around the stage, lead singer Ann-Sophie Hoyles certainly looks and sounds the part. The audience certainly appreciate the band’s effort.

Uncle Acid and the deadbeats, Manchester Gorilla, 19-11-15

While Spiders enjoy bright lighting and coloured lasers, the stage is dimmed for the entrance of the four members of Uncle Acid and the deadbeats. For their set they appear silhouetted through a smokey haze, with the occasional lightning-bolt laser beam striking out into the band or the audience. In the case of the two guitarists, faces are seldom visible under the hair and heads-down guitar assault.

‘Uncle Acid’ himself is founder-member Kevin (K.R.) Starrs, who stands centre stage, plays guitar and sings like a concoction of John Lennon and Ozzy Osbourne. The band have become a cult favourite and got a real leg-up from playing support to Black Sabbath a couple of years ago. Sabbath are a major influence on Uncle Acid’s heavy, downbeat riff- laden music, but their sound also draws on 60s psychedelia. It’s not the light trippy, whimsical psychedelia of many of the psyche revivalist bands, but it’s at the dark end, verging towards the occult, with Charles Manson as a dark reference. Indeed the band’s third album, ‘Mind Control’, features a theme of a cult leader who brain-washes his followers.

The set draws from all four albums, including the latest, 2015’s ‘The Night Creeper’.  The drum kit is emblazoned with the album’s artwork, a shadowy policemen, hinting at dark, sleazy and dangerous Jack the Ripper infested metropolitan streets or the set of a Hammer horror movie. There’s also a small figurine attached to the top of the bass drum, which at first looks like Jesus, but I’m guessing is Manson.

Uncle Acid and the deadbeats, Manchester Gorilla, 19-11-15

Gorilla is packed almost to capacity and judging by the very high percentage of Uncle Acid tee-shirts being worn, the band have a dedicated following around Manchester. It’s an evening of tortured vocals and relentless, slow-paced grinding and sludgy riffs, with occasional more shrill guitar solos, as Starrs spars, heads down, with second guitarist Yotam Rubinger. One of the very best riffs is saved till last, with the final song, ‘Withered Hand of Evil’. On the album track there is an eerie sounding mellotron, but live they compensate for its absence by putting the guitar riffs into overdrive.

The triumphal performance goes down a storm at Gorilla and will no doubt help spread the word about the band. After serving up four albums of this dark and heavy stuff, at some point Uncle Acid and the deadbeats will have to break into new ground and, in interviews, Starrs has hinted at producing a lighter, maybe more acoustic, album in the future.

Uncle Acid and the deadbeats, Manchester Gorilla, 19-11-15

Setlist; Waiting for Blood; Mind Crawler; Murder Nights; Death’s Door; Poison Apple; 13 Candles; Pusher Man; I’ll Cut You Down; Crystal Spiders; Inside; Vampire Circus. Encore: Melody Lane; Desert Ceremony; Withered Hand of Evil.

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