Nine Black Alps at Camden Barfly
Screeching guitar, growling bass and a collective roar from the heaving crowd welcome Nine Black Alps to the Barfly’s intimate stage. It’s been eight years since the Manchester quartet stormed the music scene with their acclaimed debut album Everything Is, prompting a host of successful UK tours and high profile support slots for the likes of Biffy Clyro and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The shining promise of these early tunes has dimmed over the years, with critics and fans alike left disappointed by the band’s later albums. Tonight, however, Nine Black Alps seem keen to prove their worth and the evening commences with explosive ferocity.
Languorously swigging beer between songs and slouching with moping figures, Nine Black Alps cast an unassuming presence onstage, deceptively hiding their musical vehemence. Together they create a blistering wall of sound that shudders through the crowd with savage force, while the muddy hues of their Nirvana-esque grunge rock blend and merge into the darkest, most harrowing shades. Burn Faster opens the set with a discordant clamour rooted in the heavy rock of the early 90s. Its virile riffs and feverish guitar licks spiral down to the dirty depths of grunge, quivering with brazen energy. Unsatisfied and Just Friends burst into life, full of crashing cymbals, swooping guitar and shivering reverb.
Despite the dissonant din of their musical catalogue, Nine Black Alps still retain a melodious edge that lifts their songs into brighter territory. More often than not it is lead singer Sam Forrest’s northern inflections that ease the tracks with a mellow softness. Their new single Novokaine – yet to be released and the motivation behind this “mini-tour” – expertly tease the border between hard rock and pop melody. It creates an intriguing paradox between the rumbling bass, sliding chromatic guitar and sunshine pop harmonies of the chorus. In some instances this softening is taken too far; Vampire in the Sun for example pares down their savage rock sound to such a degree that the result is a dull indie-rock ballad, felt in the stillness of the crowd.
The evening ends with the tumultuous Shot Down and Cosmopolitan sending the crowd into a whirling mosh pit. Nine Black Alps still pack an immense punch and their live show buzzing with monstrous zeal is testament to this. If their live performances are anything to go by they will continue to be a cult stronghold for British music and a rousing model for alternative rock.
Photos: Erol Birsen
For further information and future events visit Nine Black Alps’ website here.
Watch the video for Novokaine here: