A small but enthusiastic crowd has descended on this small venue tucked away in the upstairs room of the popular Wagon and Horses in Digbeth, Birmingham, to witness something rather unique. There isn’t anyone quite like Italy’s OvO and there won’t be an evening like this in Birmingham very often at all so there was no way I was going to miss out.
On this occasion we are treated to two support acts, the first of which is Colossloth who hail from nearby Leicester. Colossloth are not a new name to these ears as I dug out a CD of theirs I purchased a whole 8 years ago, so I was eager to hear how they sound in 2014. A one man show, Colossloth tonight is a conductor of the apocalypse, wielding noise makers and delivering loops through a pedal bank of doom. We are witness to electronic drones, groans, pulses and swells that give way to subtler moments which only serve to make the reprise of the cacophony more effective.
Second up are hometown act Khost, a project led by Andy Swan of Iroha and ex-Final fame. Khost unleash a muscular auditory assault, this time with a wall of guitar noise as a weapon, only augmented by the funereal drum machine-esque rhythms. Between the slabs of heaviness, Khost show a more fragile facet with some sweet dark ambience, slightly hindered by a few technical glitches. Occasional vocal an spoken word also adds interest. The overall effect brings to mind early Godflesh and Skin Chamber though to these new ears the set was perhaps a tad long. Look out for a debut album on the mighty Cold Spring Records.
Italy’s OvO take to the stage, which remains in near darkness as it has been the whole evening. Percussionist Bruno infamously towers over his kit which comprises a modest floor tom, snare, ride and electronic drum pad while the more diminutive vocalist Stephania more than occupies her half of the stage from within her hooded gown offering glimpses of ghoulish face paint and surrounded by an extensive pedal bank. And so the sonic assault commences with Stephania both caressing and torturing her guitar into generating an impressive range of abrasive sounds. Bruno’s rhythms are tribal, almost ritualistic, and given the smaller than average kit, the larger than life chap delivers effective energy to oVo’s sound. The electronic kits sound quite at home next to the more traditional sounds from the well beaten floor tom and snare.
The thing that can’t fail to strike you about OvO is the variety of rhythms, dynamics and sounds the duo can span in just a few songs. While their songs do carry a common tribal thread, my interest never wanes in a set that healthily plunders their recent album ‘Abisso’. Stephania plucks, scratches and slides a barrage of sonics from her guitar which is used more of a sound source than a traditional instrument while the vocals that surge forth from her slim throat convey fragility, rage and everything between. This is never more evident than during the set highlight, the mantra that is ‘Marie’ with its vocal motif starting as a croon and ending as a fractured whisper but reaching demonic intensity at several points along the way, only pounded home by Bruno’s percussive work outs. Simply breath taking.
I have to mention the fact that we got to speak to the duo both pre and post gig. Their friendliness and easy charm provided a stark contrast to the imposing intensity of the stage presence and this just capped off an evening that will be fondly remembered. Credit to Radio Black Forest for bringing such an event to us.