Live Review: Attrition, The Arches, Coventry

On the first of what promises to be a series of nights dedicated to goth and industrial music at The Arches music venue things get off to the brightest (or should that be darkest?) starts with two of the scene’s most rated bands. Having travelled all the way from London, AlterRed aren’t here to take prisoners and immediately grab the crowd’s attention with opening gambit ‘Unpopulism’. Dark electronica as peddled by Nine Inch Nails mixed with synth-pop makes for an intriguing proposition, and AlterRed prove themselves master alchemists to deliver a sound that simultaneously attacks the heart and head. Against a backdrop of glacial synths and metronomic drumming their vocalist moves like a mime artist and brings a touch of Weimar cabaret to proceedings. Drawing deep from their discography, they deliver a solid set that culminates in the sinister ‘Fleshbind’ and ensures they won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

In a city that’s chiefly known as the birthplace of 2-Tone, Attrition have always made strange bedfellows. Although they were born at the same time as The Specials, the band took a darker route and have been casting their black magic over the globe for almost 45 years. Reconfigured with the core of their classic 1981 line-up and with a new album (The Black Maria) just released there’s a vim and vigour and an urgency surrounding the band and that becomes patiently obvious with first track ‘The Voice Of Truth’. Martin Bowes appears with a fistful of joss sticks (the smell of incense is one I’ll always associate with Attrition) and unleashes some unearthly growls, while his co-vocalist Julia Niblock, like a medium at a séance, seems to channel the soul of a departed spirit for an unearthly, ghostly wail that floats across the venue, and the two singers counterpoint nicely. Behind them a pair of mad scientists pull disconcerting sounds from laptops to give the evening an eerie feel. While Attrition often get lumped in with the whole dark wave movement, tonight Martin’s crawling around the stage on all fours gives the set a more art-punk vibe; think Suicide on speed or Kraftwerk on cocaine (take your pick). Attesting to the band’s relevance, the set list is culled from the latter half of their career, but with ‘Narcissist’ biting hard and recent single ‘The Great Derailer’ racing along that’s no real hardship. If a crowd’s affirmation is a sign of success, then tonight’s gig is a triumph.

Review and Photos by Peter Dennis