zondag 8 december 2019

The Bullfight and The Sweet Release of Death live. Patronaat Café Haarlem, Friday 6 December 2019

Photo: Wo.
Can a contrast between two bands be bigger than between the two performing in the café of the Patronaat on this evening? Of course it can, but there is no bridge wide enough to cover this distance. There should have been one, The Fire Harvest. Unfortunately the band had to cancel. In March when I had a ticket to a show of the band, I had to cancel due to being indisposed. Perhaps it is just not meant to be and I will have to enjoy the band solely on record. Let's go back to what I did see/hear.

The Bullfight
When I entered the café the band was working to get the sound on stage right. In the venue itself it already sounded crystal clear. This is an element totally unknown to people not playing in a band. If the balance on stage is wrong it has negative effects on the performance. No matter how often you practice, it is impossible to play an outstanding show if you can't hear yourself in perfect balance to the others. Not to speak of singing harmonies.

The Bullfight is touring on the back of its excellent new album or better the Gesamtkunst called 'Eggs & Marrowbone' is. This night the music stood central but the art book was present at the stand. Musically the band is able to create an extremely intense mood that accompanies the intense lyrics about murder in various ways, the theme of the new album and some older songs as well. Playing against a red, ceiling high draping, I was expecting to see a dancing midget coming out of the draping and agent Cooper sitting dazed and confused in a chair. The music at times would have been totally fitting that famous 'the red room' scene.

Photo: Wo.
With the music perfectly balanced it was possible to hear every note and every word. The interacting between the two singers, the lead notes on violin or piano, the mostly soft played, brushed drums, the upright bass and the guitar. Together they changed the mood from mysterious to lyrical or soft and delicate to a harsh explosion, all underscoring the things going on in the lyrics. During the song about the killing village priest singing doo-da-da after his abuse and then killing, the band members couldn't hold their laughter during the doo-da-da section which is so estranging to what went before. How the priest met his fate is quite surprising, although I could have imagined a final verse with the devil singing doo-da-da and an into hell descending priest.

The music is influenced by all sorts of music long presaging the era of modern pop music. Played this way it becomes the perfect kind of pop able to sway people and move them in unpredictable and uncertain ways. To sum up, this was a perfect show. The Bullfight is a must see band.

Photo: Wo.
The Sweet Release of Death
Haarlem personality Mr. Weird Beard opened the show with a poem and the second performance with a fantastic collaboration as if band and MC were doing this for years. Mr. Weird Beard told a story about a friend who called him to say that his father was seriously ill, to slowly weave the personal story into the name and announcement of the band. The band behind him in the meantime from the outset started to produce sounds. The bass player repeating a single note in a time that lay ages apart, while in between producing more and more sounds that sang around more and more, slowly gaining more attention and loudness. The guitarist looped sounds he made on and through his guitar. Towards the climax of the story sounds started to escape, as if out of control. No longer containable within the loops that were going round and round with new sounds added. When the MC reached the name of the band all sounds stopped and bass player Alicia started strumming her bass in a one chord position in a tempo that was relentless for player and audience. The drummer kicked in and there was no returning from that moment onwards.

It was not difficult to imagine a torture chamber in Iraq with this music on louder than loud for hours on end with people in their prison cells slowly but surely going completely crazy. I imagined a tiger in a cage, slowly but surely trying to find the way out, contemplating revenge on each and every one in front of its way to the exit. This is how some sounds The Sweet Release of Death produced seemed to behave. They were constrained within a song structure they did not want to belong to. While the drummer pounded away keeping it all together, the bass being supertight or producing feedbacking sounds, it is the guitar that plays through God knows what effects all set to the extreme to produce sounds that can only be derived at after countless hours of testing, playing with knobs, joining in another stomp box and see what happens. All subtlety disappears even when a few single notes seem to be played in a tempest of sounds flying and flowing through the room. Sounds created now or somewhere before, repeated over and over in the loop.

Photo: Wo.
I haven't got a clue which songs the band played. I was part of a sonic onslaught that was simply impressive.

The beautifully contrasting title of the album, 'The Blissful Joy Of Living', is underscored by the artwork of the album. The LP is totally white, reminding me of the photo's of the funeral of either prince Hendrik or queen Emma in 1934. The cover of the album isn't smooth but a little rough, the writing in grey pencil. Having bought the LP before the show, I noticed the stark contrasts while unpacking. The only written communication on the LP itself is on the label on the side containing no music, 'Joy' it reads, in grey pencil. A lot of thought went into the artwork that at first looks almost primitive. It is in the fine details The Sweet Release of Death shows the joy being alive can bring to humans. The band scored another point with me.

I can totally understand that a live show can be too much for many people, the record is another one of the fine albums produced in this country in 2019, no matter how hard in your face it is.


You can listen to and buy music of The Bullfight here:


and of The Sweet Release of Death here:


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:


1 opmerking:

  1. From the Facebook page of TSROD: "Our last show of the year was a very special one, and this bizarre review captures that feeling pretty well!".