A NEAR FIVE YEAR JOURNEY WITH CULANN – JUNE 2017 C.T HERRON

 12th of the 12th 2012, and the world was supposed to end. If it had, Culann would have been, not only my first journalist assignment, but my last too, and the last gig I would have ever attended. Not a bad gig to be your final one. If the 12th December in that foul year of our lord two thousand and twelve had went as the Mayans predicted, then I wouldn’t be writing a review of Culann right now…

 …No, most likely I’d be walking across a cracked and dilapidated, half-collapsed Kingston Bridge, littered with the shells of burned vehicles and rusty crashed buses. Lengthy braids dangling from my beard, my mohawk overgrown and unkempt, scars adorning my body, ragged clothes and a necklace of bones clinging to my undernourished but well-muscled frame.

I’d be gazing out longingly at Glasgow’s skyline, like a row of jagged teeth biting at the firmament. Smoke trailing across the oleaginous River Clyde, fire in the sapphire sky, and debris and rubble strewn on the roads. I’d be killing people over a tin of beans, armed to the teeth at all times, and living by just my wits and my blade. Fast food, electric showers and internet would be just a few of the things that would be distant memories by now. Gigs and music, extinct, the last iPod’s battery died long ago, and electricity is long gone.

However, the world didn’t end, and though I could go on for many pages describing a post-apocalyptic Glasgow of my wildest fantasies (which would result in another one of my abstract reviews, or maybe even a book), I’ll refrain, because I already did an abstract review for Culann the last time. The last time I went to see Culann (a year ago at the 13th Note) I had already reviewed them several times and decided to do something a little different. With Nick Tosches for inspiration I decided to not review the band at all (I only mention them in the last sentence). I decided instead to think about how the band make me feel, what kind of imagery they conjure up when I listen to them, you can check that review out here http://www.newhellfireclub.co.uk/news/2016/7/11/a-gonzoid-observation-of-ayrshires-finest-export-culann-13th-note

Instead of the world ending that night long ago, a new one began; the world of music journalism, with a gonzo flavouring, that would take me down a great many illustrious and joyful paths. Many meandering trails, all different, but all intermingling. One such path leads me to The Attic at The Garage, on a warm and sticky night last Saturday, to once again bear witness to the thunder of the local celtic gods – Culann.

I took along Gonzo Division’s resident chemist, mycologist and way-past-borderline insane genius Robert Goldie. I knew he’d like the support act Drunk Gods and I was interested to see what he would think of Culann (Goldie is as much, if not even more, of a music expert than I am, and he has extremely obscure tastes that are difficult to define so it would be interesting).

We chatted with frontman PJ briefly on the way in, about Culann playing some festivals and reaching a wider audience. “Seems strange, if you ask me, that one of Ayrshire’s biggest musical exports have not yet played Ayrshire’s finest music event, Kelburn Garden Party”. A smart move for the band would definitely be to get on the festival circuit and get their brilliant homegrown music heard on a wider scale. Indeed, by all rights they should be headlining some of the smaller ones by now.

PJ and co. have a cult following and a loyal fanbase, but it would be a smart move for them to be playing in front of more eclectic audiences. The beauty of festivals is you gain (over the summers) a legion of fans who otherwise would never have attended one of your gigs or been introduced to your music. Therefore, they will come out to your independent winter shows, where they otherwise probably wouldn’t have. I myself have discovered a great many bands, just by walking by a stage at a festival at the right place at the right time and serendipitously hearing them; Colonel Mustard, The Twistettes, and Ciaran Mac & O’B are just a few that spring instantly to mind.

Goldie and I get inside the small venue just in in time to catch the last few songs of very heavy metal from Ambivist. We arm ourselves with cider, and sidle down the front for Drunk Gods. When they came on stage we were both very impressed by the kind of sound the Gods were offering. Prog-punk, probably the most progressive punk I’ve ever heard in my life. Goldie shouted over to me, “They’re great, if they added a second vocalist, one who was going mental, they’d be even more awesome, but I really like them!” I could tell he was really impressed by their sound.

Goldie’s hard to impress but I was very enamoured with Drunk Gods. A post-punk, psychedelic, industrial vibe laden with attitude.  Heavy, dark and visceral with some tight drumming, throbbing bass and soaring guitar. There’s some pretty catchy hooks and melodies thrown in there too. The only thing that could improve it would be the introduction of some keyboard to add even more psychedelia to the proceedings. The band left the stage to rapturous applause and calls of ‘Mon’ the Gods!’. A great band which I’ll be following more closely from now on…

…And that brings us to the main course, the musical equivalent of that wonderful dish haggis. neeps and tatties, the pinnacle of Scottish culinary, they are one of the pinnacles of Scottish local music. Culann have been enticing us with talk of their forthcoming second album. I reviewed their debut way back in the beginning of 2014, you can find that here https://ctherrongonzodivision.wordpress.com/2017/02/19/culann-album-review/ So good timing for the lads to bring out their next opus.

They have already released a video for one of their new songs ‘Evonium’ which you can find here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jlfdc3jwqA . A cracking tune - classic Culann sound, and a brilliant professionally shot video featuring legendary Scottish actor Rab Affleck (Gangs of New York/Layer Cake). The video wouldn’t be out of place on MTV2. You can download the single for 79p here https://itun.es/gb/Fjr4jb

“Pleasantly surprised with Culann, thought they wouldn’t be to my liking but they strike a perfect balance between tuneful and surprisingly heavy. Good players, and a great live band!” ~ Robert Goldie.

There are so many things to like about Culann; the fantastic drumming, the wall-of-sound the combined guitars make, the penetrating vocals and harmonies, the original Scottish sound of them and the fact they boast one of my favourite keyboardists ever! But I think my favourite thing about Culann is the fact they can be so fucking heavy, surprisingly heavy. Sometimes you don’t notice because there’s so much stuff going on in their songs but if you tune your ear and focus you can hear they are as heavy as any Metallica or Iron Maiden riff at times. My other favourite thing about them is their progressiveness - their songs can take you on long spiralling, winding journeys, that escalate and escalate and climax beautifully.

I’ve seen the guys several times now, and yet they still know how to blow me away. Already a professional, skilled and tight band and they just keep getting stronger and stronger as they master their art. They left the stage and jumped about in the small moshpit playing their instruments and never skipping a beat. I was overwhelmed by how good they can sound, and how they keep seeming to get better and better. A group of very skilled musicians meshing together with perfection every time. The crowd’s response said it all.

Culann have always had a firm position in my top local/unsigned/independent bands list, and they are not showing any signs of fatigue yet. They have an enormous following and have won awards and played gigs extensively (even in Sweden!). To find out why Culann are so revered, popular and respected just go to one of their gigs, I defy you not to be completely bowled over by their captivating energy live. Keep up to date or listen to/buy their music via any of these links:

https://www.facebook.com/culannband/

https://culann.bandcamp.com/

https://twitter.com/Culann

AFTERWORD

He broke the lock of an old disused record store and stepped into the oppressive darkness inside, drawing his blade Culann with a hiss of sharp metal, it glinted like quicksilver in the gloom. He had named the sword after the last gig he had attended, before The End. He had acquired the weapon from the first man he had been forced to kill in the aftermath of the Judgement Days. The sword’s steel had imbued a lot of blood the last five years, he kept it honed with a whetstone and it had saved what remained of his pathetic life more times than he cared to count. Things had been quietening down the last six months or so, as the herds of crazed survivors thinned themselves out, but there were always the undertones of extreme personal danger down any untrodden street.

After the gig, the devastation, and the mass exoduses of the cities, he had hidden out with friends in the hills for many a long hibernal month. He had only returned to the city, or what was left of it, six months ago to see if there was anything worth salvaging. None of his friends had returned with him, none of them had made it with their lives intact the last few years.

The Glasgow he returned to was a very different animal from the one he remembered leaving. When he had left he had watched the flames of the city burn with tears in his eyes for many nights from miles and miles away. Now, there was just shells of once familiar buildings, glimmers of the past scrawled in dying graffiti on blackened walls, and of course the carpet of ivory bones, which crunched underfoot, he wondered if some of them were folk he’d known, shared a drink with maybe.

The store’s smell filled his nostrils, undisturbed air, aeons of dust and a foul back odour of unchecked rot. Apparently, nobody thought a record shop worth looting as the place was relatively untouched. No cause for CDs and vinyls in a world without electricity. After a quick glance in the back, his night vision honed over the years in the wilderness, he was confident he was alone and he started flicking through the CDs, inch-thick with dust and some slightly blood spattered. Just to see some of the familiar faces of the lost gods he once worshipped, they were all here, obsolete now, their creators dead; Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, though he fancied Keith Richards was probably still alive, somewhere.

‘Jerusalem’ had been stuck in his head since that fateful night and he hummed it as he flicked, stroking his long beard braids with Culann tucked under his arm, allowing himself to become distracted. At the last second before it was too late, his heightened senses alerted him of a rising shadow, someone was in here with him. Culann was tucked under his arm, but his reactions, sluggish in his past life, were well-honed in this one. The sharp steel snaked out and sliced keenly through sinew as it met the yielding soft flesh of the intruder’s neck.

As his aggressor folded at his feet, he wished instead of killing and surviving he was sitting in his old warm flat, with his girlfriend and a can of cider and a joint, reviewing a band, as he might have been if none of this had happened. The crimson blood that deluged from his attacker’s jugular almost glowed in the dark. He looked down at the figure as it slumped, watching the last breaths ebb away into infinity, he sighed deeply.

How had he not noticed? They must have followed him into the record shop, he cursed himself for getting sloppy and looked down at the gargling ensanguined figure, it clutched a hooked knife in its hand that he fancied was made for his back had he not reacted in time. It might be getting peaceful, he thought, but it’s no time to drop your guard… Blood must always remain on the Culann blade…

UP THE BANNER!

CTH