Going to The Black Heart is always exciting. The modest venue has been host to some phenomenal up and coming bands, of which you can now add The St. Pierre Snake Invasion to the list. Despite its metal credentials it has a distinctly DIY punk feel to it. A venue that deserves endless amounts of support, it is heartening to see so many people turn out for the very start of the four band bill.
First up were Burning Alms (7), the self proclaimed odd ones out, or more accurately “Arctic Monkeys in a rock club”. The band play a heavy, grungy type of indie that is momentarily similar to Smashing Pumpkins. It is delightfully melodious at times and thrashing when it needs to be. There’s a charming appeal about their inter song patter with the crowd, an insecurity that comes across sweetly rather than cloying. Musically the performance is pretty much impeccable; the band are tight and well rehearsed and are dynamic in their individual playing styles. Vocally their lead singer has a touch of Michael Stipe about him, and this only seeks to elevate the sweet melodies they relay. They may be the odd ones out on the bill by their words, but they make a brilliant first impression. With their second album on the horizon, they’ll be ones to watch going forward.
Next up with a hypnotic, punk inflected sound were Casual Nun (7). Their music relies heavily on repetition of distorted guitar phrases, with a distinct bass line running underneath. It is quite enchanting and mixed with the admittedly over reverbed vocals, casts something of a spell over the modest audience. Unfortunately their music is rather dense and sees a portion of the crowd dissipate after three songs, unfairly so it must be said. There is nothing ostensibly bad about what Casual Nuns do, it’s intriguing and unique, but how far it will get them in terms of popularity is any one’s guess. For those that did stay for the duration of the set there was a spell binding atmosphere on the humble venue, and once again a strong impression made.
Acting as main support were two piece, Frauds (6.5). Their music is groovy and has a definite swagger, filled with a self confidence that oozes from the stage. The duo work in tandem to create simple yet effective beats and melodies, heartily enjoying themselves as they do. Lyrically they move from the lightly satirical – Running Through The Wheat Fields – to the downright bizarre Dadaisms of ‘Your face looks like jam and butter mixed together’. The main problem is there just isn’t enough of the actual performance. A good forty percent of the set is spent pissing about, whether asking kooky questions like ‘Has anyone ever fought a Siberian bear bare handed?’ or guitarist Mike leaving the stage in a pretend tantrum. How much you enjoy this band will be based on your tolerance of, at best wackiness, or at worst, bullshit. When they do play the vocal trade off is marvellous as are the melodies employed, they just need to focus on music and leave comedy to the professionals.
Frantic, frenetic and frenzied arrived the evening’s headliners. “We are the infamous, not at all famous, The St Pierre Snake Invasion (9)” frontman Damien Sayell mirthfully states, as the set reaches its first point of breathing space. Opening with fan favourite material from their debut album, A Hundred Years A Day, is a sure fire way to get the mighty Camden crowd moving: Rock n Roll Workshops sees a dedicated sect of the audience screaming for dear life in tandem with the call and response lyrical phrasing. The performance is explosive and blistering, with Sayell in particular moving from sinisterly understated to apoplectic with rage. Every player is dynamic, as one would expect with music so exploratory, and each performs with a vicious flair. While the tried and tested classics like Jesus Mary and Joseph Talbot go down a riotous storm, it’s the new material from upcoming album, Caprice Enchanté that excites the room the most. Partly in that it’s a glimpse of new material for a deeply devoted cult fan base, but mostly because the new material is utterly unbelievable. Recent single, Braindead, sees a circle pit engulf the venue, limbs flying with devil may care attitude, while Caprice Enchanté itself and Pierre Brassau show off impressive technical nous combined with hulking rhythms. Finale, The Safety Word is Oklahoma comes off the back of a legitimately earned call for an encore. This isn’t the band simply playing another song because it’s the done thing, the audience is so voracious and insatiable that more material is a must, and oh how blissful it is to hear one more song. Once again, Sayell proves himself a frontman extraordinaire with his wit and effortless control of the hefty crowd, cracking actually funny jokes in amongst his more prescient monologues.
With that, and in a blur of frantic musicality, the evening draws to an apt close. The room is left dripping with sweat and the audience is left beaming with glee, struggling to fully process the majesty that unfolded. The Black Heart has been home to some legendary up and coming artists, and tonight’s events will go down as one of the great sets the venue has housed. Years from now people will talk with pride about seeing The St Pierre Snake Invasion in such a humble place, and the memories will not fade quickly.