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O2 Academy 2, Islington, London, England

July 31st, 2015

Danny White
Pic: Neil Arnold

It was just like the old days, San Francisco metallers Mordred visiting UK shores twice within the space of a year (see review from August 2014). Scott Holderby (vocals), Danny White (guitar), Jim Sanguinetti (guitar), Art Liboon (bass), Jeff Gomes (drums) and Aaron “DJ Pause” Vaughn (turntables) taking to the stage just past 8pm. The band bathed in stage lights, Holderby with menace in his eyes and the crowded venue gagging for a veritable feast of funky thrash.

‘State Of Mind’ starts the assault; the expected chunky thrash barrage we’ve become accustomed to since it first appeared on the band’s stunning 1989 debut Fool’s Game. Holderby is ever playful, ever prowling and naturally spasmodic in his stage cavorting, while behind him the straight-laced, straight-faced funky bass master Art Liboon thuds, slaps and trickles his way through Mordred’s ever-versatile set. But such a combo would not be complete without Sanguinetti’s driving riffs, White’s soaring leads, Gomes’ spine-shaking percussion and DJ Pause’s effortless scratching.

When one watches such a band, it’s difficult to know who to focus on as each member owns their segment of space; the energy the band showcases has the crowd drenched in sweat before the mini moshpit has begun. Tonight there’s an excitement in the air though because the band are showcasing a handful of new tracks, reminding me of the night I saw them in the early 90s at London’s Marquee (supported by The Organization) when they exhibited upcoming material from the 1992 Vision EP.

And we’re not disappointed. A glut of us are already familiar with the jerking tomfoolery of ‘The Baroness’ which nods, twists and jerks aided by Holderby’s choppy raps and DJ Pause’s cool scratch licks. But it’s the likes of ‘I Am Charlie’, ‘Dented Lives’ and ‘The Eyes On The Prize’ which mesmerize. It may be because they are delivered in a live environment, but the new cuts seem to display an air of punk attitude beefed up by some truly chugging riffery and thrash wildness bridging the gap between the Fool’s Game and 1991’s In This Life records. The choruses are raw yet soulful, typical of Mordred’s suave yet cutting nature as they fuse thrash metal with groove-based rock long before a whole host of bands jumped on the bandwagon and bewilderingly enjoyed greater success.

But Mordred remain that one cool cat of a cult outfit, sprinkling funk-spattered stardust upon the manic audience with the likes of the poignant ‘The Vagrant’, the epileptic ‘Everyday’s A Holiday’ and the sublime ‘Crash’, while those seeking meatier, faster thrash outbursts needed to look no further than the rampant ‘Sever And Splice’ and the orgasmic ‘Killing Time’ before ascending to the lofty peak of ‘Falling Away’, which for me still remains the greatest thrash groove composition of all time.

The lighter shades of Mordred’s flavour are again unveiled with the soulful croon of ‘West County Hospital’; a truly wondrous cosmic journey of self-exploration and struggle as Scott Holderby commentates on his own experience amidst a sea of trickling guitar chords. Meanwhile, DJ Pause demonstrates the band’s grittier side with the pounding hip-hop jaunt of ‘Close Minded’. It’s a true alternative metal anthem if there ever was one and proof that there is no limit to Mordred’s arsenal of variety.

This crunching, slamming tune seems to walk hand in hand with the streetwise shuffle that is Thin Lizzy’s ‘Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed’ which Mordred have made their own since it appeared on the B-side of the 1991’s ‘Falling Away’ single so many moons ago. Indeed, it’s a cover version that symbolises the band’s flexibility and kaleidoscopic nature as through their career they’ve nodded to many musical realms in their quest for originality. There’s never been a band like Mordred, and in spite of thousands of imitations there never will be again.

However, suddenly it’s 9.30pm. Time certainly flies when you’ve had so much fun, but the night feels somehow cut short. Maybe it’s because the tracks have been delivered with extra whip, speed and crack or that we’ve not been spoiled with the ever-present classic ‘Esse Quam Videri’, the interstellar ‘Reach’ or ‘In Time’. After all, fans new and old just can’t get enough of these guys, and so Mordred bid their farewells with the tumbling nuances of ‘In This Life’ introduced via the tickling bass of Liboon until White and Sanguinetti join in frenetic tandem to once again contort our souls.

As always, Mordred leave us hungry for more. but with the new album due for release in the not too distant future sure to get us worked up into a sweat once again I can only quote an immortal line from the band’s ‘Killing Time’ when I say, “…until we meet again”.

Neil Arnold