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Monday 5 December 2022

A View From The Back Of The Room: Perturbator & Health (Live Review By Dean Palmer)

Perturbator And Health – SWX, Bristol – 13.11.22

Sundays, a day of rest, a day of reflection, a day of realising that synth bands can easily be as heavy as those with big, beefy guitars, and even heavier when they also bring big-beefy guitars around as well.

Gigs and tours are always an interesting thing. Sometimes touring acts have to overcome the issues a venue throws at them. Be this something like a lack of space for a full lighting setup, a small stage that just doesn’t have space for all members, a poor sound system which just doesn’t have the grunt needed or simply from just being such a terribly organised venue that gigs are uncomfortable, unpleasant affairs for those who have paid to see those onstage and no matter how good the band is, the gig is never going to be a classic (shoutout to a certain O2 venue right here).

SWX in Bristol has none of these issues. It’s a great sized venue which has oodles of stage space, an incredible sound system (we will get to this later) and where the layout is generally perfect for any band peddling their wares on its stage. As such when you take two of the most aurally deep electronic-and-synth-led industrial acts on the touring circuit and put them within you’re going to get some pretty special results – and indeed on this Sunday we got just that.

There were a few glum faces to begin the night (mine included) as it had become common knowledge that the third act on the line-up – Author & Punisher – was no longer doing the UK leg of the tour, which is a tremendous shame as A&P’s enormous pounding industrial sounds would likely have been immaculately received and transmitted, so HEALTH (9) were given the task of turning those frowns upside down, however when a band has a T-Shirt on sale with the tagline “SAD MUSIC FOR HORNY PEOPLE” you wonder if the purpose is to turn the frown upside down, or turn bodies horizontal as the HEALTH sound is indeed designed for a very, very sexy soundscape, and within the opening bars of Identity the crowd are very quickly writhing in time, transfixed to the stage as a tremendously backlit lightshow allows the band to effectively descend into silhouette whilst tearing through the set. Minimal interaction with the crowd is needed as the band work through God Botherer, Zoothorns, Psychonaut, The Message amongst many others and it becomes apparent that HEALTH are perfectly suited to this environment, and the environment loves them.

No doubt many discovered the band through their duets with Nine Inch Nails (Isn’t Everyone?), Lamb Of God (Cold Blood) and Poppy (Dead Flowers) and whilst all three of these are missing from the set due to the lack of artists to duet with, the set still has some utterly mammoth bangers to fill the place, with special mention to Feel Nothing and EXCESS – both of whom are reasons to thank your ears for existing as the sound across the whole set (but in particular this pair of tunes) was so utterly, utterly immaculately mixed and projected that I may well rate it as some of the best I have ever heard in any gig, and I have seen a hell of a lot of live shows in my time on this earth.

HEALTH smash it, the lights go up, all horny people are no longer sad, the show is over.

Except it’s not, because that was just the support band and we still have the audio onslaught that is Perturbator (8) to follow.

And follow they do, with an absolute wall of synth-led heaviness which simply should not work on paper but in practice the room shakes with just the correct balance of bass, middle and treble to wake the musical soul of absolutely anybody within the room. The set is very, very balanced – with a good smattering from Lustful Sacraments (their most recent long player) including the title track itself, Excess and Death Of The Soul (which again, the SWX sound system makes sound like heaven in synth-form) and also a few older cuts such as Neo Tokyo, Tainted Empire and “Humans are such easy prey” – each going down phenomenally well with the crowd in attendance.

The set ends with both bands on stage together performing an absolutely enormous sounding Body/Prison – a both recorded together for the HEALTH album Disco4 a few years ago. And now the lights go up, the crowd actually looking a little bit confused by how their brains have somehow shifted three feet to the right after a sonic onslaught of such incredible proportions. Both bands absolutely tore Bristol to pieces at this truly, truly special night, it was truly an honour to be there.

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