Live @ The Royal Park Cellars, Leeds - 1st May 2011

Story online since:  24.05.2011 / 17:37:02


On the 1st day of May of Her Majesty’s year of 1891 I head north to the bustling heart of God’s Own County, Yorkshire. It is not the soul-stirring beauty of the Dales studded in wild white roses against the deep blue of the sky (the Rosa alba of course being the heraldic symbol of the House of York)that I long to visit this time, but the dungeons of a public house in the outskirts of the prosperous industrial revolution city of Leeds. Following a precious recommendation from esteemed luminary Thor Wanzek, my good friend and mentor Helena (Blavatsky) of the Inner Circle, alas right now confined to her bed due to a ghastly bout of influenza, from which I hope she will promptly recover, instructed me to seek the secretive 7 (king amongst numbers!) members of a Gentlemen’s Club evocatively named A Forest of Stars.

(Note: Tragically Helena Petrovna Blavatsky was to die a week later, on 8th May 1891)

It is claimed that The Gentleman, an aristocrat(bearing a remarkable resemblance with Richard Plantagenet) fallen into misfortune founded this powerful spiritual congregation less than 5 years ago together with a charismatic gentleman who goes by the unsettling name of The Curse and a young lady of exotic beauty versed in the magical art of violin playing (from the revered My Dying Bride ancient brotherhood). The echoes of AFOS' marveling deeds have already reached the attentive ears of many esoteric adepts, hence I am particularly keen to experience and describe to my peers one of their transfixing séances.

Steep steps lead to the low-ceilinged dungeons of the public house. I am expected and the Club’s distinguished gentlemen and fair lady introduce themselves amiably before grouping on stage for a short rehearsal, which I am eager to witness. I position myself at the end of the dark room and attune my senses: as I wish not to spoil my account, hopefully you will forgive me if all I shall reveal at this stage is that a mere minutes of their enigmatic practices is enough to send shivers down my spine.

In order to experience the two performances preceding the main attraction one has to travel through time. Firstly into the future, with Khuda’s instrumental heavy and textured post-rock from the XXI century with Mogwai-esque roots. The band consists of just guitarist Tom, who spins loop after loop of hypnotizing riffage, and a drummer who would make a certain Ginger Baker look calm and relaxed behind the skins; as a keen admirer of all drumming arts, it is a great delight to witness his body-sculpting gymnastics! They successfully build up waves of gripping, highly energetic noise which seems to be based on free-form improvisation but a crystalline matrix holds the polyhedronic structures tightly together. Imagine an iridescent great rhombi-hexahedron rotating in mid-air and you are nearly there: don’t miss them as they promote their new album "Iecava” across Europe.

From the future, your Victorian reporter must now travel into the past, perhaps at the early medieval times of King Ecgfrith of Northumbria. The next promising bunch of young gentlemen hails from County Durham and calls itself Old Corpse Road. Looking for a label on the back of two notable efforts, namely a split with the Meads of Asphodel, a very well received demo called "The Echoes of Tales Once Told” and some excellent live shows, this acerbic but promising band delivers a tight and highly entertaining show, demonstrating commitment in abundance and a genuine down-to-earth attitude which is quite rare and refreshing to see in the days of corpse-paint mavericks and/or fake attachment to one’s ancestral roots. OCR’s keyboard-laden atmospheric black/death metal is often interwoven with catchy melodic cavalcades and melancholy acoustic parts redolent with Medieval Norse/Celtic lore. Their eponymous track is an authentic anthem! oldcorpseroad

Piercing through the darkness of the cellars, my eyes discern some familiar-looking figures dressed dashingly in full Victorian attire: the time has come for A Forest of Stars to summon its otherworldly powers onto the cozy stage. The Gentleman, looking every bit as spirited as Luis Le Prince while filming his stupefying first motion film 3 years ago here in Leeds watch?v=L7saH58usq4, concentrates his lively, sparkly stare onto the keyboards. Katheryne, Queen of the Ghosts, brandishes her violin, focusing her liquid brown eyes onto something beyond the amassed crowd’s worldly reach.

John "The Resurrectionist” Bishop, dressed like a young country gentleman, takes his place behind the large drumkit. Immaculate in their white shirts and waistcoats, long-haired Sir Grimshaw, Henry Hyde Bronson and Mr Titus Longbutter solemnly brandish their guitars and bass respectively. The séance seems ready to begin, and its catalyst, the powerful medium, makes his appearance: The Curse is all in black, except for the rich silver embroidery of the waistcoat.

Mentally joining hands, the 7 artists immediately fall into a trance while the audience gasps, all eyes drawn onto the hypnotizing, charismatic figure of the singer/medium at the centre of the stage. Your well-traveled reporter has seen many a performer in her adventurous life, but you can rest assured that the man and poet who goes under the ominous name of The Curse is one of the most touching and mesmerizing she has ever cast her eyes on. While the music surges from each instrument like a whirling of spirits speaking in tongues intelligible only by the initiated few, the mind and body of the medium is possessed by a multitude of bewildered ghosts all at once: he bravely stands, feet firmly planted onto the wooden floor, clenching his fists, enduring the force of the initial takeover.

As the séance proceeds, majestic and eerily emotional, The Curse, by the excruciating act of screaming, slowly purges himself of all intruders but his guiding spirit, a phenomenally powerful entity who remains undisclosed to the majority of living mortals. Accustomed to the highest forms of esoteric practices, I observe such spirit floating in and out of the medium’s body, blazing with unthinkable energy through his eyes, nostrils and fingertips. My soul is at peace, as it does whenever it feels close to its truest dimension.

The glory of "Starfire’s Money” takes the séance to the next level, engulfing everything in a dense, dumbstruck atmosphere of unfathomable mystery. And finally that very moment, the pinnacle of a unique live experience, arrives somber and precious: I put my photographic paraphernalia away and open my heart to receive "Delay’s Progression”. I bathe my astral body in timeless, metaphysical raindrops as Katie, eyes shut, whispers heavy-hearted words of regret. A mere meter away from his haunted, wiry figure, The Curse, voice magically filtered by a vocoder, declaims the next set of magnificently poignant lyrics, making my inner core shudder. An ancient stone portal unlocks its doors to the sound of heart-felt poetry, disclosing to my mind’s eye the frightful vastness of the Void: the medium’s stare, tightly locked into mine, shows me where stillness and chaos meet. A place of brutal beauty I know intimately; the only place where being human is worth something.
Then, "The final curtain fell, and fell. And fell”…

Check out AFOS’ superb and unique site:

Mystery Flame

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