Spear of Destiny
The Junction, Cambridge
23rd Oct 2013
Spear of Destiny – 30 years and counting! – Neal Wright celebrates the return of the groundbreaking 80’s post punks.
Tonight the fanfare that announces the arrival of Spear of Destiny to the stage is from another age, when gigs summoned a mixture of vivid emotions, often a rousing and intense experience.
Back in 1983 it was a bleak time. Despite Orwell’s stark advice we couldn’t see all the dark, sinister developments on the horizon. With the sound of No Future still ringing in our ears, the world was indeed fading to grey. In fact the world had two coats of grey, under a cloud covered ceiling. Whilst society broke down and decaying communities crumbled a generation was nonchalantly sliding down a Prozac cul-de-sac. Orwell’s prophecies remained a fictional narration.
The majority of the self absorbed 1980’s population showed increasing contempt towards public gatherings (see protests, picket lines and youth subcultures). Provincial high streets witnessed the diminishing teenage factions. Few music genres survived. On many street corners, lank, pale complexioned Goths emerged as the last gang in town and subsequently many bands’ careers came to an abrupt end. A void was created and in a whirlwind of media attention the knives were sharpened …. Step up Spear Of Destiny from the ashes of Theatre Of Hate. Cool arrogance maybe, but insightfully sidestepping a fashionable (pigeonhole) niche, the band decisively avoided nailing their own colors to a mast to secure a notable cult following. The business tried but couldn’t define them.
Thirty years on. There’s something admirable about a band that takes pride in their performance and in addition Kirk’s attention to detail is beguiling. Constantly reciting memories to accompany the songs through the bands experiences, he is responsive to his audience. And probably due to the age of his instruments, there’s a steady change of classic (Telecaster/Gretsch) guitars throughout the set too. The mid 80’s were the golden heyday of S.O.D. Bursting into prominence in combative splendor, dispatching high octane records and delivering the haunting, tribalesque rhythms to an legion of intense sharp looking, though intimidating, slam dancing disciples.
Accompanying Kirk Brandon in the current line up are gun slinging hipsters Adrian Portas, Craig Adams and Mike Kelly. Low hung guitars, pulsing beats are the order of the night. The dozen or so songs are stripped down 3 minute detonations. The performance is measured with slick rock posing with low slung guitars and a stirring rhythmic theme. The set is peppered with songs from throughout their trail blazing career as you might expect. Kirk’s voice has a marked presence in rock. Definitely one of the most distinctive vocals heard in music over the last 30 years. He is prominent and charismatic yet composed.
On stage he is playful with the band and audience, “We’ve resurrected this next song” he says, “… Like Craig was. He’s a Goth, so he’s used to being resurrected” he teases the bassist.
There’s an interesting collection of songs: All You Young Men; Land Of Shame; Treachery; The Wheel; You’ll Never Take Me Alive; Mickey; and a blistering 3 song encore climaxing with Liberator.
Treachery and Land Of Shame stood out as powerful crowd favourites. And one interesting addition was the inclusion of the Joy Division classic Transmission – Kirk effectively conveying the track with his own patented, haunting tone.
After the three 3 S.O.D. charges leave the stage, Kirk remains to applaud the crowd and after a final salute and he’s gone.
Later I manage to grab a few words.
The past year has seen a bright return for you. And with a tight sounding band too. You’ve got to be pleased. What’s new for 2014?
Kirk Brandon (KB): “Yeah, I’m definitely pleased. It’s been great, some great nights on both tours. Really enjoyed it. There’s a few Theatre Of Hate (reunion) gigs in December too. Next year? Well there’s a great event in Crewe called Westworld that you should attend.”
Your songs deserve a wider audience, you are often overlooked. Why do you think that is?
KB – “I don’t know. Never really got that. As far as the music business is concerned I think I pose more questions than answers. I try not to let it affect me. I’m enjoying life, recently celebrating my daughter’s 18th birthday and looking forward to spending time over Christmas with my brother is more important.”
Spear of Destiny shows:
Sat 26th Portsmouth (Wedgewood Rooms)
Sun 27th Brighton (The Haunt)
Theatre of Hate shows:
Tue 10th Bristol (The Fleece)
Wed 11th York (Fibbers)
Thu 12th Stockton on Tees (Georgian Theatre)
Fri 13th London (The Roundhouse)
Sat 14th Birmingham (The Institute)
All words by Neal Wright. More work by Neal can be found in his Louder Than War archive.