By Jase Walker

Poster for Godsticks at Hope And Anchor 2 February 2024Nothing like a weekend jaunt off to London for a catch up with some friends and a couple of gigs, the first of which is Godsticks at the Hope and Anchor. Admittedly this trip was spurred on by Periphery playing tomorrow at the time of writing but nothing like checking the gig lists and finding another band you’re quite a fan of on the day you fly over.

Godsticks first caught my ear over the 2020 lockdowns as ÜK Tech-Fest (RIP), did a live stream “Tech-Fest at home” stream that they featured on and caught my attention and I’ve been meaning to see them live since. Along for support tonight is Rifka, who I’m not familiar with but always here for the supports as much as the main act so hoping for a solid show from both acts!

With Rifka about to start, quite a fair amount of people have already filtered into the venue which is a great start, is this a London thing? No idea but let’s get things started! The young four-piece get started with an “old one” and already we’ve got some interesting guitar work and interesting rhythms (spying the drummer with the jazz styling) and mellow indie-ish vocals. Some parts remind me a bit of Tool in parts and Howling Bells in others, that sort of 2003-era mishmash of proggy styles that have a real raw touch to them. At times it seems there’s elements of Smashing Pumpkins and the like with this juxtaposition of garage rock songwriting and unusual melodies.

I absolutely love what their bass player is doing as well, the use of hammering root notes for emphasis but then moments of noodling around and chord work adds an extra dynamic against their guitarists use of suspended chords. At times I feel like I can hear influences from bands like Rishloo and Hurt, this is all new music to my ears but as a 36 year old prog metal lover, somehow nostalgic at the same time. This sort of stuff wouldn’t go amiss at a festival like ArcTanGent, it’s that right sort of mix of accessible metal that’s just a bit weird. Towards the middle of the set they take a bit of a sudden turn to a more folk song which is definitely an odd shift but I’m quite a folk fan too so I’m gonna roll with it! Legitimately I’m blown away by this band, a massive breadth of styles throughout the set, the quieter ones every bit as engrossing as the heavier. Show up for your support bands folks, you never know when you’ll find a gem like this.

After a break, it’s Godsticks time. It’s been a hot minute since being introduced to them and finally time to see them do it actually in front of me! Bit of a hairy start but doesn’t take long before it’s sorted and we’re away, I do wish the bass was a bit louder but that’s just me always wanting more grunt at the expense of everything else. The venue by this point is absolutely rammed from the front to the back, they’ve got a great turnout here for a slice of riffy prog. If stuff like The Pineapple Thief or Caligula’s Horse is your thing, you owe it to yourself to get your ears around these. Admittedly given the sort of room we’re in, the drums are just a pinch too strong compared to the rest of the band, it’s not really damaging the experience by any stretch but they are extremely present.

Riffy prog is definitely where I feel at home and Godsticks have that in spades, you’re every bit as much there to bang your head as you are to appreciate the odd rhythms and sonic exploration. They’ve got the gang vocals nailed as well, the constant layering of melody from the bass all the way to the singing adds a fantastic level of stress between each verse segment. Their singer explains briefly during some technical issues that this particular tour almost didn’t happen as he’d been done over by Covid during Christmas and still hasn’t quite fully left him yet, I’m thankful at least that it did though!

Their bass player also exemplifies the “less is more” style of playing, he’s clearly technically skilled but if the moment calls for just hitting that root note along with the bass drum, then he’s gonna do just that. This all adds up to really drive home the often chunky riffy style that they’re all about, sometimes you just wanna hear a solid “thump thump thump” for a bit. This sort of modern prog, championed by the likes of Godsticks deserve so much more attention than it does, existing like an underbelly across the current scene around Europe. I do love the fact that I get to see this quality sort of stuff in a pub basement with maybe 70 other people as the intimacy is lacking in much larger shows but this level of songmanship and ability deserves much more recognition.

Some of their stuff strays even into Gojira-esque territory with the matching intensity of double bass pedal hammering and chuggy playing, can definitely see why they refer to it as “that fucking song” with its constant switching gears of rhythm in the middle of sections, you wouldn’t know it if they made mistakes without the whole song coming apart. The sort of set that Godsticks have put on tonight has made it absolutely worth coming along on a trip to London like this, nothing like visiting the capital for a proper weekend of proggy goodness and Godsticks have delivered my first serving of that on this Friday night. Now I just need to hope that they may end up eventually making it to the Netherlands at some point because if not it’ll hopefully be Radar or Arctangent if they land on one of their lineups.

Over seven quid a pint though! Bloody hell!

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