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LIVE: Sleemo – Crofters Rights, Bristol, 12/11/2023

According to Wookiepedia, which is apparently a thing, Sleemo is “a Huttese insult, pronounced slay-mo, and literally translating as ‘slimeball’.”

The things you learn, eh?

In the real world, though, Sleemo are a three-piece hard rock band from Norwich, comprising Billy Utting on lead vocals/guitar, Jack Andrews on backing vocals/bass, and Jacob Brooks on drums.

Formed in mid-2019, the band have a strong following in their hometown, built around a fierce, but also very accessible rock/metal sound. They remind of bands like Red Fang, partly in their sound, but also in the sense that they have such creative and catchy songwriting that enables them to appeal to folks who wouldn’t normally listen to music this heavy.

They finally released their debut album, Call to the Void, last Friday, and it certainly did not disappoint. Although there are only seven tracks, there is more content on this record than most bands manage in an entire career, a fabulous journey through stoner rock, metal, punk, and math-rock.

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Tonight’s show in Bristol is the fourth of nine dates in support of the album, and a rabid (moderately interested) crowd of dozens (ok, two dozen), have ventured out on a cold Sunday night to witness it.

For a band that were playing a packed out Boston Music Room in London just a few weeks ago supporting Whores., and who just played to a packed crowd in their hometown two days earlier, you would think they might be tempted to phone this one in a bit. It is clear from the first moments, though, that they intend to give this show as much welly as any other.

In fact, if anything, the show suffers a little bit in the early stages from a bit too much welly, namely in terms of the sound. Now, I love a good racket as much as the next deaf guy, but when it is at the expense of what makes a band tick, then it needs to be reined in a bit. On second song ‘Dog’, we can see visually that Utting is doing some really interesting stuff on his guitar, but we really have to strain our ears to hear what exactly that is. For a band with so much nuance in their sound, it’s definitely ok to sacrifice a bit of volume in exchange for letting those beautiful sounds flow through.

This is only a minor quibble, though, for everything else about their performance is excellent. The band don’t seem in the slightest bit bothered about the small attendance – on the contrary, they seem to relish the intimate experience. Clearly a band who genuinely just enjoy playing. Bravo.

The songs are really good too, my God they are. Tonight, they play the album in order, with a couple of extra tracks thrown in for good measure. Like the aforementioned Red Fang, Sleemo make really good use of the dual vocalists, with Utting’s calm melodies intertwining beautifully with Andrews’ ferocious growl, notably on opener ‘Better Bodies’.

‘Doppelganger’ is probably the best song on the album, and we can just about hear the beautiful echoey guitar effects combining so brilliantly with the heavily tuned-down bass sound. ‘Time Twisted’ brings to mind Mastodon, a fast-flowing, action-packed epic, while ‘Head Full Of Lead’ is a savage bruiser of a track, for which Utting and Andrews venture into the audience for the breakdown.

All in all, a very impressive performance, just about managing to paper over the challenges with the sound, and worthy of one of the most impressive debut albums of this year. This is clearly a band with the potential to do great things, and if they carry on their current trajectory, they shouldn’t have nights of playing in front of 23 people for too long.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.