Karma to Burn @ The Underworld Camden

1st September 2012
Review by Rhiannon Marley

Tonight the Underworld was a clammy mass of beer and bodies, with beards and the odd Red Fang t-shirt in my view, I knew tonight was going to be a great night!…

London heavies Diesel King hit the volume and the best thing about watching them was that I remember one of their very first gigs at the Railway pub in Bromley. To consider that they have since played the inaugural Desertfest, supported Corrosion of Conformity and Ramesses and it makes you realise how much can be achieved in just two years with hard graft and the right support.

Diesel King
Diesel King

Belligerent frontman Mark O’Regan thundered around the stage roaring like a wild beast, limbs and chin shaking to the riffs. Diesel King are a sonic and visual force to behold. Energy increased throughout; I felt feet stomping and watched heads rocking to cuts from debut EP. Diesel King smacked down a knock-out mix of tumultuous metal grooves, Southern sludge and balls of solid rock. They’re a ship with a crew of Sabbath, a captain of Eyehategod and an anchor of Crowbar. I’ve no doubt that they’re soon to shake their own mark of filthy, steely rawness in the Richter scale.
Desert Storm
I’ve been familiar with Oxford groove-house Desert Storm since watching them at Lewisham’s Fox and Firkin pub about a year ago. After checking out their two albums, I was suitably impressed, and tonight, they delivered fire. The five gents are the funkiest, grooviest buggers you could possibly want. The surrounding heads were never still, as a melting pot of tumbling Clutch and Kyuss-esque grooves possessed the crowd with no resistance.

Karma to Burn
Desert Storm are, simply put, the typhoid epidemic of riff maestros; they’re so infectious, it hurts. Vocalist Matt Ryan donned overcoat-chic, while synchronised rocking from the guitarists matched the onlookers. Despite the acrid stench of BO and some pineapple of a person leaving a Justin Bieber CD on the stage (promptly destroyed by Desert Storm!), you couldn’t help but get your dancing shoes on for these heavier slices of feel-good, bluesy rock n’ roll. Pentatonic quality at its finest, and a wise choice by K2Burn.

I was a neophyte live attendee of Morgantown headliners Karma to Burn, but based on their calibre of studio output, I had high expectations. Brushes with Roadrunner, fired singers and five unique albums eat their dust. But the three-piece are famed for their lack of compromise as much as their originality, and tonight, they showed why that’s working out just fine for them. In all my years of attendance, I’d never seen the Underworld so packed!
After wrestling with bits of leg and torso to find a place, I was keen to taste Karma to Burn on Camden soil – their first north London return since headlining the Friday of Desertfest 2012.

The boys tore through their catalogue of chunky stoner grooves tinged in dark psychedelia. Steadfast in their determination to remain an instrumental outfit, the riffs and rhythms were enough for the audience, who seemed bewitched by some kind of deifying Southern force. Between beer-sipping pauses, Karma to Burn unleashed cuts from all albums, plus a stomping new track. With the recent re-release of original first album boycotted by Roadrunner, ‘Karma to Burn – Slight Reprise’, via Maybe Records, the threesome have no intention of cutting short their double helix of number-named songs.

I could see multiple bodies suspended mid-air to infectious classics ‘Nineteen’, ‘Three’, ‘Fourteen’ and ‘Thirty Four’. More drunken women flung themselves about, one of whom was a dead ringer for Alex Kingston’s mum, and a cross-generational crowd was treated to fine, ethereal-tipped American groove at its most creative and intransigent. But what made the set, and night, particularly great was that it was topped by those who are truly from the much-imitated source: the cream of Appalachian talent, in NW1. A terrific party!

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