So, I Went Down to Slomatics Rehearsal Last Night…

slomatics practice

I’ve been fortunate enough to do some cool stuff in my quickly-increasing number of years, but being invited to a band’s practice space is no small thing. Even putting aside whatever clichés you want about inner-sanctums or where-the-magic-happens or that kind of thing, the fact is that a band in rehearsal is much different than a band on stage, and the practice space isn’t just where songs are run through, it’s where a band finds and develops their sound to then go and refine it live or in the studio. It is a personal place.

My brilliant-ass college professor wife, The Patient Mrs., has been leading students on a study-abroad trip for this past week. We were in Dublin and got up north to Belfast on Tuesday. I’m along basically to provide childcare for The Pecan — now 19 months old and screaming brutally enough to make every black metal band you’ve ever heard sound lightweight — and the first thing I thought of when I found out we were going to be in Northern Ireland was, “I wonder what Slomatics will be up to?”

The Belfast-native three-piece are on the cusp of releasing their new album, Canyons (review here), through Black Bow Records, and their rehearsal space is in an industrial park tucked away in a corner just off the city-center, above Jimmy’s TV Repair (and Allegedly Etc.), in a room with show posters and old Terrorizer foldouts put up. Guitarist David Marjury was kind enough to pick me up at the hostel where we’re staying — that’s right: baby in a hostel; it’s going swimmingly — as he happens to live nearby, and we drove about five minutes to get to the spot through Belfast’s curvy, carved-by-livestock-then-industrialized streets, where guitarist Chris Couzens and drummer/vocalist Marty Harvey (who also plays in War Iron) were already waiting.

With the new record coming out, they obviously weren’t writing or working on anything new or anything like that, but they’re booked to fly to Siegen, Germany, next month to play Freak Valley Festival, so the task was to work out the set for that. Some debate ensued about focusing on new songs versus older material — I’m generally in favor of new — and they ran through the first half of Canyons in succession, with opener and longest track (immediate points) “Gears of Despair” leading to “Cosmic Guilt,” “Seven Echoes” and “Telemachus, My Son,” the last of which was a unanimous pick to feature at the fest. To the side of where I sat, a marker board was littered with potential setlists in what was clearly an ongoing conversation.

In between the songs, the banter was light and familiar. Chris had been all sinus’ed up earlier in the day, Marty had gotten his face scratched by a patient at work, Dave had some amp buzz that might’ve been input trouble, and so on. Everyone talked about family, and as I’ve had the pleasure to meet the band on two prior occasions, seeing them first at Høstsabbat 2016 (review here) in marker boardOslo and then again the next year at Roadburn (review here) in The Netherlands, I knew going into it they were all friendly guys and my persistent, painful awkwardness would potentially have some manner of offset by their hospitality. Sitting in front of a drum kit that was either spare or some other band’s, laughing at some story or other, I was glad to be right about that.

They played through “Mind Fortresses on Theia,” again from the new album, and one other — was it “Beyond the Canopy?” — and then dipped back to older material, which sounded very much like a refresher as opposed to stuff they were still working out how to present live. That difference was palpable mostly in ways it wouldn’t have been on stage, in things like body language and during-song communication between Marjury and Couzens, Harvey all the while devastating his already-cracked cymbals in go-hard-at-practice fashion while belting out lyrics with no less force than I’ve been lucky to see him do on stage.

Even without a mic, his snare cut through the extra-low low-end of the two guitars, and some of it was interesting to see him count through some of the ambient parts of the newer material, which indeed is even more atmospheric than what the band had on offer with 2016’s Future Echo Returns (review here), as both Couzens and Marjury would periodically depart from the central lumbering riffs in which the band has long specialized to add keyboard-style effects that lent melody to the coinciding crush. I was glad that I make it a habit to travel with earplugs. The whole place seemed to rumble, or maybe it was just me.

All told, it was about two hours of time in the room, and while I don’t know what the final setlist will be for Freak Valley, it’s safe to say it’s going to be a powerful show. Slomatics have existed for 15 years at this point, and it’s clear Harvey, Marjury and Couzens have known each other for longer than that. Harvey had to call it a night, but Marjury, Couzens and I adjourned afterward to a coffee shop around the corner from where I’m staying — not the Nordic one with the espressos I’ve been habitually downing since we got into down, that’s across the street, but a different one that was also good — and spent some time shooting the shit about the band and laughing about family stuff, their embarrassing themselves in front of Goatsnake (I’ve still never seen them live, so not had the opportunity, of which I’d inevitably take advantage), the time Marjury saw Ozzy on tour for The Ultimate Sin, and whatever else. It was pretty laid back, even with the late coffee, and I was no less glad to be there than I’d been at the rehearsal space. These are good people.

Coffees done and work/baby in the morning, we said goodnight and I headed back around the corner to crash out and wake up to another day today. I’ll be honest and say it took me a while to get to sleep, not just for that last espresso, but just from the excitement of doing something like that. It doesn’t happen every day, and to be not just brought in, but actually welcomed by Slomatics was something special I’ll long remember. I’m here for another week, but it already made my trip.

Slomatics, “Mind Fortresses on Theia” official video

Slomatics on Thee Facebooks

Slomatics on Bandcamp

Black Bow Records

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One Response to “So, I Went Down to Slomatics Rehearsal Last Night…”

  1. Tom says:

    The Slomatics guys are genuinely some of the loveliest dudes in the scene. When my band Undersmile played with them at the Windmill, Brixton, I accidentally left behind my Earth t-shirt (had to change after our set due to being a sweaty bastard) and not only did the guys grab it, David took it home with them to Belfast, he washed it, and posted it back to me.

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