Live Review; Balothizer @ Savino Live, 20/12/18 (opening act: Stonus)

Updated: Dec 27, 2018

by Maria Kouvarou (Mouv)

OK, some of you had heard them at Fengaros 2018 and you already knew what to expect. Some of us not… and by the time I am writing I am not sure who were the luckiest in the end. The already “initiated”, or the rest, who were in for a treat? But let me take things step by step…

The artwork for "Cretan Music from Hell".

When I received the invitation to attend the specific gig I gladly accepted, firstly because I am always open and up for hearing something new and secondly because my evening was free, so it ought to be a win anyway. But I cannot hide that I did not exactly hold my breath about it. After all, these very “experimental” music mixtures have often let me down. Not finding the time to do enough research on the band beforehand, I took my moderate expectations and entered Savino Live early enough to catch the opening band for their whole set. Stonus I already knew, since I had recently written a review for their second EP Lunar Eclipse, which you can read here. Indeed, the Cypriot heavy rockers were worthy of a timely arrival, since they made a creditable appearance, playing their original work, that showed once more their promising potential both in terms of stoner-loaded songwriting, as well as in terms of performance. Stonus built a set that prepared the atmosphere, transmitting enough energy and raising the volume, warming us up for Balothizer’s entrance.

Stonus in action.

Not that you can ever be ready enough for that band…

The electric power trio from North London took the stage at 23:08 sharp and the first notes from their intro piece, “Roots”, resonated. Almost ten minutes later, with the final note from “Anogeia”, our breath was already cut, the atmosphere was electricized, and the (numerically notable for a Thursday evening) crowd was all turned to the stage, sharing smiles of gratification and anticipation (alright, I admit that I like observing people’s reactions). And for good reasons. The next song, “Cradle to the Grave”, with the impressive Cretan lute solo and the moments of two-voice and three-voice polyphony by the three musicians was a noteworthy sequent of the impressive beginning of the set and led to the explosive “Antifa Syrtos”, which became my personal favourite of the night and of their album Cretan Music from Hell. Next came “Foustalieris”, finding the already uplifted audience ready to start dancing in Cretan rhythm. Then, the energy went straight back up again to more powerful metal/punk heights with “Kissamos Waves”. And right when I thought that I had figured out what Balothizer are actually about, they responded by hitting my most sensitive chord, with the immensely emotional stoner psy “Hugging”, over the contagious bass-line of which, the Cretan lute constructed an ethereal journey that travelled us from Savino Live over the Mediterranean waters to see the majesty of Cretan tradition from above, a majesty that was made more profound with the entrance of the vocals.

Balothizer at one of their rare "calm" moments.

Balothizer closed their set with “Aleppo”, another fiery “diabolic” addition, this time from their unreleased upcoming album, with an unmistakable Cretan metal attitude (as put rightly by a good friend of mine, who is an avid music afficionado), which left me wondering… is there a ceiling to the energy levels that these guys can expel? The answer came, of course, from the band itself, with their encores! And, for sure, a ceiling was nowhere to be seen…

It goes without saying that in such a high-octane atmosphere, the crowd beneath has to be an active participant to the whole. And actually, in this occasion, some did not restrict themselves to stay "beneath". And so, two people got on the stage, persisting with their dancing among the band members. This did not last for long, but it surely brought musicians and audience even closer in a special way. And, at the end of the night, the band followed what seems to be a tradition for them, asking everyone to take a selfie that is to be posted on their social media. If you had been there, do tag yourselves.

Speaking more generally about the night, Balothizer, in a time span that slightly exceeded one hour, offered us such a fiery dose of energy, volume and heat that had an intense aftertaste, gained the audience’s attention and held it undimmed throughout. The musical skills of all three of them nonnegotiable, their stage presence impeccable and catalytic for the end result, and the way they made everyone participate and interact with them was nothing less than unique.

With the active participation of the audience...

Contrary to most “experimental” attempts at fusing-the-unfusable that I have heard before, Balothizer succeeded a perfect marriage between two seemingly incompatible traditions (aka the Cretan tradition with rock) that cannot be disputed. But it cannot be labeled either. So let’s just skip for once our necessity to put everything in a category, and let’s avoid the question: are Balothizer rock, folk, metal, punk, stoner, folk, ethnic, world music, traditional? Are they Post-Cretan, as they dub themselves? Are they a “gunshot” of music genius? Let’s accept that they are nothing of the above and all of them concurrently. They are Cretan music from hell and they can definitely meet the highest of expectations!

* With Cretan Music from Hell already high on my playlist, I share with you the news that Balothizer have just finished recording their second album with Louvana Records, while they are expected to release three live video studio sessions on YouTube. Although now among the “initiated”, I remain curious…

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