Leeds, UK based post-metal sextet Hundred Year Old Man are embarking on a sixteen date headlining European tour, covering nine countries and an estimated 4500 miles of road. The band are promoting the release of their debut full-length album Breaching, which funnily enough, has just seen a cassette re-issue by yours truly at Astral Noize Records (available here). Astral Noize writer Chris “Frenchie” French has newly joined the band to play synths and electronics, so it only seems right to have him report on the band’s touring adventures…
It’s 3am. The van is loaded and the six of us, plus our driver Tunny, set off over the English channel to kick off the tour. After a long, cold drive we arrive in a snowy village in Mouscron, Belgium, playing in an unused scout hut next to a nursery school. Putting on gigs outside of a city centre in such an obscure location would seem suicidal back in the UK, but the turnout is fantastic; kids even bring their parents along. After doing our first load-out, bassist Paul Priest realises he has packed an extra guitar cab instead of his bass cab! Whoops!
We are given the hard task of following the absolutely astonishing mathcore of Oddism, who completely own the stage tonight. The vibes in the room are electric and we kick off the tour confidently, even with some of my synth pads deciding to turn themselves off mid set!
Tonight we play in a cool metal and hardcore venue in Overijssel, Netherlands, situated right opposite one of the country’s infamous coffee shops. We are given a warm welcome to warn off the cold weather. After headlining a hardcore show yesterday, we share a stage with atmospheric sludge bands more akin to our own sound, with Throwing Bricks being a standout, taking influence from Amenra.
Sadly the laptop I’m using decides to completely die halfway through our first song and I enter panic mode! It’s only my fourth show with Hundred Year Old Man, but I roll with the punches and rock the sampler and scream my head off. I also get the best view in the house, and luckily my new bandmates absolutely smash it, making my fuck ups obsolete. That’s the second laptop I’ve killed off in a week now…!!!
The tour takes us to a fabulous venue in Brunswick, Germany named Das Nexus. The walls are lined with Antifa and anti-nazi imagery and we are treated to tasty vegan food and proper beds to stay in. Playing a matinee show in the middle of the afternoon feels great. I’m a notorious gig addict and I’ve never been to a matinee show back in the UK… Can we make this a thing again!?
The venue is a wondrous sight to behold, with watercolour landscape paintings and chandeliers gracing the room. An incredible blackened atmospheric sludge band Ascian play before us and we would never have guessed it is their first ever show! They play buried in smoke, with dynamic lighting, showcasing their massive progressive songs that ebb and flow. Finally all of my equipment works reliably, and I am able to really get my groove on. As a bonus, we have the best and clearest on-stage sound we’ve experienced in a while, allowing us to hear and feel every little sound and nuance. Not to mention being able to clock off at 7pm and chill out with the wonderful venue staff… Matinee shows for the win!
The inside of the van may be disgracefully messy and smelly already, but we soldier on to Hamburg with high spirits. Tonight’s venue is a houseboat resting upon a completely frozen lake! Performing inside a tiny, freezing cold metal container is a new challenge, but we play one of our loudest shows ever… and we like to get loud!
Once more, the support acts nearly blow us off the stage, with Denmark based noisy drone duo Urano making a glorious racket with just bass guitar, insane drumming and harsh electronics.
We embark on our second BIG drive, leaving at 6:30am for a ten-hour slog to Gothenburg, Sweden. It’s very exciting to be in one of metal’s most prosperous landmarks and we are mesmerised to see some stunning views outside the van windows. Our boss driver absolutely smashes it and still has enough energy to see us play. We even get our first inevitable stop by the police on the way, asking to search the van and check our ID. Paul absolutely bricks it as he tears up the van desperately stumbling to find a misplaced passport! Fortunately everything turns out calm and we pass with flying colours.
Tonight’s venue is an old prison that has been converted into a gig venue. Once again we are greeted by the loveliest and most passionate people. It really starts to dawn on me just how privileged it feels to be doing this tour. Every single night so far we have been paid well, fed well, sound-checked and given great accommodation from the most humbling and friendly gig promoters and venue staff, all of whom are DIY promoters themselves. We all recognise that there is a vast difference to playing abroad, as the treatment we receive goes above and beyond what we are used to back in the UK, where being fed and accommodated – without even having to ask first – feels all too much like a rare luxury.
We leave early on another big drive to Oslo, Norway, and are graced with even more spectacular sights, with a seemingly endless array of thick, snow-covered pine trees outside of the van windows. Somehow we get hit with two near-death experiences. We narrowly avoid getting side-swiped by a big truck due to the excessive amount of snow. Oh, and Paul nearly chokes on a peanut…
We arrive at a fantastic new venue and pizza restaurant called Vaterland in the city centre. Naturally there are plenty of posters and stickers from various black metal bands all over the walls, and they even have a pizza named after lord Satan itself (bonus points if you can work out the wi-fi password)! An early load in and soundtrack leaves us with enough time to go and visit the historic black metal landmark that is Helvete (now known as Neseblod Records); the infamous basement with the words “BLACK METAL” scrawled across the walls by Mayhem back in the early ‘90s, still stands proudly, and still holds a chilling atmosphere. Plus it’s a great location for a crude photo-shoot!
Norway treats us very kindly, with a well attended, well received show. Big merch sales, and delicious pizza to boot! We battle some technical issues and our own fatigue, but the amazing reception from the crowd tonight leaves us in good spirits.
The van journey is very quiet today as we embark on an eight hour drive. We didn’t get to sleep until gone 2am after the van got stuck in the snow before loadout. We leave Oslo at 7am, and catch up on sleep on the way to Copenhagen for the next show.
Once we arrive at Underwerket, our spirits are much higher. We play our second show supported by Sweden based Tengil, who put on such an intense performance that ends with their frontman covered in blood. They sound like Sigur Rós jamming with Deafheaven, and are all so friendly and charming. The crowd reception tonight is electric, leaving with a show that will certainly stick in my mind for a long time.
Getting pulled over by police (today for the fifth time) has become a routine driving hazard, but thankfully it’s all chuckles and they don’t even bother searching the van anymore. Tonight promises to be one of the most exciting gigs on the tour, as we play in a secret squat venue in Berlin. Strictly no photography allowed, and the gig is promoted on the sly. It turns out to be absolutely rammed from the start as the crushing funeral doom of Urza heats up the room. Lares perform their latest album in full and their spacey blackened sludge goes down a storm.
In true Berlin style, we take the stage at 1am. It feels great to play to such a receptive crowd who spur us on, demanding an encore – a rare thing for a band who struggle to write songs less than ten minutes long! We meet the challenge by playing a much sweatier version of ‘The Forest’, which somehow entices a circle pit!
To be continued…
Breaching is out now on cassette through Astral Noize Records and on CD/LP/DD through Gizeh Records/Wolves & Vibrancy.
Words: Chris “Frenchie” French