Black Map / Broadcast, Glasgow | 3rd of June

Black Map / Broadcast, Glasgow | 3rd of June

Fresh from a presumably blinding set at Camden Rocks Festival, Black Map grace the stage in Broadcast for their first ever Scottish headline show. With the magnificent Black Orchid Empire and Randolph’s Grin in tow as support acts for the night, a rather modest crowd can only assume they’re in for a compelling evening of entertainment.

Taking to the stage first were eclectic electronic act, Randolph’s Grin. Hailing from Detroit, MI and Salzburg, Austria respectively, the duo of Robert Bowman and Heidi Winkler transformed the Glasgow basement venue’s passable silence into a cacophony of compressed drum loops, impactful mallet synths and a haunting vocal from Winkler, reminiscent of Siouxsie Sioux. An unconventional opening act for tonight’s uppercard, but this fact works in their favour more than their hindrance. Their melodic and ambient approach to songwriting takes obvious influence from the new-wave synth pop bands prominent in the 1980s, whilst Bowman’s modern production and instrumentation provides a ferocity that would not go amiss on any Nine Inch Nails record. The pair are at their best when they let their downtempo soundscapes take the forefront in tracks like Impeccability and set highlight The Eagle. A slightly awkward and bumbling stage presence is conveyed with the confidence of a band half their age as they blast through 25 minutes of tracks from their albums Intent and Dragon Road, drawing their performance to a close with recent single The Teacher.

The night begins to take a more expected turn with the arrival of London born alternative rock trio, Black Orchid Empire. They make themselves known instantly with the ferocious opening to Burn, a track from their brand new album Yugen. In comparison to Randolph’s Grin, the three piece led by frontman, Paul Visser, bring a signature blend of melody and aggression to their first Glasgow show. Lead single, My Favourite Stranger, showcases harmonic sensibilities akin to Mike Vennart (Oceansize), and bass tones that rival Jon Stockman (Karnivool), whilst throwback track Come In, from the band’s debut album Archetype, delivers an ambient dissonance not dissimilar to Deftones. Black Orchid Empire draw attention with their sheer volume but maintain interest with the subtlety in their composition. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Billy Freedom’s intricately modest drum chops in Pray To The Creature. Piercing distorted guitar tones made for a difficult listening experience in such an intimate venue. As such the sombre cleans demonstrated in set closer, Blacklight Shadow, are a welcome build towards the euphoric climax of a very strong showing from Long Branch Records signees.

Following on from the heavy alternative rock stylings of Black Orchid Empire, tonight’s headliners, Black Map, take to the stage and instantly stake their claim for tightest performance of the night. The opening drones and screeching harmonics of Let Me Out are a model introduction to an aggressive showcase of professionalism not often seen in such small venues. The precision and synchronicity involved in the techniques of all three members of the San Francisco triptych, is a breath of fresh air in a scene often populated by sludgy guitars and lethargic drums. With riffs comparable to Red Fang, and massive choruses rivalling recent Mastodon albums, it is plain to see why Black Map are garnering the traction that they currently are. Barrelling through a 15 song set, featuring songs from all three major releases, the band manage to keep the proverbial ball rolling without overstaying their welcome. Although they tread perilously on the line between monotony and a sense of identity, they manage to break up any tedium with jovial onstage banter and the occasional back and forth with particularly vocal audience members. Anthemic singles like I’m Just The Driver and set closer Run Rabbit Run demonstrate why they could be the United State’s answer to the Britain’s Bad Sign, and my personal highlight, No Colour exhibits just how varied they can be in their songwriting. With their perfect blend of vigour, energy, accessibility and professionalism both onstage and off; Black Map are a force to be reckoned with in this industry.

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