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Moni Jitchell: UNREAL Album Launch – Live Review

For May’s print edition of SNACK mag, I had the pleasure of reviewing Glasgow hardcore duo Moni Jitchell’s debut album UNREAL, describing it as a short, sharp, hideous delight. It’s an album that gets the balance between crushing heaviness, deranged hooks and brevity, just right. It’s punishing but catchy and short enough to avoid the potential of listener fatigue (for those familiar with extreme music at least).

Given that they’re a two-piece, I was intrigued as to how Moni Jitchell would translate their sound to a live environment, so… when the call came out for someone to attend the Edinburgh launch show of UNREAL, I leapt out of my seat in anticipation. Not really – I just sent a polite email accepting the invitation –  but I was genuinely excited. 

On paper, The Banshee Labyrinth seemed a good match for a night of heavy music: a cult/horror/metal-themed bar that claims to be Scotland’s most haunted pub and was once part of Edinburgh’s infamous underground vaults. This spooky warren of bars and live music is one of my favourite places in the capital, it even has its own cinema for goodness sake! Yet, despite having visited The Banshee Labyrinth several times, I’d never actually been to a gig there, so it was a welcome chance to explore another of the venue’s dimly lit corners. On the night, I descended some steps, traversed a short angular corridor and emerged into a tiny, square, basement—an intimate setting, to say the least. 

Support was provided by two very different bands. First up was Dundee’s Portable Heads, who describe themselves as ‘somewhere between post-rock, post-punk and noise-rock’. In practice, this was a web of elongated guitar licks, droning, thrashing riffs, intricate drums and thumping bass. I particularly enjoyed the bassist’s savage screaming throughout the set. The Dundonian noise merchants were followed by Livingston’s GRAVELLE, a gothic/electronic/hard-rock/metal duo stylistically and visually reminiscent of the London band Zetra. 

Finally, Moni Jitchell (Grant Donaldson and David Scott) took to the stage amid a wall of deafening electronic noise. Even the mic check was heavy as fuck, tested with a few belted screams. It was so loud that I had no idea how they could concentrate, but it was an interesting setup. 

Grant seared the audience with violent screams while David melted faces with distorted riffs on an electrified 12-string. They made one hell of a racket and tracks like ‘Waves’, ‘Hell of a Yeah’, ‘Sell Selfish’ and ‘Moni Jitchell Live at Hellfest’ sounded utterly monstrous. ‘Old Currency’ was a particular highlight as David broke a string during the song’s signature breakdown, and the severed ends dangled chaotically during various head-banging, hair-flailing, rockstar poses. It was visceral and unbelievably heavy… but most of all, it was excellent fun.

UNREAL is out now

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