Nov 082016

Aberdeen Voice’s Fred Wilkinson and Suzanne Kelly spend a night at the Theatre; Krakatoa erupted (glad to get that bad pun out of the way) with possibly its most high voltage show and hyper audience ever. Photographed beautifully by Dod Morrison.

theatre-of-hate-1-dod-morrisonFeel sorry for yourself if you didn’t get into Theatre of Hate’s sold-out show if you love music, because it was one of those nights that will go down as legendary in Aberdeen’s live music history.
Theatre of Hate returned to The Granite City after a 30-something year absence touring new album, Kinshi, and we all went mad for it.

Theatre of Hate is Kirk Brandon (lead vocals, guitar, otherworldly stage moves); Adrian Portas (guitars; tonight, looming on a platform over the others on stage); Stan Stammers (bass guitarist whose playing flows like fine wine); John Lennard (saxophone – the most expressive you’d hope to hear) and percussionist Chris Bellcafe giving it his all.

The band formed in the early 80s, eventually morphing into Spear of Destiny.  In 2014 they appeared for the first time in decades with a new EP of four diverse and powerful tracks which eventually led to…

The new album, Kinshi

Kinshi is Japanese for prohibited. The album artwork shows samurai warriors whose world and way of life was soon to be outlawed.  While the samurai ways passed into legend, their warrior tradition persists – read into that what you will. The four songs from the EP included ‘Venice’ – a haunting/haunted ballroom love/break-up waltz.

The pre-apocalypse, politically volatile ‘Day of the Dog’s’ lyrics ask questions of East and West in terms of dogma and suffering:

“Breaking point / The Gateway to the West / Unhinged, broken / Flood makes the journey / Meanwhile warmongers / 7th century / Thirst for blood / All in the name of” (with ‘God’ being the unspoken name I conclude).


It makes me question our volatile world situation (God – if you’re reading feel free to weigh in).

It also makes me wonder why, when there is so much that needs to be said today, mainstream music shies away from reality and goes with safe, bankable lyrics and anodyne acts, or pointlessly salacious and pointlessly high-budget tracks (‘Bitch better have my money’ – thank you Rihanna). But I digress.

My favourite song from the EP and the album is ‘Slave’ – hypnotic rhythm leads to a great crescendo of guitar/bass/drum/sax with Brandon’s vocals riding the curl of this rich wave of sound.

Theatre of Hate have this amazing sax and guitar layering over bass/drum no outfit I know can approach.  The song  is a surprisingly accurate insight into the pressures on women to conform to the media’s Barbie-doll beauty ideal – physically impossible of course. ToH’s ‘Slave’ offers further keen observations on the thoughts an ageing starlet or model might have; am astonished by these insights into women’s issues.

Slave’s lyrics start off suggesting a portrait of a self-absorbed ageing beauty

“She woke this morning / put on slave paint / living the life of glamour / the Hollywood land ideal… Self love and pity from a bottle / the media play the woman game.”

Then Brandon’s lyrics widen out to perhaps the moral of the song (well, for me anyway), as he invokes the famous Rubaiyat of  Omar Kayyam:

“The moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on: nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.” 

Brandon writes:

“No one can stop the clock that ticks / Or halt the calendar page / Fear itself, has made her slave / She’s the fashion, of her age – SLAVE.”

Ten points for including a beautifully illustrated booklet with lyrics with this album, and another ten points for Theatre of Hate for showing such understanding of the pressures the media and society put on women, particularly physically beautiful women to remain beautiful while time makes the feat impossible – it makes some of them slaves to vanity.  ‘Slave’ is hypnotic; the way it builds is gorgeous – the album version is beautifully worked – and I can’t stop listening to it.

Back to the rest of the album. ‘Mr Mendacity’ is illustrated with an image of everyone’s least-favourite POTUS candidate, Mr Drumpf.

This timely piece of protest music is going down very well with anti-Trump factions (I wish it were on Youtube or somewhere I could share it more – hint hint) and reminds us what a good protest song can and should do.

“He’s got an ego, the size of his house / He’s got the money and he’s got a mouth / Flannels everyone he’s talking so loud / Suitably self impressed, working his muppet crowd” – and there in a few lines is a summary of a man no one should be taken in by.

There is a dub version of the album as well; I can’t wait to hear it. The project was crowdfunded, and contributors chose from a range of rewards and enjoyed periodic updates and tracks. Too late to be a crowd funder, but it’s not too late to order Kinshi, and from the look of how they were flying off the merchandise stall last night, looks like some of you are way ahead of me on the point.

theatre-of-hate-3-dod-morrisonThe Krakatoa Show

There is a faithful core of people in Aberdeen who follow Spear of Destiny and Theatre of Hate; this first appearance in Aberdeen (last was apparently 30 years ago in Fusion) was highly anticipated, and there was an energy and enthusiasm in the crowded bar that night before the show started.
‘Black Irony’ was the first song of this set which balanced old and iconic ToH pieces perfectly.

The set was long and must have been gruelling, not least for Brandon whose operatic range and preternatural ability to sustain notes is well known – but it also all seemed to end far too soon. Twenty songs – or was it twenty-two? – filled the venue, and the crowd were ecstatic.

‘Black Irony’ is a dark, sinister indictment of western values :

“I believe in Micky Mouse, Snow White and the 7 dwarves / Snowden & Assange / I believe in Dr Strange”

Brandon menacingly intones; the sax is sultry, more than a bit sordid. Splendid work, and the crowd is responding to the new material, with many people already aware of the lyrics.

Towards the start of the set are ‘Americanos’ and ‘The Hop’ – clearly favourite songs of many people here. After ‘Ukraine Girl’ from the new album with its 1960s feel beat, things are calmed down with another haunting number this time classic ‘Love is as Ghost’. Loss, love, suicide, and pain in the lyrics are beautifully matched by the music, and the sax is mournful. Sticking to the dark side of romance is the classic (but angrier) Incinerator. The audience is very much there with them.

‘Conquistador’ then brings the set to ‘Mr Mendacity’ – and for a while I’m lost from my attempts to make notes on the night to just enjoying it. Floating along one moment, jolted then by ‘Legion’ and the chanting crowd, I’m enjoying the ride; we all are. Someone’s said to me at the end of ‘Legion’,

“That was a life-changing experience.” 

The next thing I know Kirk’s getting everyone to sing ‘Original Sin’ with him. The fever pitch in Krakatoa is like no other night I’ve spent there and everyone’s shouting ‘Do you Believe in the Westworld’ at the top of their lungs before the final encore, ‘Propaganda’.

theatre-of-hate-5-dod-morrisonPerhaps people think first of Kirk, Stan and Lennard – the original ToH members.

This night would not have hit the heights without Adrian Portas’ talents and Farrant’s percussion. Watching and hearing Portas is a pleasure; wish I could have seen more of Farrant behind the crowd and the guitars – but we all felt and heard his work (must be exhausting mentally as well as physically).

Verdict – virtuoso (yeah an overused word) performances from all, with every member of ToH having moments when they particularly shone as individuals, and a night of wholly original music performed with conviction and spirit of a kind we rarely enjoy. There was one passage where Stan Stammers was remarkable, but as my notes were eventually covered in beer, I can’t quite tell you which bit I’d been particularly struck by.

During one moment of Zeppelin’s film ‘The Song Remains The Same’ Plant is backstage at Madison Square Garden and comes out with an odd statement:

“This is a song that sometimes takes a building in a manner which our forefathers were very used to. Did you hear that? It’s right though, isn’t it? That feeling that’s left everybody, the cosmic energy! Everybody goes yeah! Bash!” 

I never knew what he was on about until this show.

Don’t take my word for it:

“They’ve disposed of traditional structures – chorus, middle 8. When you get it, you get it. I can’t predict what they’re going to do next. What an excellent night.” – Fred Wilkinson (Toxik Ephex, Aberdeen Voice editor, said while clutching his copy of Kinshi. Fred also wanted to mention how spot on he found the sound engineer’s work tonight)

“It was triumphant return to Aberdeen for TOH after 34 years and good to see the Aberdeen people come out and support a local venue that is keeping music alive” – Dod Morrison, photographer

“Aberdeen was brilliant”Jayne Pirie

On A personal note:

I wish I’d made it to more of these dates; it’s a genuine regret as I’ve read such glowing reports about the shows. Fred Wilkinson wasn’t going to stay at first (he was there for a meeting earlier in the evening, but he was persuaded, and wound up very happy he remained, although when I pointed out the Trump artwork in the Kinshi lyrics, he had a funny turn.

Admission – I was a miserable, useless failed bass student; no matter how hard I practiced scales and lines, whatever I played sounded mechanical and stilted. So it was absolute thrill listening to Stan Stammers make such fluid, melodious, emotive music.

Another admission – I usually don’t like saxophone in rock such as Springsteen – Clements was a huge talent I admit – but there was always something so wholesome, American, clean-cut about most sax in rock that it just left me cold. Lennard’s playing is as far removed from the kind of sax I find cloying as is possible to get, and I loved it.  Lastly I hope Hen is recovering well, and Craig Adams – thanks for yet another great night.

Let’s not leave it so long next time please. Encore.

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Oct 062016

theatre_of_hate_by_nic_attwood2With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Legendary 1980s band Theatre of Hate will release its first album in some 30 years on 14  October.
Theatre of Hate were formed in the 1980s, but only recently reformed to tour. Original members Stan Stammers (bass) and John Leonard (saxophone) will join Brandon in the current line-up which will be at Krakatoa on 4 November.

The album ‘Kinshi’ (from the Japanese meaning roughy ‘forbidden’) is being crowd funded and offers a wide range of incentives to those who donate to the project and preorder the album which will be available on several formats including vinyl.

Details can be found here:

Vive Le Rock has awarded the album 9/10 in a full page review with a headline that reads:

“Mighty return from post-punk legends”

and goes on to conclude

“Kinshi is the sound of a band who have grown and developed, but never lost sight of what brought them together. It’s intensity and sense of purpose is relentless and it demands attention, but then Theatre of Hate was never meant to be back-ground noise and that’s why so many years on, it’s so good to have them back”

There are a whole host of Pre-Order goodies to be had when getting your hands on a copy of ‘Kinshi’, from Gold Dinner Packages to Double Vinyl versions to

Download only editions. And remember ALL Pre-Orderer’s will receive a download of ‘Kinshi’ direct into their inbox on the release day morning FRIDAY 14TH OCTOBER 2016.

We have not One but Two Pre-Order sites for you to peruse:

To Pre-Order direct from the band, go to
To Pre-Order from PledgeMusic, go to

The full ‘Kinshi’ Tour is selling well. Advance tickets can be found here:

THEATRE of HATE – ‘Kinshi’ UK Tour 2016


Wed 26th LONDON Exclusive Pledge Show
Thu 27th BRISTOL Fleece
Fri 28th BEDFORD Esquires
Sat 29th BUCKLEY Tivoli (Dark Wave Alldayer)
Sun 30th BIRMINGHAM o2 Academy


Tue 1st LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Wed 2nd NEWCASTLE The Cluny
Thu 3rd GLASGOW King Tuts Wah Wah Hut
Fri 4th ABERDEEN Krakatoa
Sat 5th DUNFERMLINE PJ Malloys
Sun 6th MANCHESTER Academy

Tickets & Info

Those who have pre-ordered are receiving updates, videos and mp3s.

Oct 122013

‘The history of a nation is measured by its gains, but where will it end. The money with the power, the weapons with the firepower; they’re owned by you. You’ve heard the list of names, exactly who’s to blame, is this our land of shame.’ – Land of Shame, Kirk Brandon

Kirk Brandon, Adrian Portas, Craig Adams and Mike Kelly – all together and in the Moorings Bar.  It was delicious.  Suzanne Kelly reports, still with a smile on her face; photographs by Julie Thompson.

Spear of Destiny at The Moorings, Aberdeen by Julie Thompson (5)

Spear of Destiny at The Moorings, Aberdeen, 04.10.13

The music and lyrics of Spear of Destiny still resonate as powerfully today as they did when newly released. This speaks volumes about the band in a positive way – and about society and government well – less positively.
I had my SoD memories, and had hardly hoped to expect that all of the power could still be there; thirty years is a lifetime; touring with a demanding repertoire to please demanding fans is a big ask.

After all, there are so very many acts touring now simply to cash in, some with little more than a roadie’s friend’s cousin in the act to justify these so-called ‘reunion’ tours. 

Good and great reviews have greeted this Thirty Years On tour; however, this was to be the first time I’ve seen the band since Kirk Brandon was taken seriously ill in 2011 (I missed their last Aberdeen date).  I was slightly worried; happily, I needn’t have been.

Spear of Destiny at The Moorings, Aberdeen by Julie Thompson (2)SoD was never an easy band to pigeonhole, something which the industry loves to do – package a product, put a label on it, and thrust it on the target market. Opening act The Mighty Human Generator’  was well received (I missed too much of their set to comment and they don’t usually perform acoustic, but but will make it a point to see them soon).

Eventually Mike Kelly, Adrian Portas, Craig Adams (not to be confused with Craig Adam, owner of the Moorings Bar) and Kirk Brandon take the stage.

It might have been a small stage in a modest size venue, but that made it all the more exciting and intimate.

All was going well, spectacularly in fact – but then Brandon asked everyone how they felt about the Scottish Independence referendum – and asked for a vote.

I expected chaos, fights and tears – but to my shock, the vote was split roughly in half, and that was the end of it. Back to the music then, potential riot averted.

Spear of Destiny at The Moorings, Aberdeen by Julie Thompson (1)‘Never Take Me Alive,’ an American western-flavoured epic ending in a dramatic hail of guitar, pleased us all; everyone up front sang and danced (and what well mannered slamming it was too; perhaps we’re all just that little bit older)

‘Treachery’ is haunting and the cords evoke a Celtic/medieval music mood; it’s as magical as it ever was.  The audience, many of who didn’t know each other at the start of the night are singing ‘Treachery’ to each other towards the end of the ambitious set.

There are guitar passages in songs that I’d all but forgotten; some make me realise that a whole slew of musicians owe this band.

There are passages which I’m certain Eddie Vedder must have been influenced by.

One of the most powerful anti-war songs anyone’s every written, ‘Mickey’ has everyone singing along with every line, culminating in cries of ‘I wanna go home.’  It’s punk; it’s a ballad, it’s a protest. You’d need an awful lot of labels to label this one song, let alone label SoD.

The show ends.  Angie in the audience is awestruck, as are a couple who tell me they see SoD as often as they can.

Spear of Destiny at The Moorings, Aberdeen by Julie Thompson (4)The mood is wonderful; stranger talks to stranger. The only person who didn’t seem to enjoy it quite as much as the rest of us is the now ubiquitous person who’s watched the set through their iphone; this phenomenon continues to baffle me.

Eventually the band members come out and mingle.  Portas, Kelly and Adams should be knackered, but are pleasant and seem genuinely pleased at the reception they’ve all had.

Against my will and my better judgment, I’ve been thinking about pop, manufactured bands, stripping singers and Cyrus and that wrecking ball these past few days. Perhaps evolution is going backwards.

Spear of Destiny at The Moorings, Aberdeen by Julie Thompson (6)

Spear of Destiny play to a sellout crowd at The Moorings, Aberdeen.

I get to chat for a few minutes to Kirk;

I asked him about the phenomenon of  the Miley Cyrus approach to music, i.e. getting attention by stripping, riding a wrecking ball, and licking a hammer.

‘Well, it’s silly, isn’t it?’ was the main thing I remember about his response (well, it is a bit noisy).

Miley will have to endure eating and fitness regimes to try to stay young, waif-thin and wrinkle-free to sustain the kind of adoration she’s courted.

When she’s older and her raison d’etre is gone and no one cares about her music, Brandon will be able to say he wrote ‘Treachery,’ ‘Mickey,’ and plays astonishing guitar. (Given a choice, what would you rather be remembered for?). We talk about his past illness ‘I know I’m lucky’ he comments.

Spear of Destiny at The Moorings, Aberdeen by Julie Thompson (3)Topping off a night I’ll remember for quite some time to come, Flash gives some of us a tour of his beer cellar. This is a high-tech lager labour of love; temperature controlled, quality controlled casks in a spotless space.

The only thing left to add is that if you missed the sold out Spear of Destiny  Moorings show, get some people together, get a road trip organised, and get to one of the remaining shows; details here:

Theatre of Hate will be playing UK dates in December as well.

There is also a special limited edition CD, Thirty Years and Counting – which can be found here

More of Julie Thompson’s photos can be found here: