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Weekend Intermission – Live! Deriva (Spain) at Retro Bar Manchester

Weekend Intermission is our regular feature where we look at an artist or band not from the Nordic countries, just to mix things up a bit.

I’m bringing this section forward this week as it is Easter and there will be quite a few Nordic releases to cover. It’s a trip down Memory Lane tonight. I can’t remember the last time I pitched up at a small dark venue to listen to bands of rockers playing their socks off at 11 on the volume knob. The things we do for love.

That venue is Retro Bar, on the edge of Manchester’s student quarter – well student city now I suppose -and the Gay Village, where the event room is situated in a basement so deep it will serve as a great bomb shelter when the time comes. Don’t tell too many people about it though, it only holds about 100.

I vaguely recall it was the location of a popular Greek dance bar in the 1980s, when Manchester’s nightlife was at its peak, but those days are long gone.

Today, music venues, pubs and bars are closing faster than they are opening and that’s at least partly down to the fact you can’t find a place to park if you are coming in from the ‘burbs. All my usual spaces are now unavailable owing either to yet another block of apartments being built or some or other arcane decision made by the Manchester Burgermeisters. So I ended up closer to the Etihad Stadium than to the venue.

But a refreshing 30-minute hike later I was ready for anything, including being met on the door by the female singer of one of the support bands who seemed to be standing in as the doorman.

That band is Apparition, mainly out of Manchester. I’m not sure how to classify them. There are so many genres and sub-genres these days I don’t know where to start. I suppose somewhere between a traditional heavy rock band and a noise band will have to do, with the emphasis on the latter bit.

They generate plenty of energy, the vocalist (didn’t catch her name) knows how to grab and retain attention, they play very competently and at speed and they know how to get the crowd going. Early on they had the audience doing a little dance they’ve patented which looked like Wilson, Keppel and Betty’s ‘Sand Dance’. Absolutely no-one will know what I’m talking about there, so just Google it!

By the time we reached their “heaviest song”, ‘Possession’ heads were flailing so consistently they could have kept the National Grid going on their own. If this is ‘green energy’ I’ll buy it.   

The band I was scheduled to see is Madrid-based Deriva which is in the midst of a short tour of northern Europe, with four UK dates of which this was the second. They messaged me and asked me to go along and I was more than happy to make the trip because their journey was much longer than mine and I will support any European artist or band that makes the effort to come here, what with all the EU administration crap they have to go through to do it. I wish more Nordic bands would do the same.

I just hope they were able to find somewhere to park.

Deriva’s members also come from the northern Spanish province of Galicia and in the drummer’s case he is Scottish but now based in Colorado, USA. If he flew in just for these dates he deserves a medal.

They bill themselves as “an instrumental cinematic post-metal machine”, creating “movies for your ears” and one that “encompass raw emotion ranging from melancholy and contemplation to rage and explosivity.”

They certainly are not deriva-tive of any other band if you’ll pardon the pun. From what I saw and heard they are pretty well unique.

They are wholly instrumental, which I thought, after the event, is a shame because some of their songs do merit a vocal contribution in the more “explosive” passages, even if there are no actual lyrics. On the video below you can see that they have employed a dancer/performing artist and that is equally complementary. I’d love to see them with both a vocalist and dancer, on a bigger stage. Now that really would be something.

I have even more difficulty pigeonholing Deriva than I had with Apparition. As regular readers will know I follow symphonic metal, especially Nightwish, and I was hoping for a taste of that. They aren’t symphonic in that they do not follow the sort of chord progressions that are suited to orchestral overlays and actual metal riffs are few and far between but that doesn’t mean they aren’t melodic. Or that they don’t rock. And a variety of complex time signatures will keep you on your toes.

Where they score particularly highly is in allying the wall of sound they create with the sort of stage presence that tells you they think deeply about the music they construct and take a genuine delight in playing it, even to a small number of people, mainly young Spaniards studying or otherwise living here I guess.

They were so taken with it all that I started to think of them as the Deriva Ultras.

They also occasionally insert other modes into their songs. Towards the end I was surprised to hear a bit of psych and then even more so to encounter some early years’ prog, a section of a song that sounded like it might have belonged to an early Genesis album.

Anyway, see what you make of it. Here is the video I mentioned earlier, of ‘Aquae Vitae’; a popular drink in Madrid I assume.

(‘Aqua Vitae’ is the new single from the album ‘NONA/DÉCIMA/MORTA’.)

No disrespect at all intended to Retro Bar but Deriva both needs and deserves a bigger venue, supported by more intense promotion. Some of the innovative stuff they played wouldn’t be out of place at the Royal Northern College of Music or Stoller Hall. I’m confident they will find an audience here.

I hope they might play a festival in Manchester, perhaps the Beyond the Music event, the second edition of which (in October) just opened for bookings. (Hint to band!)

The only slight concern I have is the volume they play at. It was probably well in excess of 100Db, too loud for my delicate lugholes without the earplugs that distort the sound badly, and if the Burgermeisters had found out they might have been shut down in another venue. They wouldn’t even be allowed into Night & Day, what with the complaining neighbours they have.

I wonder too if it is really necessary to play intelligent music at that volume.

Only the Spanish can party like the Spanish and when I left it was fiesta time with what I guess was the hit of the week on the national radio blaring through the speakers and band and audience alike in full on ‘carnaval’ mode. Time for my siesta. Adios amigos.

Find them on:



Bandcamp (album):

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