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AAA Music | 25 May 2022

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Alien Sex Fiend @ The Electric Ballroom

| On 05, Nov 2010

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London, 31st October

Once again, wefind ourselves at that special time of year, celebrated by children and adults alike. I am not talking about Christmas, but instead Halloween, or alternately the goths’ Christmas, and what date would be more appropriate for the one and only Alien Sex Fiend to ooze from the woodwork once again to play their only UK show of the year at the specially decorated Electric Ballroom in Camden to work their truly surreal magic upon their audience.

Support came from the electro double-act Mechanical Cabaret. I will have to admit, I am often dubious when it comes to electronic acts, as I’m of the opinion that it can be hard to be truly exciting when stuck behind a keyboard. However, I was won over by the frontman. The keyboardist/synth player remained stationary and serious behind his network of musical gadgetry yet the sounds he played were solid, enjoyable and full of more hooks than a bondage dungeon to draw the ears of the audience, and made a great backdrop to the flirtatious theatrics that truly flattered the band’s cabaret title. As the set progressed, the slow-burning charm of the singer bubbled over into full-on audience-embracing in a figurative and literal sense as he jumped from the stage to lean over the barrier to catalyse the growing sparks in the atmosphere of the room into an electric climb to euphoria. What started as a playful, lightly industrial synth-driven act flourished into a hugely enjoyable performance that eschewed the usual standoffish nature of the industrial music scene to become a real celebration of the scene’s liking of sinister camp and coy sexuality, and yet the songs played were by no means fluff – there was a true sense of passion and intelligence and many lyrics held a deep resonance even to the totally uninitiated, myself included. Arpeggiated melody loops and some truly inventive drum machine beats wove themselves into the heady cloud of dry ice and excitement to create an infectious and enjoyable set.

In contrast to the electronic yet human style of Mechanical Cabaret, Alien Sex Fiend were very much – as per usual – in their own totally esoteric plane of existence in both stage presence and musicianship. Ms Fiend ruled the atmospherics and rhythms with assured control behind her sprawling mass of synths, keyboards and drum machines, and the guitarist added a layer of punk rock in abrasive scrapes, riffs and chord bases. Despite this no longer being an completely unusual arrangement, the material played is not so much a conventional song as a seething, pulsating chimeric beast made of music and sound. The song lengths lurch between the infamous burst of obscenity that is ‘B.B.F.C’, which the audience was baying for until its late appearance, and the rambling aural narcotic trips such as ‘Now I’m Feeling Zombified’ with its rabid and determined crawl through torpor and fury, and the giddy dance beats of ‘Ignore The Machine’, these tracks extending into the ten-minute mark. Of course, I am building to make an inevitably inept attempt to describe the truly bewildering and compelling stage presence of frontman Nik Fiend. Looking increasingly inhuman as time goes on, he was not so much a singer as a conduit of the spirit of the music, shambling around the stage with a drink in one hand, microphone in the other, and a more than palpable aura of sheer and total lunacy in the way he arrhythmically yelped and snarled the lyrics with equal amounts of glee and menace while using props such as a bin full of bones and severed limbs, zillion-dollar bills and a massive inflatable banana, all of which were thrown into the audience. There is no possible way to compare a set delivered by a band like this with any conventional set, as it isn’t so much a gig or even a performance so much as a personification of something totally unique and wholly unafraid. And what else can an audience do expect lap it up? Initial swaying and dancing broke into a queasy, chaotic moshpit that threatened to overwhelm the show, yet by the encore came to pass things had stabilised as much as you could hope for.

Alien Sex Fiend are a band that can be hard to like and harder to love, but their mastership of whatever plane of existence it is that they create their own uncompromising weirdness on is undeniable, and seeing them in their element, surrounded by cobwebs, dry ice, mutant mannequins and adoring fans and followers, I found myself caught up in this surreal dimension. This was a mood surpassing just a child in a sweet shop – this was goths at Halloween, and a greater sense of euphoria would be hard to beat.

Author: Katie H-Halinski

Photos: Jake Richards