NME review, London Astoria, October '98

Mark Lanegan

London WC2 Astoria

You might feel down in the ground, you might feel lower than low - hell, you might even feel like the abyss is dragging you down - but until Mark Lanegan opens his mouth to sing, the depths to which a body can sink remain unfathomed. 'The Voice Of The Screaming Trees' announce the inappropriately glitzy tickets - but Lanegan is also the voice of a subspace vacuum, the San Andreas Fault, collapsing buildings. No-one except the stupid expects Gene Pitney quavering, but the scope of that sound, emanating from a shapeless black jacket and a cloud of smoke, still takes the breath from your lungs.

If his subterranean onstage announcements are incomprehensible in his songs, that voice is all eloquence. When a man like Lanegan turns himself out to show his blackened heart, there will be no bloodlessly chirruping confessional, but the rolling of latent menace. Latent like a knife in the back in the case of the duel-bladed twang of 'Hospital Roll Call', but still the sound of trouble on it's way. 'The Winding Sheet' crawls from a grisly series of Bad Life Days, while even the attempted redemption of the Trees 'Sworn And Broken', flashing skywards on Mike Johnson's swingboating guitar, has an axe in it's back pocket and a grievance on it's mind. The question remains wether such relentless post grunge soul bearing is what's required this far down the line, especially when 'Because Of This', crashing to the ground like Led Zeppelin's black box recorder, brings the rock beast slouching so near.

Not so much a rock show, as a reminder of the bottomless pit that awaits. And that really is deep.

Victoria Segal (NME)