William The Conqueror – William Conquers London’s Water Rats – Live Review *****

William The Conqueror gave one of the gigs of 2018 at the Water Rats in King’s Cross, London.

In an era when news is dominated by threats of European control, a musical invasion is happening which is fronted by a Scottish-born, New Zealand-raised Cornish resident.

Songwriter Ruarri Joseph is the driving force behind William The Conqueror, with brilliant backing from friends and previous collaborators Harry Harding on drums and Naomi Holmes on bass who form a tremendous rhythm section.

Released last year, the band’s first album, Proud Disturber of the Peace, has been widely critically acclaimed. The question after a such fine debut album must be “Can they follow it up?”

Anyone doubters need not worry. The question was answered with a loud, life-reaffirming “yes” as the trio played nine tracks from the new album, along with the same number from Proud Disturber. The quality of the forthcoming album (to be released in February 2019) is of such a high standard that the new material sounded just as good and almost as familiar as the old.

This band kicks serious ass. The driving bass and drums motor the tracks along with ferocious intensity and the seemingly laid-back Joseph’s languid delivery soars with his oft discordant guitar cutting through the songs like a chainsaw through a telegraph pole. Heavily rhythmic guitar chord solos are a feature and the intensity never drops as the songs build and build.

Joseph, a man of few words onstage, was evidently enjoying himself, and at several points in the 18-track, 90-minute set he even allowed himself a smile. “How are you doing?” he asked. “Rock ‘n’ roll.”

The band opened with a new song, Madness On The Line, before the familiar Pedestals and The Many Faces Of The Truth. By this time the venue was rocking. You seldom see so many people moving in the audience, few were standing still and several couples were dancing.

Standout tracks included Baby I Did You Wrong, Bleeding On The Soundtrack (the title track from the forthcoming album) and another new one to look forward to, the bouncy Thank Me Later.

After an hour Joseph said “we’re just warming up” and the band reached a crescendo to close the set with Cold Ontario, Sensitive Side and Proud Disturber Of The Peace. Manawatu, after where Joseph grew up in New Zealand, and the rocking Mind Keeps Changing provided the encore.

William The Conqueror are getting better and better. They rock.

Words by Chaz Brooks

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