Drangsal - The Lexington, London
A mild night, an (initially) sparsely attended launchpad venue in North London, and a pub quiz downstairs. Such is the lot of an artist trying to break into new territories, but from small acorns mighty oaks grow and Drangsal have the ability to grow. Hailing from Germany, Drangsal (translated into English as Tribulation) is the brainchild of 23 year old lead singer Max Gruber. A self confessed “English music addict”, his debut UK show comes off the back of a packed year since releasing his debut album Harieschaim in Germany last year, garnering best newcomer awards across his homeland, and releasing his debut UK single ‘Allan Align’.
On arrival at The Lexington the upstairs is sparsely attended, but this changes as stage time edges closer as every German living in the North London area arrive with their British friends in tow. Beset by a few technical difficulties - a keyboard malfunction which given the 80s New Wave element to Drangsal is a potential major disaster - after a few awkward minutes of silence and stage banter, the band file off stage until the issues are resolved. Although the guitarist/keyboardist will continue to receive minor electric shocks throughout the set - “weird plugs in the UK” - which illicts an “awwwww” from the audience and zero sympathy from Gruber. When they finally take to the stage, it is a relentless rip through their debut, with a brief pit stop to try out a new song. Gruber's PR blurb states that he draws influence from early Depeche Mode, and while there is inspiration drawn from this, musically he's drawn more influence from other 80s contemporaries such as mid-80s The Cure, and Simple Minds with a darker edge.
Gruber takes to the stage looking gaunt but flamboyant in a tight fitting suit, whith his stage persona somewhere between a depressed Jarvis Cocker and Paul Dano’s character from There Will Be Blood, twitching and conducting the rest of the band with a few wry and sarcastic comments to the audience. All of this aided by his tight backing band, including the excellent bass player that looked like a glittery Kraftwerk Teddy Boy and doled out gritty chainsaw grinding bass lines. Highlights of the set included ‘Do The Dominance’, and set closer ‘Allan Align’. Despite it being early days in his career and some minor language barriers, your eye is immediately drawn to Gruber as your feet start to move making Drangsal one to keep an eye out for. With the group hitting the studio imminently, we shouldn’t have long to wait.