LIVE: Salem @ Cathouse, Glasgow

By gary cassidy

On any given night, Glasgow’s alternative scene descends upon Cathouse for an unholy communion – but tonight is special as Southampton’s favourite son, Will Gould, is back in town, this time with his side project, Salem.

Just one month after rocking Glasgow’s Garage with the much more theatrical Creeper, where he frequented Cathouse afterwards for a DJ set, he’s back with his Misfits-esque venture – although that term alone does zero justice to what Salem brings to the table.

With the lights down and bright pink spotlights on the stage, there’s one crucial member of the band not yet present, but Will Gould’s arrival brings “presence” in abundance as the band rip straight into arguably the band’s biggest hit.

Since the release of Scream 5, Salem’s opener ‘Fall Out Of Love ‘ has thrust the band into the limelight with the movie’s closing credit song garnering the band much more attention in a short space of time – and it hasn’t fazed them in the slightest. Donning a leather jacket and sporting a devilock-style quiff, the apparition of ‘Ghould’ challenges the crowd to match his energy, which is no mean feat.

While Creeper’s recent material has been much more methodical and theatrical, Salem are raw and unleashed. The production doesn’t suffer as a result, however, as Gould’s delivery carves through the venues atmosphere, and what bleeds out is pure vigour and vivacity.

“I am overpowered” may just be the most ironic line sung by Gould as he holds a submissive audience in the palm of his hand, confidently performing the track that’s given them mainstream success. One thing’s for sure, Salem are certain that no-one who possibly turned up to simply hear ‘Fall Out Of Love’ will be leaving the venue immediately after.

The influence of Misfits on Salem is emphasised with a very punk performance of ‘DRACULADS’. The audience prepare to crumble like headstones for Gould, before up-tempo ‘Doomed (For Each Other)’ sees a sinkhole-like mosh pit consume the floor. While Salem’s lyrics can be haunting and downright macabre, the sound on ‘Doomed’ is anything but – it’s catchy, it’s melodic, and will be stuck in your head for days.

It’s worth noting that Salem isn’t just “the guy from Creeper and three others”, as guitarist Matthew Reynolds floods the venue with riff after riff, hitting every note with both pinpoint precision and enough freedom that the performance is definitively live, and each song much more organic-sounding than its studio counterpart. Meanwhile, bassist Ranny Ransom and drummer Jack Wrench help both control the chaos, while also encouraging it ever so slightly.

‘Eyesore’ may be the most underrated track of the night and is a clear standout live. With lyrics like, “I keep telling her she’s dangerous, she keeps telling me she’s fine, but she falls for me like Peggy E, from atop the Hollywood sign,” Salem are a band whose words definitely pack a punch.

There are mosh pits aplenty the further we delve into the night, and ‘Heaven Help Me’ leaves everyone glad they got out with all their limbs in tact.

Salem don’t really do ballads but ‘Throat’ may be about as close as we come to one. Like many of their songs, it’s a love letter with, let’s say, a twist. “Therе’s a killer on the streets of my heart” may sum up most of what Salem is about but “wrap your hands around my throat and hurt me like you love me” probably covers the rest.

Now, it’s been a while since I mentioned the clear Misfits influence on Salem, and Will Gould embodies Danzig as the band perform their own rendition of ‘Where Eagles Dare’ to a possibly surprising reaction as even the younger members of the audience respond in kind.

One of the heaviest tracks of the set-list is grungy-riffed ‘Sweet Tooth’ before Gould says, “This is a song about me”, as he introduces the self-deprecating ‘William, It Was Really Something’. Buzzcocks-like musically, it may just be the band’s strongest song lyrically. “Am I a villain? Well, I used to walk the line.  Now I’m creepin’ back to the scene of the crime” is among the standout lines. While lyrics tend to get lost sometimes in live performance, there’s not a chance of this happening here as Gould’s delivery is… well, if I compare it to any courier company, I’m probably underselling it.

Penultimate track ‘Keep The Thorns’ is a great example of Gould’s incredible vocal range on the powerhouse track which sees the band unleash a key change on the crowd!

The only critique of the gig is the length of it – which is probably the single greatest insult you can give to any band. While Salem’s premature departure is purely down to the fact that they only have two EPs  compiled of mainly short punk songs, there won’t be one soul in attendance who feels short-changed. The welcome most definitely hasn’t been overstayed, and everyone has got much more than their £13-worth of entertainment tonight.

However, just in case the needs hadn’t been satisfied yet, final track ‘Destroy Me’ seals the deal. Much less of an insurance policy, much more of a metaphoric slicing of hands to make a blood pact with their fans. “I want to hang helpless from your noose” continues the macabre love letter in a song theme which normalises kinks and explores the many forms which love can come in, and one particular rendition of the line, provides the moment of the night with Will Gould and drummer Jack Wrench performing in perfect cohesion to deliver every single line line shotgun blast to the chest – or a pocket knife to the chest.

As the gig ends, there’s an overwhelming feeling that this may be the last time for many to see the band in a venue of this size. The band sound huge, and they’re garnering new fans at a rapid rate. The true challenge will be nurturing what makes them special.

Salem have definitely left their mark tonight, and if you have the chance to see them and don’t take it… Well, heaven help you.


Photo by Calum McMillan Photography (@cmcmillanphoto)