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The Misplaced Metalhead Volume Nine

April 10, 2012 6 comments

Mosh! March 2012

Promoter: Mosh! Winchester

Date: Saturday 31st March 2012

Venue: The Railway, Winchester

Bands: Silent Prophecy, Black Skies Burn, Eternal Torment

So another month, another Mosh. Back at The Railway which is quickly becoming the most regular of my nightly haunts and ready for another night of great fucking metal. Working in a different town every Saturday now does mean that my batteries are a little low on charge when it comes to Saturday nights out but, as anybody who reads The Misplaced Metalhead will know, I’m not going to let shit like that stop me. I was a little disappointed to learn that the usual four pronged setlist had been demoted to three on short notice but fuck it, this night is still the best metal night you’re going to get in Winchester – so on with the show.

Leading the charge were Classic NWOBHM tinged thrash gunners Eternal Torment. Not only was the gig off to a reduced band count but, I learned shortly after, the opening act were also a man down for this night. Nevertheless, even at reduced numbers, Eternal Torment were a particularly brilliant sight to behold. With arms rising powerfully in the air like a great and mighty Adonis, vocalist James Manley-Bird rocked his way through the setlist as the driving force of a strong and determined metal band. Reminiscent of Blaze Bayely (pre-hair loss), Manley-Bird was a consumate frontman who held the attention of everybody in the room…well…those of us who weren’t moshing the fuck out.

It wasn’t just the vocals that held us though and the giant singer was backed up by a very tight and impressive band. Sporting the type of metal which has kept the faithful’s neck fixing bills high for decades, each song felt like a classic of yester-year. Even songs starting with a nice little banter along the lines of ‘Cleopatra – big nose, but nice rack’. Particular praise has to go to guitarist Martin Sheath who made the abscence of a rhythm guitarist completely impreceptible (I didn’t even realsie they were a five-piece until it was mentioned).

This was a band sporting some great metal the way it’s worked for years. Yes it’s a bit old fashioned, yes it’s been done. Fact of the matter is Eternal Torment are one hell of an argument for ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.

In the ensuing gap between sets the audience started to filter out of the venue so when the lead support Black Skies Burn took their instruments and prepared to rock there were only a few of us left watching. Without meaning to sound too judgemental or cruel, it wasn’t long into the set before I started to think the people out the back had the right idea. Suffocated by an overwrought bassline; the band thundered clumsily through several songs often indistinguishable from one another. I could see the fingers of the guitarists working wildly and flying up and down the fretboard but, underneath the collossal sound of the bass guitar, we could barely hear any notes. I’ve seen deathcore bands before and been pretty impressed by them but Black Skies Burn was a remarkable exception. This was a band operating on one level – noise – pure and simple. Some people may like that, good luck to them if they do, but if this was the only example I’d been given I just wouldn’t be sold.

So with both supports finished it was time, sooner than expected, for the lead act of the night: female fronted hard rockers Silent Prophecy. There’s a certain cliche that you often find with female fronted bands that the singer becomes the sole focus of attention and the rest of the band get left behind, almost like a backing band (i.e. Paramore, Nightwish, old school Within Temptation etc). With this in mind I resolved to make sure I didn’t fall into this trap when reviewing and took the band as a whole.

Long story short, I didn’t need to make a special effort with Silent Prophecy as the band rocked fucking hard as a whole, and as individuals. Unlike most bands, where I find the guitarists hold most of my attention, the real hero of this band was drummer Rowell who combined fast-paced fills to keep the rhythm tight along with a few flights into polyrhythmic soloing you generally get from the likes of Mastodon and Tool. That said, the hard rock offered by the rest of the band  wasn’t exactly lacklustre and the triple barreled string assault from guitarists Big T and Ollie and bassist GG was something to behold as my head windmilled its way into oblivion.

I realise now I’ve kind of invented my own trap by trying to avoid another one, having done a review based on the vocalist by avoiding the vocalist. Sorry about that, normal service now resuming. Singer Theresa was a great crowd pleaser with a good voice, one which greatly suited the music, but didn’t seem to get into her stride until about the third song. It’s not that she wasn’t good, because she really was, but her voice was sometimes swallowed up by the rest of the band and until song four became very difficult to hear. The thing that stood out above this though was a great sense of synergy between Theresa and the rest of the band – never once falling into that trap that I mentioned before. These guys love doing what they do, and frankly they should be damn proud of it.

You may remember from my last review that Mosh! February set the bar pretty fucking high so I did come away feeling a bit disappointed. I’ll make a ‘wild’ assumption here though and assume that had something to do with being drunk (the £5 card limit does seem to turn me into a man who buys drinks 2 at a time). Looking back on it now with the benefit of hindsight it wasn’t the best gig I’ve been to but now I’m sure to keep a look out for Eternal Torment and Silent Prophecy. That’s the best thing about local gigs; you’d be hard pressed to find great bands that you’ll never see again.

Summing Up

Eternal Torment: 8/10
Black Skies Burn: 1/10
Silent Prophecy: 7/10

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The Misplaced Metalhead Volume Eight

Chimaira’s Age of Hell Tour

Promoter: eOne Music

Date: Sunday 25th March 2012

Venue: The Joiners, Southampton

Bands: Chimaira, Revoker, Neosis, Dukes of Agares

Sunday’s an odd day for a gig, don’t know what it is. Probably the fact that, traditionally, people have work the next day (myself included) so you’re more likely to get gigs on Fridays and Saturdays when people have the following day off and can go absofuckinglutely mental. Nevertheless the atmosphere of anticipation in the Joiners was palpable. This was my first time seeing a genuinely big time band in such a small venue so I was looking forward to great things not just from the show but from the crowd too. This tiny venue with its oddly L shaped layout was sold out and once doors opened the crowd came pouring in.

Greeting us with a bang was opening support act Dukes of Agares, a band who, frankly, look like they’d be more comfortable on a fishing weekend than performing for a slew of Heavy Metal fans. Nevertheless their collectiove age was pittance compared to their collective talent and their chugging riffs came thick and fast, washing over the crowd and firing us up with some good old fashioned Death Metal glory. Vocalist Geoff Kinch has a voice which sounds like James Hetfield gargling nails and suited the stripped down and raw sound this band has achieved perfectly, accentuated by some collossal shredding and backing vocals from Ian Yabsley, diversifying their sound in what can often be a touch of a homogenised genre. The purposeful and grinding guitar work was kept on track by the tight bass and drum lines ensuring a monolithic behemoth of sound, unsoppable and pounding through everything in its way.

Probably my favourite thing about this act though was their sense of humour, with such doom laden style and lyrics its always great to see bands ripping the shit out of themselves and having a laugh. Let’s face it, live metal in venues like this is often a young man’s game and the guys were perfectly willing to joke about their comparative seniority but one thing’s for certain, the talent and experience that Dukes of Agares opened this gig with was anything but a joke.

Once Dukes of Agares had left the stage we would be waiting a while for the next band to get ready as, in my years of going to gigs, I have never seen anybody quite as obsessive-compulsive with their sound check as second support Neosis. It wasn’t until they were absolutely sure that everything was perfect that the set began. With eight guitar strings and five bass strings in tow, Neosis were promising a lot just by walking on the stage, boasting high end equipment which demands respect and better not be wasted. I’ll be honest and say it took me a while to get in to these guys. There was a polyrhythmic, almost math-core style on display which demanded the sort of attention which made a mosh out difficult, owing to the odd timings and changes on display. It wasn’t until halfway through their second song that I got my feel for it and bowed down to the intricate fretwork of guitarist Greg; who flew across all eight strings to create incredibly technical solos befitting years and years of practice and showing that flare which sets this band out from contemporaries of the genre.

The extended length of these songs created an incredibly experiential atmosphere that took you on a journey through their warped view on the world (check the band’s myspace, trust me) and threw you out on the other side wondering what the fuck just happened. Unfortunately, I have to admit, I found the set to have a bit of a forgettable quality to it. The talent and technique were both there but I came away not having felt anything in the same way I had for the opening act. Sometimes simplicity is the answer when you want to communicate these massive ideas and feelings and in this respect Neosis have somewhat trapped themselves in complexity. I’d still recommend them though, if you like that sort of thing.

As the time ticked away and we got closer and closer to the sainted Chimaira there was only one support act left to take the stage; the South Wales rock powerhouse Revoker. I’m probably going to slip into a lot of cliche here but here goes, some words to describe Revoker: Aggressive, strong, powerful and fucking alive (Told you). Like Bullet for My Valentine in their early days, Revoker brought an uncompromising rock sound tinged with all the grit and hardness of balls to the wall metal. There was a vibrant and accessible quality to the band’s music which set them apart from the throng of doom laden aggression of many bands in the contemporary metal landscape and, at times, that’s exactly what you fuckign want from a band. Particularly impressive were the blistering solos firing from the fingers of guitarist Chris Green which set of the explosion of the night’s first moshpit. I don’t know what it is about Wales, maybe it’s in the air, maybe it’s that there’ fuck all to do outside Cardiff (so I’m told), whatever the case – it fucking rocks.

When Revoker left everybody was fired up to fever pitch and ready to crush some skulls in reverance of Chimaira’s latest offering ‘The Age of Hell’. Problem is that with big bands like this there’s often a lot of tech to get sorted so we had to sit through the sight of the roadies doing their work. In most gigs this is where the energy drops but not this one. Incense sticks were set off and the soundtrack changed to a chilling mix of ambient sounds, creating an atmosphere of intense anticipation so that all we knew was there was something special coming. Sure enough, as Chimaira took to the stage and launched full tilt into their opening number the ferocity from earlier had not dissapated at all and I instantly found myself hurled to the opposite side of the floor under the power of the pit.

The aggression of Chimaira’s music was like a shot in the arm for all of us, dosing the whole crowd up with a feral rage few gigs are capable of. In this small venue the pit was all encompassing and flamed higher and higher with each passing song. Every note, drum beat and scream came hammering down upon us and reverberated around to create a sea of metal madness, ensnaring everybody in its thick waves. Listening to the music you could tell this was not just hype; despite the almost entirely new line-up Chimaira sound as tight as a band who have been playing together for years and not one part of the thrashing groove metal monster slacked as they broguht their rage down upon us. Lead guitarist Emil Werstler was particularly on fire with his intricate yet powerful solos punctuating the end of several songs and hypnotising us all as the rest of the band fell silent, momentarily taking the focus off of the one-man powerhouse of Mark Hunter on vocals. Only being familiar with one of Chimaira’s albums (the latest one) I saved most of my moshing for the insane ‘Year of the Snake’ and was completely blown away by how well it translates to the live atmosphere, particularly the punishing breakdown and vocals of keyboardist Sean Zatorsky.

You may rememebr me saying that Sunday is a weird day to have a gig on and now I get to the main point as to why. Everything, including TRAINS, operates on Sunday trading hours so with the gig finishing at 11.15, a twenty minute walk to the station and the last train home at 11.10…well…I’m sure you can figure it out. LEaving a gig in full swing absolutely sucks but, even seeing part of it, I feel like this was a gig I’m going to remember for a long time. It fucking rocked. There’s not really anything else I need to say.

Summing up:

Dukes of Agares: 8/10
Neosis: 6/10
Revoker: 9/10
Chimaira: 9/10