Mosh! April 2012
Promoter: Mosh! Winchester
Date: Saturday 19th May 2012
Venue: The Railway, Winchester
Bands: Primitai, Dendera, Dukes of Agares, Fires of Tartarus
Any of you who speak to me on a regular basis, or have read these reviews before, will notice a certain familiarity with the list of bands put on for the latest installment of Winchester’s only metal night. With the exception of Fires of Tartarus this is the second review for every band on the bill tonight. Dukes of Agares opened for Chimaira in my Volume Eight review (8/10), Dendera opened the December Mosh! in my Volume Three review (8/10) and the mighty Primitai charged forth as lead support in my very first review all the way back in Mosh! October 2011 (10/10). So with that in mind, you can probably tell I expected A LOT from this evening as one which could possibly be the best Mosh! yet. Let me tell you, it lived up to expectations and then some.
That aside, let’s start with the new guys on the block (relatively speaking) as the respectably packed venue was treated to Death Metallers Fires of Tartarus. With a name that badass the Hampshire quintet had a lot to live up to and from the opening moments of their set it was clear that we would be in for a fucking pounding. Death Metal can be tricky at the best of times as a lot of complicated and fast paced arrangements need to be juggled effectively alongside the dilemma of keeping it varied enough without losing furious momentum, but watching Fires onstage you got the feeling that all this shit was nothing short of secnd nature. From the sheer brutality of the chugging verse riffs through to epic instrumental passages defying any chance of staleness these guys fucking rocked. Sporting a precision uncommon in bands of this level not one part was left behind throughout the Heavy Metal onslaught bestowed upon us. It was this absolute focus within the band which impressed me the most; whilst each song was true to a fundamental principle of Death there was enough variety in the riffs and rhythms to make them clearly distinguishable from another, a trap I’ve seen a couple of bands fall into tragically.
That said, I can only fault the ‘liveness’ of the experience seeing Fires, each band member looked as if they were bolted to the spot and, whilst the music was nothing short of phenomenal, I couldn’t help but feel I could get the same experience from a CD in the comfort of my own home. Nevertheless as a Death Metal band I could not pick one part out over any other in this impressive opener. Like the blood-soaked gears on an unstoppable killing machine, nothing could stop the beautiful synergy of this deadly assault.
So with my neck already aching and a couple of beers well down me the first of my three review revisits limbered up for their set: The Dukes of Agares. Last time I saw these guys I was very complimentary and it would seem that in the time since that give they have lost none of their momentum and, if anything, came back fighting even stronger. There seems to be a great sense purpose and wisdom behind everything that the Dukes do onstage and, whilst they may not be the most youthful of bands on the circuit, their talents can in no way be questioned. Riffs and blasts thundered through the venue and set the canvas upon which vocalists/guitarists Geoff Kinch and Ian Yabsley painted something truly fucking beautiful. With my second viewing I particularly noted that Kinch has a rare, if not extraordinary, ability to growl and sing at the same time; effectively harmonising with himself. I don’t know what the fucking biology is behind that, or if it’s even possible, but I know what I heard and I don’t care how much beer I’d drunk.
Even in the short time between Dukes’ last appearance and now they’d written new material in the form of ‘The Deluge’, a song which could rip your fucking face off even if it was written about April being a fucking wet month. There’s something frankly brilliant about being able to write a metal song about the weather and if you know any other bands who have achieved it, I challenge you to put it against The Deluge and see which one comes out on top.
Dukes finished their set with all due fire in their bellies and left the stage empty for the coming of the Maidenesque powerhouse Dendera. Previous to tonight Dendera stunned me at the December Mosh with their rough around the edges style of classic metal and if anything their sound has only improved. Still sounding like the feral lovechild of Tom Araya and a banshee; vocalist Ashley Edison swept up the crowds with the fervor reserved for only the best of frontmen and took both audience and stage into his possession as a true beacon of metal spirit. Backing his aweomely powerful vocals the rest of the band each took their own moments in the spotlight as extended musical passages took the moshing audience through the full range of riffs, solos, basslines and drum rolls befitting a metal band who barrelling full tilt into the gates of Hell.
New songs in the repertoire showcased skill and an ability to be more than just an awesomely Maiden style band and the showmanship of each of the three axesmiths allowed them to shine even more compared to their previously subdued performance. Last December I thought Dendera were great. This time round I know they fucking rock.
One of the great things about this night was how many people had showed up for a great fucking evening of Metal and, by the time Dendera were winding down, the venue was getting packed, ready for the South’s shining fire of power metal: Primitai. Kicking off their set with their characteristic high flying and headbanging metal, Primitai truly set the room on fire with their sonic blasts promising some of the best shreds and solos being played in venues right now. Leading the way like Thor on speed, Guy Miller pitched the perfect rapport with us headbangers to get us riled up and ready for each fucking hit whilst the chant a clap along sections brought a kickass sense of community to the whole proceeding. Guitarists Nick Saxby and Srdjan Bilic hold most of the praise though as the solos were truly the burning flame at the core of this Heavy Metal supernova, with each blisteringly quick instrumental onslaught onlygetting better and better.
I won’t go as far as to say Primitai were as good as the last time I saw them. Something I can’t quite put my finger on just didn’t click as well as when they supported Romeo Must Die, but they nevertheless rocked the socks, shoes and shits off of every single one of us in that venue and punctuated the evening with the ultimate full stop as…
…yep, you guessed it…
…THE BEST MOSH! YET.
Fires of Tartarus: 8/10
Dukes of Agares: 9/10
Steak Number Eight’s UK Tour
Promoter: Play It Again Sam Recordings
Date: Thursday 3rd May 2012
Venue: The Cellar, Southampton
Bands: Steak Number Eight, The Smoking Hearts, Idiom, Circle of Reason
Ten Volumes in and I’m still reviewing music. Has much changed? From the looks of things I’m geting a bit more critical, a bit more in depth and a bit less willing to accept mediocrity or the ordinary with what I see. How fitting then that my tenth review comes reviewing a band so far outfield that it’s hard to comprehend their insane view of music at so young an age. Slow down though, I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s the whole evening to get through first.
With its odd shaped upstairs venue encompasing a staircase dangerously jutting in to the mix and a whole wall devoted to a raised platform running to the right of the stage The Cellar was a welcome change to my tried and teasted home ground of the encased box of the Railway. Once I’d got my bearings (and an extra fiver in my change for the ifrst pint – win) and my fill of the SOAD laden soundtrack the notes began to fade and the opening support stepped up to the raised stage behind the rails.
One thing became very clear as Circle of Reason took their instruments and that was the 14+ nature of the gig. A front row lined with Jailbait looked up at the band as they ran through their music bringing to mind elements of a slightly fiercer Nickelback or a very diluted Bullet For My Valentine. This was safe music; unassuming and largely radio-friendly rock with a couple of drop tuned track thrown in alongside vague flickers of harsh vocals (and that, in part, largely explained the relative age of the audience up front). I’m not a huge fan of this sort of stuff but what they did play, they played very well. While ordinarily I would’ve written these guys off straight away their lead guitarist (whose name seems to have escaped the internet) clearly had some flare as he took on the more complex melodies of the pieces effortlessly backed by equal precision on the bass. That said, with that exception there was a touch of a generic feel to what was being played here and I couldn’t help but feel bringing those complex melodies to the fore could probably help these guys to stand out more. I liked them, I just couldn’t bring myself to love them.
So with a lot of ears entrenched in safe and lovely rock music-land it was time for the suckerpunch from hell as the unbridled fireball of Idiom began their ferocious set. Combining a fierce hardcore bulldozer of sound with some seriously powerful riffage Idiom brought us back into the world of metal. Vocalist Matt Sharland was a one man fireworks display crossing the iron rail of the stage repeatedly to bring the noise straight to the audience, whether we wanted to come forward or not. The space was his to command and he took it by the leash in the same vein as some of the best frontmen out there. This was not just a one man effort though and Sharland was backed by the sonic bliss of truly brilliant hardcore laid down by headbanging guitarist Kris Gibbs, bassist Dan Harrison and seriously sharp drummer Grant Knight – even some funky interludes in the closing songs made sure the band didn’t restirct themselves by genre to much and, when the noise came back down, it was Sharland himself who threw me into th pit personally (along with some Baywatch style lifeguards….only at a metal gig!)
I had to have a serious sit down following Idiom as I nearly made the fatal mistake of moshing myself out before the headliners – a cardinal sin – but almost before I’d taken the first swig of my next cider The Smoking Hearts were limbering up to play the lead support set in preparation for the night’s Belgian headliners. I decided to take it easy through the first couple of tracks by the band and give myself a rest. I have to say, it took me those couple of songs to get into these guys. Like Idiom before them The Smoking Hearts embodied a spirit of hardcore with their sound but, whilst the former had embodied this through daring energy, the latter came out with sheer out and out power.
Each riff from guitarists Nobba and Barker was crushing, each bassline from goth-d up Calvin a slaughter and every time Matty slammed the drum it sent a shockwave. Singer Ben Mills brought to mind memories of Romeo Must Die or Cancer Bats and constantly trod the line of the stage whilst not daring to give that little extra push Idiom had accomplished earlier. If I can say anything against this band its that treading the line at that intensity for so long did leave the set feeling like it lacked variety – constantly full-frontal with little room to reflect or push further. Whilst technical difficulties slowed down the closing track it was worth waiting for, firstly because we were entertained with Metallified Queen and Blink 182 covers while we waited and also because the closer was where the glass ceiling shattered as every band member (except Matty) stepped over that line and took to the audience, the bar, the raised platforms (see, I did mention it for a reason) before LITERALLY jumping back onstage to end the set. If that’s not fucking metal, I don’t know what is.
If we ever needed something to embody the spirit of metal though, what was just around the corner would prove it to us. Doing things differently, being true to yourself, aggression, power, melody, intricacy, determination and sheer fucking grit – Steak Number Eight had been embodying all of these things on my iPod for the best part of a month leading up to this gig after their All Is Chaos album came free with Metal Hammer. I hoped desperately that I would not be let down by the band’s highly acclaimed live shows and trust me on this, I wasn’t. Backing their sonic assault of vaguely stoner-esque hard rock the band was backlit by flashing spotlights creating silhouettes and giving the impression of immensely powerful monoliths on the horizon. Alongside sparks and flashes of other lights washing the stage in a dazzling array of colours, this set ceased to be a gig and became a totally immersive experience. The music itself differed very little from what I’d heard on All is Chaos and the incredible ‘Dickhead’ and ‘Pyromaniac’ both sounded as mind bending and transcendental as they had through my headphones. The music washed over me and inhabited every pore of my body, soaking through until I was entirely at its mercy and taken away by wave after wave of sound and light madness.
Combining the mind-bending musicality of Mastodon with the sheer sense of spectacle associated with Tool the only thing that let these guys down was their audience, not wanting to join in or rock out on the same level as my hairy drunken arse was. Maybe they’re just not established enough in Britain to create the same buzz bands on the same level of talent can. The transition will be tough but with the backing of one serious music publication and a sound unlike anything I’ve heard before I’m sure they’ll make it and I will be fucking proud to be one of those arsehole hipsters standing there saying ‘I saw them back when they played tiny venues’.
Apologies in advance.
Circle of Reason: 6/10
The Smoking Hearts: 7/10
Steak Number Eight: 10/10