Promoter: Factory Music
Date: Thursday 18th October 2012
Venue: The Railway, Winchester
Bands: Decapitated, Xerath, Bloodshot Dawn, (Ageless Oblivion)
Fucking work getting in the way of gigs again (Or, in other words, hello). On top of a shit day at work and little sleep the night before some form of balls up on the trains meant I had to get a cab home just in order to get some dinner so I was ready for this gig tonight. As such, when I got the venue I was on the tail end of a particularly pissed off mood. Fortunately for me – tonight was all about the glorious Metal of Death – a genre purposefully defined to kick the fucking snot out of moods such as these. Enough about me though, there’s brutality to be getting on with.
You may notice the brackets around openers Ageless Oblivion as you saw in my Volume Fourteen review for the band I didn’t see. Well, fortunately for you, lucky reader, at least this time I managed to catch the tail end of Ageless Oblivion’s set and, let me tell you, I was pretty much kicking myself that I wasn’t there earlier. I entered the crowded, sweaty venue to the sounds of what could only be described as a ‘transcendental passage’. That’s right, this was my opening impression of what was promised to be a Brutal Death metal gig. Although this may have seemed out of place at first, the band carried off the restrained and reflective passage with such conviction that the sizable crowd before me stood transfixed in wonder at what they were hearing. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the band launched into what we’d all come to see, some truly crushing riffs tearing through the calm previously bestowed. Although I couldn’t see much from way at the back, any glimpses I did catch of vocalist Stephen Jones instantly gave me the impression of a powerful frontman, his stillness in delivery completely at odds with the ferocity of his incredible roars. Although the set I managed to see was short at best, what the band did deliver was an eclectic fusion of unrelenting fury and technical brilliance, incorporating elements as disparate as slap bass and blast beats in the same verses – let alone the same songs. A band of contradiction and a phenomenal one at that.
Next up were local favourites Bloodshot Dawn, a band I have only ever seen once (Volume Twelve) when completely and utterly tanked up to the eyeballs. With my late arrival I was nowhere near this level this time round and a pang of apprehension grabbed me: what if I was just pissed last time? What if they’re not that good? As the band set up a little voice at the back of my head was still voicing this so when they started with a blisteringly insane assault I was pretty chuffed. The little voice was replaced with a much louder one, hitting the previous one with a big fucking hammer and screaming “FUCK YOU! THESE GUYS RULE!”.
You’re probably going to want a more in depth review than that right? Okay then. Most Death bands just have the one vocalist but, not to be outdone, these Hampshire badasses combine the best of both worlds with guitarist Josh Mcmorran and drummer Doug Anderson sharing the role. Both use the staple roars and screams of the best of them but each voice comes with its own nuance which allows for a fuller and more brutal sound, different enough to provide variety but not to much as to create undue dissonance. Each member’s respective talent with their insruments also atests to their skills, joining lightning fingered bassist Anthony Riddout to provide the perfect undercurrent of aggressive rhythm, when Mcmorran isn’t soloing his fucking balls off that is. The technical skill on display here was unquestionable, particularly on the part of lead guitarist Benjamin Ellis, who I’m pretty sure spent the entirety of the song ‘Vision’ running his eight string axe through one hell of what seemed a constant solo. The guys even managed to start the first pit of the night, an admittedly quite lacklustre wall of death on our part but that was our fault, let’s face it, we knew what to save ourselves for.
With the anticipation in the room reaching suitable unbearable levels there was only one band left before the Polish behemoths of our headliners; that band was Xerath. I’d heard Xerath a couple of times on youtube prior to this gig (researching little cunt that I am) and was pretty impressed by their sound. This feeling carried on through the first couple of songs through their set, a no holds barred ear bashing which almost made headbanging cease to be an action and instead become an instinct. Utilising only one guitar instead of the traditional two, the band created a raw and organic sound to their music with occassional flourishes such as bassist Christopher Clark providing backing vocals and actually creating a harmony with lead singer Richard Thomson, a near impossibility in this genre.
That said, a few songs in these flourishes seemed to fade away and the music, at times, stagnated dangerously. Yes it was still great to headbang to, but certain songs I felt my midn drifting away with little else to grab my attention. I realised some of the ambient qualities afforded to the band in youtube form were produced synthetically to create a more complete feel and recreating some of these can be difficult live, especially in smaller venues like The Railway. These guys were an incredibly savage band to mosh to, I just couldn’t help but feel that playing straight after the technical wizardry of Bloodshot Dawn did them no favours.
And now the event you’ve all been waiting for. The Railway was sold out in the lead up to this event and you could tell just by how many people had to jump on steps just to get a good look at the stage. This was the most packed out I’ve ever seen my favourite tiny little venue and never had I been further from the stage. After horrendously off-pissing technical problems there was an extended wait which only served to fuel the fires of the expectant horde and, sure enough, before long, the Polish kings of Brutal Death Metal took the stage and the crowd in an absolute storm of insanity. It had begun. Decapitated was here.
As I had done with Xerath, I’d done my research on these Polish nutters through youtube and found myself, shall we say, less than impressed with the prospects. I’ve never been a huge Brutal Death guy and my opinion wasn’t swayed straight away. What I failed to take into account, however, is how the music would sound live. Sure enough, every tinny blast beat from my laptop speaker was replaced by a horrifying cacaphony of oblivion launched by Krimh, every repetitve riff become a thundering gallop from the bass of Heinrich and all the precise wails courtesy of the recording process became haunting melodies of destruction from the guitars of founding member Vogg. On top of all this was thrown the bug eyed madman with a mic in his hand, the terrifyingly powerful Rafal Piotrowski, with eyes blazing and dreadlocks flailing like the arms of a broken strait jacket orchestrating this order of devestation at his feet. Sure enough, devestation was to follow. EVERY song had it’s own pit – NO EXCEPTIONS. I went from being thrown like a rag doll to pushing my weight against some of the most intense motherfuckers I’ve ever seen (particular credit goes to a short, brunette woman who gets the Metal As Fuck Award for pretty much starting EVERY SINGLE FUCKING PIT). Could I tell you individually how each and every song was? Fuck no! I can’t do that with bands I’m not in a pit with. The fact of the matter is though I discovered what I had been missing when I listened to youtube with an ill-conceived ‘meh’. Brutal Death Metal is more than just a genre, it’s an experience. You have not truly heard a song, or a band, until you have heard it live and, in Metal, that is more true than any other genre. Decpaitated provided me with the most intense night I’ve had at the Railway since Sylosis/Romeo Must Die in 2009 and, frankly, it’s going to be a long time before anybody comes even close to topping them.
When it happens – I’ll be fucking ready
Ageless Oblivion: 7/10
Bloodshot Dawn: 8/10
Aeon Promotions Presents…
Promoter: The Railway + Aeon Promotions
Date: Wednesday 10th October 2012
Venue: The Railway, Winchester
Bands: The Red and The Black, Toledo Steel, Fall of Idols, Laid Wasted, (Heaven Shall Fall)
I’d like to start this review with an apology, an apology to the guys of opening support Heaven Shall Fall as they will unfortunately not be appearing in this post. Yet again that frustratingly constant concern of ‘the rest of my life’ has interferred with my ability to support my local metal scene. Due to the twin commitments of needing to work to earn so I can eat and needing to eat so I can live I was quite late to this gig and managed to miss their set in its entirety. Life sucks like that sometimes, so if you’re looking here specifically for info about Heaven Shall Fall stop reading now. Apologies, but I can say if they were anywhere near as good as the rest of the night then the people who did see them were damn lucky.
Starting off (for me) the night were refreshingly grimey local boys Laid Wasted. In a lot of instances grimey is an insult, either insulting appearance or drawing comparisons to the ‘urban grime’ music scene which most metalheads would rather have cat AIDS than listen to. This is not one of those times. The grime in question this time round comes in stark contrast to a lot of the hyper polished bands I’ve seen recently, notable Firewind in the last review. After seeing so many bands of this style, Laid Wasted’s sound was rough around the edges and untempered by pretention or glamour. Like watching four guys rock out in a garage, the sound was thick with potential and the atmosphere was one of experimentation and fun. Despite delivering a set of riffs and licks any band would be proud of it was more in the construction where this band found their strength, judderingly chaotically across a range of tempos and keys. I’m not going to lie, it was tough working out how the fuck to mosh to this but, let’s face it, you could say the same about Meshuggah and they’re doing pretty well for themselves.
So many shifts in a song demand a tight rhythm line and, even without the help of a bassist, drummer Clive Lusmore was more than capable of taming the storm. With these solid foundations guitarists Joe Long and Joe Tanner were absolute whirlwinds of power on their axes whilst the vocal delivery of Sean Walsh was in equal parts captivating and jolting; utilising the tried and tested screams of the death metal ouevre whilst throwing in both soft and powerful clean sections like a ruffled SOAD. Truly epic on all counts, despite being their first performance in over a year Laid Wasted have exploded back onto the scene with a mighty return and the only way is up.
Topping something like that would always be hard so Fall of Idols had a huge challenge at their door straight from the start. From that starting point I wasn’t exactly sure they would be able to pull this off. Delivering a few straightforward hardcore tunes to fire up the gig; through their first three or four songs Fall of Idols felt a little formulaic in their approach with a relentless screamed verse playing straight into a more powerful melodic chorus…and repeat.
Fortunately, as the room began to fill up, extra little flares began appearing in the set. The songs got heavier, the solos more intricate and, particularly, the backing vocals provided by guitarist Daniel Cobley provided a broader range to the show and complimented David James’ voice perfectly. With each progressive song the band started to remind me more and more of the recently split up Romeo Must Die, who graced the Railway’s stage with similiarly sweeping yet aggressive stylings in my Volume One review, seemingly filling that powerhouse void left by Adam Frakes-Sime and co. As the set began to close the intensity rose higher and higher with David and guitarist Ant Jones coming offstage to join the crowd headbanging like fuck at the front. Despite a shaky start these guys certainly proved their metal credentials.
With a powerfully dirty and grim death/thrash assault to start the evening it seemed a little pick me up would be in order – a pick me up welcomely bestowed by NWOBHM fuelled Southampton rockers Toledo Steel. The main thing I took from their ferociously infectious set was that, in between the epic and untempered wall of headbangers lining the stage, I honestly could not wipe the smile from my face. Taking the most brilliantly catchy elements of the 80s metal scene alongside the bravado of stadium rockers, each and every song on the band’s setlist was an out-and-out hit. Even the look of the band, from singer Rich Rutter’s badass red leather jacket to the ferocity with which Matt Dobson pounded his drumkit, screamed the very best of the decade where metal could do no wrong. These guys weren’t re-inventing the brand by any stretch of the imagination, but their single guitar and bass approach created a stripped down sound where nothing was lost under a potentially suffocating rhythm line (a trap I’ve seen bands fall into before). Were Toledo Steel anything ground breaking? No. Were they something really fucking special? Fucking yes.
So first act gritty, second act surprising, third act epic. It was shaping up into one hell of an evening and with local rockers donning Luchadore style masks ready for headliners The Red and The Black, the anticipation was reaching high. Sure enough it was only moments before the South London hardcore headliners stormed the stage and began their relentless riffage to the meagre crowd. Song 1 went off without a hitch, along with song 2…song 3…and…okay, I’ll admit I was starting to glaze over a bit by this point.
It’s not that TRATB were a bad band by any means. The relentless power they played with was pretty fucking intense and vocalist Dan Knox’s delivery came with all the strength and grit upon which come of the best punk is built. My problem was that, beyond this, there was little, if anything, extra to latch on to. The UK hardcore scene is in complete overdrive at the moment. With the likes of Feed The Rhino electrifying audiences with their live sets and Between The Buried and Me releasing mind bending concept albums genericness is amongst the most cardinal of sins. The last two or three songs from TRATB were a saving grace with the likes of the infectious ‘Spit You Out’ redeeming some of the earlier blandness but it may have been too little too late for me.
So that was my night back at The Railway in the wake of Mosh!. Sure it didn’t end brilliantly but I did discover three awesome bands in the process and, with plenty more gigs lined up at The Railway soon, I’m sure to discover many many more.
Laid Wasted: 8/10
Fall of Idols: 7/10
Toledo Steel: 8/10
The Red and The Black: 4/10