Mosh! All Dayer
Promoter: Mosh! Winchester
Date: Saturday 21st July 2012
Venue: The Railway, Winchester
Bands (that I saw): Terrathorn, Bloodshot Dawn, Bloodworks, Furyborn, Biolith, Duke of Agares.
In the world of metal, all day events can be a double edged sword. On the one hand you’ve got a great opportunity to bring a whole horde of bands together to perform and dedicate an entire day to kicking arse and moshing out. One the other, the unfortunate side effect of this bastard condition called ‘reality’ is that your job can frequently get in the way, something I experienced first hand at the Mosh! All Dayer which started at 2pm while I was still at work until 5.30. Come 6 o’clock I had arrived and quickly made my way into the venue to catch as much of a glimpse as I possibly could.
Since I started writing reviews and coming to gigs here at The Railway I have definitely developed a couple of favourites who I will make a special effort to see and, as I ran into the Railway’s back room, I was happy to see I hadn’t missed one of my top bands: Dukes of Agares. Even though I only managed to catch the closing fifteen minutes of the set The Dukes still sounded as if they were in great fucking form. The gritty power with which they hammer through their songs is something which makes them great and this was in no short supply in the closing two songs of the gig; particularly ‘Shadow Walker’, which was ony let down by the meagre mid afternoon crowd. Despite the song’s hypnotising opening drums and the crushing riff accompanied by the great vocal work of Kinch and Yabsley the song failed to take off and left the chant-along middle section sounding a little silly. Unfortunately it seemed like most of the crowd were either outside or saving themselves for the next 4 hours with only myself and a few others as exceptions. Nevertheless, this was a solid performance by The Dukes and although the crowd energy was low during the set; the resultant appreciation proved that it did not fall on deaf ears.
Next up to the Great Metal Gauntlet were the Death Metal as Fuck Biolith, who this time were in possession of a permanent bassist and left behind their comedy gold stage invaders (as seen in the Volume Seven review). Without these distractions in place it was just us and the music and it seemed like Biolith had brought their fans out in force for this show, with the whole front of the stage lined with headbangers thrashing away to the glory of this Death tinged sound of nightmares. There was a furious aggression to Biolith’s set which totally captured the crowds, not even letting up when vocalist Luke’s mic cut out halfway through the set. Luke himself was great to watch onstage, striding from side to side fully assured of the control his band held over the room. However, whilst assured physically, the vocals were occasionally swallowed up by the brutal bass and drum lines which had a tendancy to overpower the other instruments. We didn’t care though, these levels of sonic fucking fury were exactly what we came here for and Biolith certainly delivered.
At this point I’d had enough to drink and moshed enough that I decided I needed some air (and another pint) so I’d like to apologise to Furyborn for missing the opening couple of minutes of their set, as I spent the time outside discussing French gore movies with some friends. I’m getting side tracked. Fuck. On with the review! After a set as sonically and physically punishing as Biolith’s, the surprisingly catchy Metal offered by Furyborn punctured the room with a whole new energy. Combining the stalwart shreds and screams of true Death Metallers the set even flared with almost Power Metal-esque offerings of clean vocals from Jut Tabor and ferociously technical fretwork from the bald behemoth figure of Ollie Roberts. This varied approach hit the perfect balance with neither the harsh nor the clean over reaching its opposite while the rhythm section of Shred (guitars/vocals), Matt Wilson (bass/vocals) and Jamie Dowding (drums) were perfectly comfortable at whichever pace they chose to set, making even the fastest shreds and blasts look simple. By the end of the set I was not only totally fucked on booze but totally pumped for whatever came next.
What sort of Mosh! All Dayer would it have been were it not for these next guys? The shining hope of Metal in Hampshire (If anybody disagrees, I strongly suggest you go fuck yourself). That’s right, Bloodworks are back. Having now appeared in no less than a third of my reviews you’re probably well aware of my opinion of Bloodworks by now. The boys go from strength to strength with each set they play and as the evening rolled into night time they proved yet again that they have what it takes. Although the sound is, at times, a little homogenous this just amplifies the fury with which these guys play as each and every song is just as unrelenting as the last one – taking the audience by the scruff of the neck and screming into their eyes until their skull explodes from sheer awesomeness. ‘Dead and Buried’ is always a highlight to watch as it really showcases the creative flair and intricate tap work by Kieran, Truk and particularly Lewis, who not only possesses the most beautiful guitar ever conceived but sure as hell knows how to use it, truly earning the right to bear the name ‘Dime’ on this instrument of doom. Fuck these guys are good. Just. Fuck.
So with the sunlight dwindling to nothingness we only had two more bands to see and I was, for lack of a better phrase, totally and utterly fucked. Of course, as the Gospel according to Dimebag will attest, this is the ideal state to rock the fuck out to some of the best shit out there so, with that said. I was in for a pounding as Bloodshot Dawn thundered into their opener. From start to finish while these guys were on we barely had a second to catch our breath as the whole set went from strength to strength. Wailing guitars, crushing bass, vocal tenacity and unbridled drums. With a relentless vigour that few bands are capable of, the Death Metal fourpiece opened up Pandora’s Box to all the horrors inside, ensnaring the captive audience like chains around a demon horde. Pits sprung up, hair and limbs flailed wildly and the floor was aflame with the sheer unadulterated joy of Metal. We could see the band were having fun as well, which made the show even better as sometimes a set can live or die on how its performed. Suffice to say, Bloodshot Dawn don’t just play their music, the live it and have a fucking great time in doing so.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a crowd as pumped up as we were following the stellar set by Bloodshot Dawn but it was clear that Terrathorn would have a tremendous challenge on their hands just to keep up that level of fucking momentum. Fortunately, as Terrathorn have proved before, momentum is what they’re all about. Right from the start the self styled ‘Party Thrash’ five piece rushed the crowd with an extra surge of adrenaline, pumping their modern twist of classic thrash through our veins and reigniting the fire let by the many bands of the all dayer. It’s the sheer energy of a Terrathorn show which makes them an amazing band to watch and a lot of this credit has to go to the phenomenal stage work of James Hayball (vocals) who not only makes the stage his bitch but makes it is his business to claim the pit as well; striding out to greet us and get us fucking rocking. From about two songs in each number came with its own pit the likes of which you only see when people have been drinking for 8 hours. Even though I managed to get quite painfully launched into the stage, creating a sizeable bruise on my arm and a potential concussion from the monitor, I couldn’t help but think this was fucking amazing. Of course a gig this great, both for Terrathorn as a band and Mosh! in general, demands a closer worthy of its scope and the Southampton boys didn’t disappoint with their own cover of Metallica’s Battery. That’s right, you heard, in a 140 capacity venue with people who had been drinking since 2pm we were treated to fucking Battery. I don’t think I saw a single person outside of the pit as this number came to a close and rightly so – it’s a classic for a reason and the band who performed it were nothing short of flawless.
So that was the Mosh! All Dayer, or at least most of it. I can only send my apologies to the many bands I didn’t get to and ask that they blame society’s pathetic insistence that a guy needs money just to eat, get pissed or buy PS3 games (First World Problems). I can only hope that this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing from Mosh! for a while but frankly, if they want to put their feet up and enjoy some time off after a stellar gig like that I wouldn’t fucking blame them. This Metalhead will certainly be waiting.
Dukes of Agares: 7/10
Bloodshot Dawn: 9/10
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
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.
Eternal Torment: 8/10
Black Skies Burn: 1/10
Silent Prophecy: 7/10
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.
Dukes of Agares: 8/10
Mosh! February 2012
Promoter: Mosh! Winchester
Date: Saturday 18th February 2012
Venue: The Railway, Winchester
Bands: EnTro-P, Bloodworks, Biolith, Desolator
Welcome back for Mosh! at The Railway. January was worryingly missing this little gem of a metal night in Winchester and, although I did make it to a few gigs, it was never quite the same. The bands were great, the atmosphere was awesome but there was a lack of a certain continuity to the evenings. The regulars weren’t there, the bands were a little more mainstream (mostly) and if you don’t get to rock out ot metal DJs till 1am then what’s the fucking point sometimes? This is probably going to be a pretty damn short review as I think I have even less criticism than usual to throw out there. If you want a very brief overview of Mosh! this month just take this – It was the best one yet.
I only just made it through the doors in time to see the first band start up. A fiery and ballbreaking salute to the old school thrash metal of yester-year – Desolator took to the stage almost before I’d even finished my first gulp. A lot of bands nowadays, particularly those in the public eye, surround themselves with such a pervasive aura of show and bullshit (looking at you Black Veil Brides) that it’s really hard to take them seriously so Desolator, firing off from the flip side of the coin, were a welcome change. Tight jeans, denim jackets, massive and unkempt hair; there was not one ounce of bullshit surrounding these guys. Two of their songs were even about beer…just…beer. I don’t care who you are, that’s fucking metal. Sound wise Desolator harkened back to memories of some kind of twisted Metalli-Slayer hybrid with a massive smattering of Spinal Tap thrown in (memories Nick? Shut up shoulder devil!). With fingers flying and darting across the fretboard at breakneck speeds during solos by guitar/volcaist Jamie and a crushingly ferocious bassline supplied underneath by bassist Felix the band proved they had the talent to back up the look. It’s not often you get such a sound from a three piece but the abscence of a rhythm guitarist really worked for these guys, the sound was simple, stripped down. Just one guitar, one bass and a thundering drum assault by stickmaster Sam was all these guys needed.
That said, after a couple of songs their set did end up feeling a little flat, without a noticeable degree of variety from song to song. They were good, but each as good as the last and with very little to tell between one and the other. This sort of approach can work live as the band themself were so fucking likable but I get the impression that I’d give their album one listen then resign it to the bowels of my iPod, heard once or twice ever again. At the end of it all I didn’t care too much. As an opener Desolator rocked fucking hard and kept everybody smiling with their no nonsense approach to fun in the face of metal. Whatever I thought of their music, I couldn’t help but like these guys.
From the beer soaked house of fun we were soon wrenched out by our ribcages as the Gothenberg inspired ‘five-piece’ Biolith marched gloriously to the stage. Now the more astute of you may have noticed that ‘five-piece’ was written in quotation marks there and be wondering how many of them there are. Well first off Biolith were without their own bassist so instead borrowed one from another local band to fill out the set. Secondly, because apparantly Biolith pulled out some of Winchester’s best nutters of the night including a drunken metalhead named Joe who found himself in a bed of guitar cases, Newcastle Brown Ale in each hand, before being escorted out by security, and an old man who enjoyed his pint sitting onstage, looking ofr his elusive CD case (a personal highlight being when he found it).
So that out of the way, let’s get on with the review. Melodic Death Metal is a tricky genre to pull off because so many things have to come together and be right or it just ends out sounding like a mess. Biolith are in no fucking danger of that. Even with a temporary bassist new to the band’s material (they deliberatly closed the set with a track he didn’t know) these guys were fucking tight. Every scream, chord, beat, blast, and note fell together in perfect precision as the band unleashed their own brand of carnage like an out of control train straight to hell. I moshed my fucking head off listening to these guys. There was an adrenaline fuelled raw power behind every single song that washed over the crowd like the waters of Styx themselves. Couldn’t possibly pick out one highlight although I think great credit has to go to vocalist Luke for being a consumate frontman who drew the crowd into the band’s twisted world so well that the headbanging almost stopped being a conscious action. Great from start to finish…especially the old guy, he was a fucking legend.
Sigh…Bloodworks…fucking Bloodworks. Third review. Third time watching Bloodworks onstage. I’m running out of things to say. I fucking hate these guys, they’re too damn young. If they were women I’m pretty sure finding them hot would put me on some kind of register. For fuck’s sake, how do you get that talented at such a young age? ‘Dead and Buried’? Such an epic tune, the staple of the show and one which I think I’ve now seen enough times to sing along to. Me and everybody around me moshed for the whole fucking set. I’m sick of beating around the bush reviewing a band as undoubtedly incredbile as Bloodworks. GO AND FUCKING SEE THEM. From what I’ve seen they are the shining hope of the South Central Metal circuit at the moment. The next Rise to Remain? Fuck that. The next Trivium? Piss off. The next Metallica? Maybe. Fact of the matter is there are so few contemporaries to compare Bloodworks to that saying ‘the next…’ is totally redundant. They rock. Fuck, do I feel old now.
Okay, tongue in cheek moment of bitterness out the way, time for the headliners. EnTro-P. As great as Mosh is, you do sometimes find a lot of bands these days can come off a tad formulaic but EnTro-P is a band which shatters that maxim and then turns round to run over its carcass again just to make sure the damn thing’s dead. Like funnelling Tool through a chainsaw, EnTro-P fired forth a cascading litany of cerebral metal which was both symphonic and crushing at the same time. Orchestrating this bizarre mix of genres, vocalist/bassist Jake Archer combined brutal harsh vocals alongside softer and more considered clean ones, accompanied by guitarist Alex Sampson, whilst his fingers went wild on the angelically gorgeous five string bass in his hands, even busting out some slap bass – this dude fucking rocks. Despite his prolific talent as both a vocalist and bassist Archer didn’t do much in the role of frontman and instead he and his bandmates allowed the music to do its work. Guitarists Sampson and Curt Platt were furious in the aggressive verses and intricately magnificent in the slower musical breaks whilst drummer Sean Mamo busted out some freakishly impressive work on the kit, juggling several different tempo shifts throughout just one song, let alone the whole fucking set.
All in all EnTro-P juggled several dangerously complicated elements in each of their songs, from the double vocalists and the slap bass to the tempo changes and the vocal shifts, which lesser bands would have struggled with. Rest assured, EnTro-P are not a lesser band and delivered what they set out to with each and every song, line, chord and note. Truly a spectacle to behold.
Maybe not as short as I initially promised but, oh well, sometimes reviewing I just get a little carried away with myself. Month after month I can see Mosh! growing in attendance, atmopshere and talent on show and tonight was the best damn one yet. With all I’ve said about the bands on display there’s one thought which is holding onto me in my mind. That burning faith flaming higher and higher like the mighty Phoenix. I can’t wait until I’m back at this laptop, maybe next month, maybe a bit more down the line, maybe even a year from now, telling everybody how the Mosh I’ve just attended was even better than that one way back in February 2012.
I know I won’t be let down.
Bloodworks: 10/10 (Fuck it, I’m sick of holding back)
Mastodon’s Hunter Tour
Promoter: Relapse Records (I think)
Date: Saturday 11th February 2012
Venue: O2 Brixton Academy, London
Bands: Mastodon, Dillinger Escape Plan, Red Fang
Okay, it’s taken me a little while to get round to writing this review. I’ve been caught up recently starting a brand new job no less than two days following the gig which has taken up the lion’s share of my time so apologies for that. Now with that out of the way, let’s talk about my foray into the unbridled epicness of Mastodon and their bastion of choice for this show – London.
After a full day in London (including a fury inspiring hour long train wait in a hedge and more overpriced booze than is advisable) I returned to the venue where I saw my first gig about six years ago. Back then I was a tiny little squeaky voiced Offspring fan who was terrified of the pit and found myself struggling to get out after only twenty minutes. This time round I was a greasy, ugly motherfucker of a metalhead and I was ready for whatever the gig could throw at me.
Starting off to get everybody in the mood was Oregon’s sludge inspired rockers Red Fang. You can see instantly why Red Fang were chosen rile up the fans with the opening support act; a lot of what they do feels and sounds a lot like Mastodon. The pounding riffs, sludgy tempos and aggressive use of the metal icon – the beard – all set these guys up as sharing many qualities with tonight’s headliner. Now quite often in the music industry sounding too much like another band, especially one on the same night, is nothing short of suicide but, in this instance, you can forgive these guys. If you’re going to sound like anybody Mastodon is a great fucking starting point and, besides, there’s plenty setting these guys apart from the Georgian behemoth to make them great in their own right. Their whole setlist was a headbanger from start to finish, factoring in everything from catchy vocal hooks on the part of Aaron Beam to the grooving intricacies of the instrumental episodes from guitarists Bryan Giles and David Sullivan. Of course no axemen can stand by themselves and tying in the whole team John Sherman pounded the drums ferociously; straightforward and uncompromising.
Although these guys may not have the brain bending audacity or sheer technical mindfuckery of their headliners there’s still so much to draw you in that you can’t help but love them. Each song could best be described for me as a journey. It draws you in, takes you there, flies you to the sky then brings you safely back down. Each was a journey I loved being a part on and with our final destination, fan favourite ‘Prehistoric Dog’, bringing on the first moshpit of the night, this journey had taken me home.
Following on from a band much like their headliners came one almost on the complete flipside of them. After a quick stint to the bar I came back to find mathcore pioneers Dillinger Escape Plan taking the stage. Now I’ve not usually found myself to be a fan of the mathcore genre, I ordinarily find the combinations of fretwork and drums in such a complex fashion to be needlessly overcomplicated and the constant shifts make the songs too hard to latch on to, made worse by the harsh vocals creating a cacophony over the top. That said, I did go into this gig with a certain degree of cynicism, the only track of Dillinger’s I knew was ‘Black Bubblegum’ and I had it on good authority that it was nothing like the rest of their material. True to my assumptions, I’ll admit that Dillinger’s first couple of tracks came off sounding very messy. Writing compositions that intricate is impressive but the problem with them is that one slip up or tempo glitch can create a butterfly effect unless you can recover pretty damn quick. Still, I gave the guys a listen while I finished my beer and pretty soon I was treated to ‘Black Bubblegum’, which I decided would be the perfect time to enter the pit. What I wasn’t banking on was that this would also be where I’d be staying for the rest of the set and where I would also have my epiphany.
Once ‘Black Bubblegum’ was over Dillinger launched into the rest of their set and I was at the mercy of the swings and blows of a mathcore pit in full fury. Every crescendo was a maelstrom, every key change a massive leap down a chasm and every thrashing riff an equally thrashing assault on the senses. Mathcore is not there to be listened to, it’s there to be experienced. Vocalist Greg Pusciato’s occassional forays into the audience served well to ground an direct the chaos of the band’s onstage antics and each played their parts for the rest of the gig with an unbridled brilliance.
So I’d like to say sorry to Dillinger Escape Plan and mathcore in general for ever doubting them. I’m sorry guys…clearly I’m a twat.
So, headliners out of the way big, burly, bearded metalheads hoarded into the venue ready for what we had all come there to see. We waited, we chanted, we watched and soon, when anticipation was flying as high as it possibly could at this sell out venue, The Hunter dropped. Almost as soon as the sheet with the new album’s striking image emblazoned upon it had landed Mastodon took to the stage and thundered their way through new single ‘Dry Bone Valley’ to kick off the gig at a massively high standard and with a flare that most bands can barely dream of. Once this song had come thundering down to its finale we barely even had a breather before the hauntingly brilliant opening strains of ‘Black Tongue’ kicked in and the pit was once again launched into full ferocity. The rest of the gig was an absolute storm of aggression, exhilliration and pure unadulterated fucking power.
Mastodon are a strange band to see live for a couple of reasons. Firstly, where most bands concern quite a lot of their time with the talk in between songs, introducing themselves or even just telling the crowd which song is coming up next, Mastodon devote almost none of their time to this. The music washed over the crowds ceaselessly like the waves of Leviathan’s cover as ‘Tongue’ became ‘Crystal Skull’, ‘Skull’ became ‘I am Ahab’ and on and on with little to no interjection from the guys. In some bands this could lead to an irritatingly bland show but fortunately Mastodon have so much talent behind them that this really is a testament to the music and not the people who make it. This lead on to the second peculiarity of the Mastodon show. Each song was played with such flawless precision that it was like listening to an incredibly heavy version of the album surrounded by like minded metalheads who all loved to mosh. Finally, the third awesome oddness came in that very ensemble of fans surrounding me. Never before have I been a moshpit for such an impressive length of time. From ‘Dry Bone’ all the way through to the unstoppable thrill that was ‘Blood and Thunder’ the pit kept going on and on without remission with one simple rule – join or die. Even slower and more sombre affairs like ‘Thickening’ and ‘Sleeping Giant’ managed to inspire some of the more insane approaches to expression I have seen, including a bald guy leaning forwards and proceeding bull like through the crowd before doing a 180 and repeating until we took him down. I loved every second of it, only taking the opportunity to escape during ‘Ghost of Karelia’ when my body screamed ‘GO GET SOME WATER OR I’M CHOKING UP YOUR FUCKING KIDNEYS’, you don’t ignore something like that.
Everything in this show came together beautifully, each member of the band was on perfect form as they took us on the roller coaster of their set. Whilst Hunter took the main bulk of the setlist, for obvious reasons, there were plenty of massive hitters from Blood Mountain and Leviathan to pad out the set with awesomeness including perennial fan favourite ‘Colony of Birchmen’, the song that got quite a lot of the crowd into the band in the first place. Even the bonkers-concept epic Crack the Skye and furious debut Remissions got their smaller share in with the beautiful ‘Crack the Skye’ and apocalyptic ‘March of the Fire Ants’ being particular highlights. Even the light shows was something to behold, with each shift perfectly fitting whatever bizarre chord of feeling, intention and sonic inspiration the band offered.
With ‘Blood and Thunder’ providing the pit of the night, the band barely even left the stage in preparation for the encore and we watched as Troy Sanders started the haunting opening notes of ‘Creature Lives’. The stage then slowly flooded with the rest of the band, all the members of Red Fang and all the members of Dilinger Escape Plan and all thirteen sang along in the collective glory of what, apparently, is Mastodon’s love song (I only say this because it was at this point I was made aware of how many teenage couples I was surrounded by). Just when I thought it couldn’t get any more awesome with the amount of talent together onstage Mastodon pulled out that last trick that pushes them above the rest – that ability to do whatever the fuck they want – thousands of balloons careened from the ceiling and (amidst the popping) that final solo played out.
Like I said, ‘Creature Lives’ is a love song and made, for me, what the night was all about. Love. We love that bands, the bands love what they do. Metal may not look like it, but it’s all about love. The fans, the bands, the music, the feeling, the gigs, everything about the genre drips with it.
Take it in whenever you can. And love it whenever you do.
Red Fang: 8/10
Dillinger Escape Plan: 7/10