Live review from Underground 99:
1. [Untitled Instrumental]
2. Special Thanks
3. Gas and Drugs
U99 was given a grand opening thanks to NEU – and good thing too, for only the sort of rousing, anthemic opening that distracts the mind from troubling facts. Certainly one band out of four (and perhaps the biggest draw) withdrawing before they could be replaced is quite a setback; but, I think it gave the bands remaining on the bill extra impetus to perform well. A unique opportunity and NEU did not let go to waste.
They, like many metal-esque bands, tend to go for a sound that’s 90s or before. What these guys have done wisely is to play a particularly fertile style of metal that’s not been done to death (or not consistently within the past 20 years, anyway). They play a crunchy, melodic metal which combines shiny glam-rock notes played in a stretched out, compressed prog-rock form with the terse and punchy expression of metal/hard rock. This approach means that they’re low on the breakdowns, but still retain some of the raunch that early 70s (post-Zeppelin, basically) guitars had. And most of this was guitarist Wai – his chosen combination of the above-mentioned sounds is reminiscent of Jerry Cantrell (a comparison Inever, ever make lightly); both manage to combine multiple forms of rock in a manner that sounds organic and without any fluff. They also used acoustic guitar on some songs – or, more accurately, tried to, since it was totally drowned out during the show proper. But, from what I heard during soundcheck, the intention is to provide some weird-out, staccato counterpoints which show a more post-punk side of them.
Drummer Winston is one with a shockingly good kick-drum technique – he could play for a bloody grindcore band if he so pleased. What wasn’t cool was that his forays into jazz were well below-par of what should be expected of a versatile drummer, and that when called upon to change the beat things tended to lag for a bar or two. Both of which impinged on my enjoyment… Singer Olivia’s voice is one I’m not sure about; I have always despised the momentary lapse into high-pitched near-yodels that many singers do (it’s a CRUTCH!), and her technique is no exception. Plus her voice is at a sort of halfway point between being a typical thick metal voice, and an ironically thin one. It’s rather like Alanis Morrissette, which is the best way I can sum it up. But like Alanis, she executes the singing confidently and consistently, and at junctures when the singing is mid- to low-range and the tune is more Procol Harum-ish, her voice actually sounds rich and substantial – so this complaint may just be me (other people testified to liking her voice quite a lot).
The poky moments of unsolicited jazz came during their opening instrumental, although it was made up for by his rock drumming in it. Special Thanks had a terrific sludgy riff a little like Blue Öyster Cult mixed with Queensrÿche (and someone in the crowd mentioned Candlemass, which is kinda appropriate too). The ominous notes continued into the more Sabbath-ish Gas and Drugs which slowly but nicely morphed into a Dream Theatre-like epic. Here, dedicated to their loved ones, was unflaggingly soppy to me, but a lot of the crowd seemed to like it. It also sounded quite a bit like Alanis’Everything; and, typically, a band can do little because this is a singer’s song, and to her credit Olivia really took hold of the song. The Bryan Adams/Chris Daughtry territory of pop-rock is is NOT my thing, but I can see why someone with a more open mind than mine would like it. Still, many promising signs, perhaps the best of which is that they seem to have an instinct for not making their clearly long-form songs overlong – a rare thing.
(On a tangential note – the floor tom was outside the realm of the drumkit throughout – did the drummer seriouslynot miss it at all?!)
— Shashwati Kala
NEU是underground 99第一隊演出的progressive rock的樂隊，樂隊成員有結他手Wai、鼓手Winston、主音Olivia及低音結他手Peter O’Kelly。他們音樂的結構很豐富，富有強烈的節奏感，其中令人印象尤深的是結他與鼓的演出，有一種能夠震撼人心的感染力。他們演出多首節奏明快的歌曲，但並沒有帶給人歡愉的感覺，而是在豐富的節奏中有一種淡淡的憂鬱，彷彿有一種爭脫不出、緊張不安的張力，像飛車般的風馳電掣，帶給人們一種危險的快感。
NEU主音的歌聲也是樂隊的一個亮點，她的聲音很有性格，在演唱最後一曲較為抒情、節奏也較緩慢的作品，更見其功力，她以雄厚的聲音唱出很妍溫婉的風格，聲音的控制及技巧均十分出色。此曲談的是對家人、愛人的感情，而以progressive rock演奏，結構也較之前演出的作品較為簡單，令人不禁想起Beyond的《真的愛你》，表現出那種細膩的情懷。而NEU出色之處更在於他們音樂的多元及多樣性，演出多首progressive rock不同風格的作品，為觀眾帶來精彩的演出。
— Eva Leung