And so the inner demons of heavy music lovers were unleashed in The Live House. …
Thanks to the four bands who brought their own style and creativity to this event and thanks to the audience who moshed, danced & clearly enjoyed the performance of each band. Thanks to the wonderful & patient staff of The Live House, who have never hosted a heavy show before 🙂 Thanks always to The Underground team.
love Chris B x
5. Breaking the Law (Judas Priest cover)
It was exciting to be at the first Heavy show in well above a year (the last one was in the tail-end of 2011!), and from looking at Fear Index, it looked like it would be comparable to the other ones too. They really, really looked the part of a post-90s metal band, with their regular-looking clothes and the particular combination of hairstyles. And they do sound the part too. There’s plenty of thrashy shredding, a huge bass-drum sound, high-pitched and winding solos, and screaming. However, this combination of sounds can be asserted about nearly any and every metal band on the planet, and therein lies their problem; they are so genre-limited as to have no discernable style of their own. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; some bands look at their purpose as purely to have a good time and entertain, and that’s fine. They were wholly so, and in combination with the typically enthusiastic crowd we get at Heavy shows, they were a hit. However, they do assert that they focus on being melodic, and I fear I must inform them that they’re really not playing something that sounds like melodic metal.
Singer Chester also needs to spend some time on sorting out his vocal technique – his screaming is okay, but when he sings, it sounds hammy and shouty. Perhaps he needs to choose one path to go down, or simply needs training, but either way it really needs to be sorted out. His vocals did work, however, on Breaking the Law and Two-Face, in which the singing and screaming sounded appropriate. I can’t tell precisely what it was that made it so, but perhaps the more classic rock, Van Halen-esque style they adopted in the song is more appropriate. Their drummer is fantastic, being able to play thrash excellently, and just a tad behind the beat, which is a very rare quality to have.
Finally, I must say something about the soloing as well – from time to time it appeared as though the solos were more alt rock and broody than thrashy bands typically have, I couldn’t get a read on them… And the reason for this leads me to say something I don’t think I’ve ever said before – the solos weren’t long enough (!!!). Perhaps this is another aspect they should look at; what I heard of the solos was good, with the singing/screaming guitar sound, and menacing tones, but there wasn’t enough of them for me to be able to gauge th direction in which they were going, in terms of style. Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t tell how melodic (or not) they were… Regardless, there were definitely the seeds of good tunes in their songs; they need to figure out how best to manifest them. They were certainly fun to watch, and worked the crowd into the sort of lather required to begin a Heavy show.
Black Night Red Sky
The second band on that night, Black Night Red Sky wasted no time in plunging the audience straight into the strong and fast current that is their music. Now, aside from their use of the word ‘ambient’ (typically used in retch-inducing lounge situations), they appear to have a very clear idea of what they sound like. They do have heavy and groovy music, and ‘melodic and ambient swells’ is just about as precise a description of the bursts of broody-moody guitars that their songs contain. The screaming is top-notch, and they covered a variety of different styles and feels through their set, and effectively so. From the sludgy Destruction, to the thrashy/shreddy Schizo and Burn to the more Noughties anthemic rock feel of Sorrow, they did it all with interesting textures and unconventional tones, without coming off as taking themselves too seriously (which many metal bands do) or resorting to overlong wanky solos (which many metals bands also do). They seem to like a guitar that sounds like elephants in the distance, an unusual feature to be coupled with screaming, and the result is commendable. The guitars’ wall of sound and the almost anti-solos played in most of their songs was good to hear, since it’s the sign of a different attitude to heavy music than the one that is typical. However, when shredding is required, shredding is given, as in the surprisingly early 80s virtuoso-like solo in Sorrow.
However, it does appear they have a formula – they start off a song quite fast, and then slow down after a minute or so, and do a sludgy thing, and then solo, and then a headbangy bit… It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it could so easily be remedied by a little more creative arrangement. This was particularly noticable on Burn, in which the transitions were clunky and had very little to do with each other, musically speaking – surely it could’ve been written better, especially in light of the songs that preceded it. Still, they’ve certainly hit on a promising vein with their current sound, and I hope to hear them consolidate this potential by developing this over time.
Any band touting themselves as ‘progressive’ today is an interesting idea. It instantly raises the question of precisely what they mean by the word in their particular case. Do they mean lots of keyboards and effects combined with the “let’s play endless solos” attitude of prog-rock in the 70s, or is it merely an attitude towards music, that’s not standard but stops short of experimental?
In this case, it turns out, it’s really neither. Blackwine’s sound is a nostalgic-seeming mix of somewhat psychedelic guitars, a Black Sabbath-like chugging feeling in their songs, and Deep Purple-esque hazy guitar tones. This is put into stark relief by their singer’s extremely Pop style of singing and his, frankly, very thin voice; it didn’t quite all fit together, despite the fact that he does have some chops. They have been around for a long time, so people must like them for this to have been a worthy endeavour over the years, but I’m sorry to say that there is little to engage with and not much freshness in their sound, and they end up really dating themselves. Progressive metal, it doesn’t sound like.
This is not to say that they’re not skilled; as I’ve said, the singer does have some skill, but is let down by his voice. The rest of the band are highly competent, and the guitarist can play like a semi-virtuoso, and has a knack for big, bombastic solos. It’s just that it’s not all terribly interesting. 愛恨交戰 started off very interestingly, almost sounding like something that Primus without Les Claypool’s slap-bass would, but descended into a disappointingly poppy, at which point it progressed to lose the features that would differentiate it from standard radio fare. 不舍不棄 possibly best encapsulates their problem – it sounds like a 80s soft rock Santana song, and there’s a feeling of going over covered ground.
Still, there must be a reason that they’ve survived as a band all these years, and the answer might possibly lie in the singer’s ability to handle a crowd – they certainly did that well. So, regardless of what I’ve said here, they do appear to love playing music and having fun on stage, which is good enough reason to play music. Shine on, you crazy diamonds.
2. Big Rain
3. So Far Gone
5. Roll to the Break of Dawn
And, finally, to close out the night we had Blackbird; a band that rose from the (sadly seemingly permanent) ashes of the very awesome This is Ammunition. Still, three out of four’s better than none, and the very presence of three musicians in the band is reason for hope that something awesome might occur. And is it awesome?
Blackbird is an intensely weird combination of sounds that intuitively would seem to pull in different directions; they’re very atmosphere-oriented, while still being very heavy, which is odd, almost-disturbing but very engaging because of that very fact. To put it very simply (and forgive me if I’m oversimplifying here) their sound makes me think of if Stephen Malkmus sang for a band made up of Dean DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots) and the rhythm section from Soundgarden. It’s what I imagine The Presidents of the USA might sound like if they played heavy music. The atmospheric but punchy guitars played against the background of a verytaut bass (played like in thrash) and a hybrid hardcore-alt rock style of drumming adds up to make a very listenable concoction. Okay, I may be a tad biased here because this is exactly the kind of music I like best, but I think it wouldn’t be venturing too far into subectivity to say that the music is quite awesome. Perhaps they haven’t quite got all the nitty-gritties sorted out yet, but this was literally their second show, so they can be excused some lack of finesse.
They began with the very atmospheric Meltdown, whichmorphed into a chugging, Black Sabbath-derived-rock-like song at some point. Big Rain was an upbeat song with a warmer, searing, more classic rock ‘n’ roll tone, which, I though, was a great touch. A couple of their songs sound a bit samey – songs 2-5 sound like they’re based off of the same tune – and despite their music being very crunchy and engaging, even that fact can’t save them from blurring into one song. They did execute the creeping-feeling-of-gloom particularly well – Alice in Chains would’ve been proud – and this was best done in So Far Gone. The dynamism in their sound despite their being a very new outfit reflects well on how long they have been playing together and how well they fit together musically, and Roll to the… embodied that strength the best. All in all, consdering how new they are, it was a commendable performance, and a great end to the show.
– Shashwati Kala
poster by ANGUS LEUNG