16th April 2013,
It was a busy night in north London, police lined the streets and the riot gear was out in force. Thankfully the couple of hundred fans of And So I Watch You From Afar were not the reason behind such tactics. An Arsenal home game was in fact the cause of the red and white army moving towards The Emirates for a clash with Everton.
Crowd troubles aside (it took over 10 mins to get ascend to street level from the tube!), The Garage was stiflingly hot and already packed as Antlered Man took to the stage (I do admit to being a tad disappointed that there were no Minotaur’s in the band). This London bunch of alt-rockers plundered the stage with their heaving and hefty whirls of clanging guitar noise. A vast array of odd sounds and warped effects were generated with gusto and frenetic intents. Shame a lot of it was buzz and wailing amp feedback, especially the slide guitar which howled extra-terrestrial whoops and whizzes throughout the set. They were however enjoyable and had a good set of book end tunes with opener and closer being incredible hook heavy eclectic rock chaos. The meat of the sandwich however was a blur of noise which passed primarily unnoticed. However they get extra marks for basing a song on a 4 note riff played on a tin whistle. Not bad, but room for improvement in the depth of quality, time will tell for the Antlered Men.
Next up (well almost) were Gallops, who decided a full 10 minutes before their set time that they were too ill to play. Groans from the busy crowd but having almost slept through their set supporting Maybeshewill, this was fine by me. It did mean an awkward pause ensued, but earlier than planned the instrumental post-rockers …And So I Watch You From Afar took the stage.
And So I Watch You From Afar
ASIWYFA, only have 1 gear so it seems…full throttle! From the very first sombre chords to the highest pinnacle of their epic rock repertoire, they bombarded The Garage with bomb after bomb of explosive guitar power. For a band with no lyrics, they manage a very good job of manufacturing a connection with their audiences, sparking crowd exuberance through bombastic man-rock sections and rising spirits alongside the harmonious crescendos of their muscular and often chaotic tunes. Somehow the music is better for their omission, but that has not stopped ASIWYFA attempting to slip some in on their newest album. While a simple tool, the odd “yeahs!” of yore have been updated with “woos!”, “las!”, and most vexing “Ka Ba Ta Bo Da Ka” alongside other actual words. Sometimes they word to bring the crowd up in reflected harmony, other times it’s just filling a gap where another corking fret board run could be inserted.
Tonight was special for ASIWYFA as this was their biggest sell out crowd outside of their native land of Northern Ireland, something which could be read from the beaming smiles on the faces of the band. In fact at every opportunity they could not help but thank each and every one of the crowd for being here. Truly genuine and honourable, as this venue is a long way from Shepherds Bush Empire, let alone Brixton Academy or Wembley.
After an extended run of sonic pummelling ASIWYFA retired knowing that each of the crowd would be back for another sample of their intense and exhilarating performance, most probably dragging all their friends along for the white knuckle ride too!
The Datsuns & Free Fall @ DIngwalls, 13th February 2013
Surprisingly it was the first time we’d been to Dingwalls, the venue hidden within Camden market a stone’s throw from the lock and its associated party places. Once inside, it’s a fine setting, with a multi-tiered seating area views were excellent whilst being small enough to remain very intimate to all but the furthest onlooker.
Up as we wandered in Free Fall, the side project of “The Soundtrack of Our Lives” guitarist Mattias Bärjed (who has clearly had enough of mid tempo pop-rock on tonight’s showing), were powering up their amps. Once they begun striking their strings it was immediately obvious these guys worshiped in the church of Page & Plant at the altar of Black Sabbath. Mixing the euphoria of classic rock guitars with heaving blues of zep and Sabbath they managed to craft a sound which was both familiar and at the same time, their own. Vocals were classic Robert plant, powerful and eclectic with howling wails backing the bold and meandering melodies. Another band trying to be zep? Yes…at this they succeeded emphatically! Their nagging choruses were still ringing in my ears as the headliners strutted on stage.
Bias alert! Ever since The Datsuns self-titled debut record hit my ears way back when, I have been totally in awe of their guitar driven garage rock. Many years have passed since that release earned the New Zealand boys proclamation from NME as the best new band in town, some of us have not forgotten. Armed with a sackful of classic blues melodies and frenetic air-guitar anthems I’m ashamed to admit this is the first time I’ve been able to get down to one of their London shows, this one in support of their 5th release, 2012′s Death Rattle Boogie.
Songs from this corking album dominated the early set, adding in more psychedelic side trips alongside their trademark riff fuelled thrust. Early highlights included the fuzzed up Bullseye, thunderous bass melee of Skull Full Of Bones and the bearer of scorching ‘DiR.net riff of the year 2012′ Gold Halo. The small crowd were buzzing as the on-stage energy of the band reflected in a small chaotic pit of over excited rockers. The number of crowd surfer’s be-lied the limited numbers holding them up, obvious casualties and painful drops ensued! Still for that little pocket of mayhem, nothing mattered beyond exuberantly letting the music snare them into the mouth of garage guitar nirvana.
Song after song of incredible melodies were piled sky high by the reigning riff kings, The Emperor’s New Clothes, Sittin’ Pretty, Maximum Heartbreak, MF From Hell and their well known favourite Harmonic Generator. Yet their set was closed out with one of their most revered and rawkus offerings, Freeze Sucker which combines their firecracker blues, frantic vocals and huge melodies with an extended mellow passage and inevitable return crescendo which pushed the crowd above and beyond boiling.
It was such a great show to finally be a part of, an amazing band with a catalogue of awesome rock anthems. Just surprising they are still haven’t graduated above venues of this capacity, still all the better for me!
Rancid @ The HMV Forum, 14th December 2012
After being shipped up to Newcastle last minute, I had a rather longer journey to the Kentish Town forum than originally anticipated (hence lack of decent pics). 5 hours later we nestled in to catch the latter half of the forefathers of Oi!, Cock Sparrer, which without a cockney accent should not be spoken aloud in public places. Especially not by Americans over booming PA systems, ‘Cock Spa..rer’ is just wrong in many ways (bad images).
Despite their advancing years and progression in their genre to more Americanised angles, Cock Sparrer have lost nothing which would have attracted their loyal fan base from their 70′s & 80′s heydays. Straight forward three chord punk with gang harmonies, lyrical themes of the anti-establishment and of good ol’ blighty (see “England Belongs To Me“), each with nagging choruses most modern chart toppers would die for. Professional and exuberant, they have lost none of their spirit as their rejuvenation continues, now with Rancid’s backing a whole new audience is being won over, all over again.
Whilst Tim Armstrong is the mastermind, founder and talented vocalist who steers the Rancid ship on its ever upward course up the punk hierarchy, he also sports a pretty awesome beard! He was the lifeblood of the crew, bouncing about stage slinging his guitar so low it almost reached his bootstraps he epitomized their carefree attitude and high energy punk rock. Short and sharp, blink and you’ll miss them anthems sparked some serious crowd antics from front to the back.
Jumping around their discography they picked out their most energetic and catchiest melodies from their career, each song being met with rounds of crowd rapture before the bouncing started. The pinnacles were their set rounding effort sing-a-long classic Ruby Soho, plus hot foot hoppin’ Fall Back Down and of course the ska, skate-punk mashup, Time Bomb. The sheer amount of material showcased is testament to their no-nonsense, all killer no filler ethos which has brought them so much success. On tonight’s high octane outing, there is no slowing down the rancid train.
New project of Soundtrack Of Our Lives guitarist is a lesson in how to rock hard right…
Free Fall – Power & Volume
There are many hard rocking bands who list Led Zep & Ac/Dc as influences, but none go quite as far as Free Fall in their homage to the lords of Classic Rock as Free Fall. From the energy of the opening rollicking blues guitar riff of the title track to the last gravelly toned wail from Bon Scott’ish vocalist Kim Fransson, Free Fall are soaked in the kind of good times and vintage memories that only get better with age. Rock pedigree was never going to be an issue as their line-up is a true meld of Scandinavian talent from bands as varied as Lead Guitarist Mattias Bärjed (The Soundtrack Of Our Lives), drummer Ludwig Dahlberg (International Noise Conspiracy) with a helping hand from Graveyard’s producer Don Alsterberg.
There are a whole heap of riffs which are instantly memorable, stolen from the rock archives and given a new lease of life here on this brilliant debut record. They are adept at the straight up upbeat hard rock as displayed on both the title track and Top Of The World both sporting racing drums and equally pacy melodies, yet it’s the longer slower tunes where Free Fall have perfected their craft. One such epic is Attila, which begins with a simple palm muted riff which is totally foreboding backed with a bright bass melody with occasional piano chords to add more sparse desert-like Stoner Rock vibes. It rumbles on like a impending storm, which results in an epic crescendo flooded with fiery guitars and shrieking vocals. This simple slowed riff trick is repeated a few more times on World Domination with its louder cymbal crashing wall of rock and Damnation which flies very close to Sabbath’s Haven & Hell completes this trio of big hitting beasts. Production nods firmly at the good old days of rock almost as much as the songs.
There is barely any filler here, with each song either containing another melody to bang head to, a guitar solo to admire or more often a jaw dropping display of vocal talent. If you like rock, you cannot miss this! Having already seen them live, I can report they are just as spectacular!
DoesItRock Overall Score: 9/10
Listen to Free Fall – Power & Volume now on Spotify!
9th November 2012
So another night in Newcastle and two of my favourite bands were unhappily playing on the same night. I Shunned the all-out hair metal parody and all round good times of Steel Panther, in orderto be found in the relatively meek surrounds of Trillian’s Rock Bar. Not a bad place actually, a basement pub with plenty of authenticity, you feel the walls have many tales to tell of wild nights in the past.
Tonight there were three young math rock inspired bands out to make an impression. Each at different points down the music career river…
Near the rivers mouth we find the unpredictable, twisting, Human Sacrifice Club at their humble beginnings. A band full of youthful wide eyed enthusiasm and energy whose rawkus duelling math rock riffs presented an unrestricted and thoroughly enjoyable set of melodic indie guitars. Vocals were yelped with a fierce intent as were their numerous noise rock outs. This Jekyll and Hyde set of carefully crafted songs (a la Maps + Atlases) and riotous chaos was as thrilling as it was addictive. I hope the river takes them on the course to a record deal sometime soon, my eyes are peeled!
Further down the river are Gallops, who (for purposes of this analogy) are floating along near the mouth. After flowing for some time they have arrived here and in the process have lost much of their earlier power and are happy to sway gently with the tide. Being a predominantly electronic outfit their looped beats were absolutely hypnotic, coasting me to sleep as the loops kicked and the keys tinkled. Only woken by the karrang of the guitars when they interspersed the ambient ramblings. One for a casual listen i feel, but they failed to engage me enough tonight.
By contrast Maybeshewill have escaped the repetitive motions of a river and are out in the unhinged wilderness of the ocean. It the same stroke of their thunderous guitars they are ‘The perfect storm’ at the same time stunningly beautiful and immensely powerful like a great force of nature. Waves of massive guitar power chords crash down over the crowd at every turn, turbulence thrashing through the air only to be broken by still and melodic keyboard breaks. But the threat is always menacing and as always it returns to kick your ass once again till the final chord rings. Performance wise these guys have the whole shebang, precise musicianship (even swapping instruments), coordinated head thrashing and bursting energy. Plus they are very polite, even asking very nicely for the crowd to come forwards with a meek restraint in their voice. A thinking man’s heavy rock this was and the crowd demographic of students and oldies backs this claim (for big dumb fun, see Steel Panther above). They played the pick of the tracks from their latest LP including loud/soft rocker Accolades, sweetly tapped lighter waver Red Paper Lanterns and the euphoric piano driven Critical Distance whilst not turning their back on mathier outings such as Japanese Spy Transcript and the epic closer Paris Hilton Sex Tape.
A great mathty “ebb and flow’ of bands, to whom it was hard to ‘wave’ goodbye.