Category Archives: Live Reviews

DERBY ALT FEST 2.0 – The Hairy Dog, Derby, 30/09/2017

Derby Alt Fest 2.0 poster

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

As September drew to a close, The Hairy Dog, fast establishing itself as a key venue on the Derby music scene, played host to an all-day rock and metal festival comprising of many local bands, with a few coming from out of town especially, including headliners To Kill Achilles, who had travelled all the way down from Dundee.

The weather wasn’t very good, and unfortunately, some of the outfits scheduled to play had to pull out prior to the day, but it seemed, in the run-up to the opening act, everybody there was in good spirits.

Getting the second Derby Alt Fest off to a loud, energetic start were A Hundred Crowns, a six-piece from Nottingham.

They were initially going to open proceedings on the second stage, situated upstairs, but were moved to the main stage.

Entering the room containing the main stage, I couldn’t help but laugh at seeing a large arrow hanging from above with “TWAT” written in big letters, but anyway, back to the opening band, and despite playing in front of a sparse attendance, which unfortunately often is the case with the first outfit on, they played a gutsy, intense fusion of metalcore and post-hardcore, with a mix of harsh and melodic vocals.

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Being relatively new, their set was rather limited in terms of songs, but what they didn’t have in quantity they had in quality.

Finishing off with their debut single, ‘The Highs’, A Hundred Crowns got a good reception from the few people who were there.

Next up on the main stage were fellow Nottingham outfit Infirm Of Purpose, who also had a debut single to promote.

Their set comprised of an intense metal sound, backed up by synthesisers and turntables. The use of these instruments gave the five-piece, of which two had helped to organise the whole day, a electronicore and dubstep flavour.

Infirm Of Purpose gig photo

Watching frontman Josh Blackshaw give a performance abundant in high energy, I wouldn’t have been surprised if prior to going on stage, he had drunk about ten cans of Red Bull.

As their half-hour came to an end, the crowd area had started to fill up, with two or three bobbing their heads aggressively to the music.

However, by the time thrash metallers Hellrazor started on stage, the audience had trickled down to a select few.

Not that there seemed to be any anger from the band about this, their vocalist actually took the opportunity to make a few tongue-in-cheek references, one of which being, “Hope you enjoyed that, all four of you!

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Regardless of this, the set was enjoyable, with the local outfit playing passionately, with catchy riffs and heavy headbangers galore, influenced by “The Big Four” of metal, as well as more classic collectives of the genre.

Hellrazor were also a member down, and Tom, a guitarist who had come in at the last minute to fill in, did a stellar job. It was like he had been a part of the band for years.

After that, it was time to venture upstairs to the second stage to see local metalcore six-piece Buried And Forgotten, where the room was so compact, not all of the members could stand on the stage, so the two vocalists decided to perform in front.

Being in such a confined space, you could really get up close to them, literally feeling the sweat pouring from their foreheads as the whole band opted for full-on aggression.

Buried And Forgotten band photo

The frontmen even got one of the merchandise people to come and join them for a brief mosh. With both of them having long hair, it was as if the merchandiser was being enveloped by their flowing locks.

After all of that, it was back downstairs for This.Is.Hate’s set. Having chatted earlier in the day with the band’s lead vocalist, and another festival organiser, Liam Barlow, he had told me that he saved up all of his aggression for the stage, and judging by his stage presence, he was right.

This.Is.Hate gig photo

With a sound, that in Liam’s words, was “heavy as fuck!“, you could tell that the outfit were pouring their souls into producing the best possible live set.

With some of their set list, they also showcased a groovier and heavier sound, which shows how mature the guys are becoming with their songwriting.

Immediately following them were Bury The Traitor. The Derby quintet had a heavy yet melodic sound that drew from a wide range of musical influences, and they used the stage as a good opportunity on which to exploit this to a high standard.

Bury The Traitor gig photo

They took their music seriously, but didn’t let it get in the way of them having a great time during their performance, with all five of the band seeming to bond really well as a unit, which definitely came across while I was watching them.

Serious” is probably a word alien to Raised By Owls, judging by their eccentricities, which were on full show during their time on stage.

From the moment they entered to the theme tune from Ski Sunday, I knew that it wasn’t in their nature to play a bog-standard set.

Television theme tunes played an important role throughout, acting as little intervals between the tracks, with the crowd also being treated to the themes of Chucklevision and Murder, She Wrote.

Raised By Owls gig photo

The songs themselves showcased effectively their brand of surreal humour, with avant-garde lyrics set to snarling vocals and very heavy guitar riffs.

As well as moshing to the angry sound, the audience were in fits of laughter.

If there had been an award given out to the most original band of the day, Raised By Owls would have won by a country mile.

I had had the pleasure of interviewing Skies In Motion when I had been at the Macmillan Fest in Nottingham at the beginning of September.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to see them that day as their stage time clashed with an interview I was doing.

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This meant that this time, I was determined not to miss them, and I’m glad I didn’t, as they were impressive throughout, playing a number of well-crafted compositions, taken from both their overwhelmingly positively received recent debut album, ‘Life Lessons’, and other offerings.

In the past, the band have played with the likes of Killswitch Engage and Skindred, and after seeing their excellent performance, the passion they put into everything they do, and their rapidly rising profile, the local outfit are seemingly well on their way to emulating those two.

Another of the collectives that I can comfortably say have a strong work ethic were headliners To Kill Achilles.

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The Scotsmen’s job was to bring proceedings on the main stage, and the entire day, to a close, and they did it in some style, literally raising the roof off with a powerful set comprising of a unique brand of melodic metalcore, incorporating the use of other musical genres such as pop, rock and emo, coupled with frank and personal lyrics.

All in all, the festival was a great way of boosting the profile of Derby on the British rock and metal scene, full of entertaining bands that were truly passionate about what they played, but were not afraid to enjoy themselves as well.

I presume, judging by this year’s success, that the Derby Alt Fest 3.0 is on the cards for 2018.

 

 

 

 

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MACMILLAN FEST 2017 – Nottingham, 02/09/2017

Macmillan Fest 2017 poster

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

PHOTOS of The Treatment by CALLUM GROVE

As the summer festival season drew to a close for another year, a corner of the centre of Nottingham was taken over by the Macmillan Fest, which was now in its eighth year raising money and awareness for the great cause that is Macmillan Cancer Support, and has become a fixture of the city’s rock music calendar.

This was my second time covering it for this site, and in terms of the weather on the day, there was no comparison to the first.

Last year, the festival took place under grey skies and torrential rain, but this year, it was blue skies and glorious sunshine all the way.

With the opening bands kicking off their sets around half past one, I got to the press accreditation tent, situated around the back of the legendary venue that is Rock City, as the clock struck 1pm.

Having got my wristband and press pass, I made my way into the Black Cherry Lounge, an adjacent nightclub that was doubling for the day as a press and band preparation area.

There, you could see roadies shifting equipment about, vocalists undertaking rigorous singing exercises, and musicians making final tweaks to their instruments before they ventured on stage.

With my first interview of the day, with Welsh post-hardcore quartet Holding Absence, under my belt, it was time to head over to the Rescue Rooms, which was playing host to the majority of the day’s sets, with the building holding three of the stages. It lacks the prestige of its neighbour, but is a great venue nonetheless.

Opening up the place’s main stage were local metal five-piece Centurion. They had earned that spot on the bill after winning the festival’s Battle of the Bands competition back in June, and judging by their live performance, it was easy to see how they had won.

Centurion gig photo

The set was delivered with much feistiness, whether it was coming from the strong vocals and stage presence of frontwoman Esme Knight, or the band’s sound, much influenced by the classic metal of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and “The Big Four”.

It must have been daunting for them to be the opening act, what with being handed the task of warming up the crowd, who at this point in proceedings, had yet to really get into the swing of things, but after seeing the band perform such a confident set, actively involving themselves with the audience, it seems to have been taken with relish.

Directly upstairs from this, another band native to Nottingham were playing another strong set.

Say The Word are classed as a pop-punk outfit, but their sound is not stereotypical of the genre, with the quartet also taking influence from the likes of the Foo Fighters and Bruce Springsteen.

Say The Word band photo

With more of a compact space, the crowd were able to get up, close and personal with the band members, who all performed with high energy, which by its conclusion, had left them, and much of the patrons, covered in sweat.

Currently enjoying a rising reputation, this was probably the last time you would have had the opportunity to see them play such an intimate stage.

After that, I decided to cool down by taking a little stroll outside around the back of the Rescue Rooms, where there were stalls offering free samples of whisky, charity head shaves, clothing and other merchandise, as well as a barbecue and a raffle (with a cuddly Chewbacca as one of the main prizes).

Then, it was back to the Black Cherry Lounge to conduct some interviews, which you will be able to see on this site shortly.

All of the bands I chatted with, including locals Skies In Motion and Beckon Lane, Lincoln outfit Borders, and one of the headliners, Hacktivist, who had recently supported Korn, were comprised of nice, down-to-earth guys. You could tell that they were there to raise money and awareness for a worthy cause, rather than using the festival as an opportunity to inflate their egos.

One of these were metalcore five-piece Our Hollow, Our Home, who were performing a stone’s throw away in the basement of Rock City, and their set will be looked back on by the people who were there to see them as one of the highlights of the day.

Our Hollow, Our Home band photo

The Southampton quintet certainly knew how to work the crowd, with heavy sounds that made you feel as if there was an earthquake going on, and the frontman actively encouraging the crowd to form a moshpit, which gradually grew from just a few die-hard fans at the front, to, by the set’s conclusion, pretty much the entire room, creating an electric atmosphere.

On my way to the Rescue Rooms to see one of the main draws, heavy rock five-piece The Treatment, I bumped into a devout fan of theirs who told me that this would be the 13th time he had seen them live.

Having not seen them play in the flesh once, I thought they must put on a great show if they’re good enough to have been seen that many times, and they certainly didn’t disappoint.

The Treatment gig photo 1

The Cambridge outfit are now at the stage where they can attract a devoted following wherever they play, and this was made clear with the almighty roar, more akin to that experienced at a football match, the crowd gave when they emerged onto stage.

They started playing at full throttle, and even towards the end of their hour-and-a-bit set, not one of the band members showed any signs of slowing down, performing with energy in abundance.

The Treatment gig photo 2

The quintet’s enthusiasm was matched by the audience, who were eagerly singing along, word for word, to the lyrics, even to the tracks from their most recent album ‘Generation Me’, as well as bobbing their heads to a sound that was a mix of classic rock, heavy metal and punk.

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The Treatment really do know how to work a crowd, with frontman Mitch Emms issuing rallying cries in between an intense vocal delivery, and the guitarists, comprising of two brothers, treating them to some great riffery.

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I would highly recommend seeing this band at your earliest opportunity, because in this age of Autotune, much choreography and where image is seen as more important than talent, it was refreshing to see something where real rock ‘n’ roll played by gifted musicians took centre stage.

Some have said in the recent past that rock is dead, but judging from what I saw across the stages, these people must have a defeatist attitude, because if you look beyond the mainstream and delve just a little into the underground, you will pleasantly find that it is actually in very rude health.

My review can’t end without me acknowledging everyone who selflessly gave up their free time and worked incredibly hard in order to make sure such a substantial event ran like clockwork, and that as much money and awareness as possible was raised for Macmillan Cancer Support, a great charity that helps people unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with a terrible illness that has devastated the lives of many people over the years.

YOU CAN MAKE A DONATION TO MACMILLAN CANCER SUPPORT AT www.macmillan.org.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MALTHOUSE – The Exchange, Hanley, 04/03/2017

SUPPORT: The Red Kites, Tom Lockett, Rachel Ferguson

Malthouse review photo

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

The Exchange is a place that has firmly established itself as a key venue on the Stoke-on-Trent music scene in recent years, and it had a great opportunity to show exactly why with a Saturday evening playing host to a mix of local musical talent.

Headlining were modern soul/blues trio Malthouse, who were there to give everyone a sneak preview of their forthcoming EP ‘Extracts Of The Soul’.

Kicking things off was singer-songwriter Rachel Ferguson, a relative newcomer to the Potteries. Despite a sparse crowd, she impressed those that were there, playing a set that consisted of her gently strumming a guitar to a sound that fused together elements of folk, alternative and lounge, coupled with a vocal delivery reminiscent of Lana Del Rey.

Next up was another Stoke singer-songwriter, Tom Lockett, who already enjoys a good local reputation. He proved this, channelling his inner Bob Dylan (complete with harmonica!) with a strong performance, mixing intelligent lyrics with a sound that was a combination of folk, jazz, blues and Sixties psychedelia. After seeing Tom, it is clear that a bright future lies ahead for him.

By the time last support The Red Kites took to the stage, the venue had started to fill up nicely, and the people who had just turned up were in for a treat. The outfit played a quality set, utilising a diverse range of musical genres to create a sound that was eclectic and a good listen.

There was much anticipation in the run-up to Malthouse’s headline set, with the now capacity crowd eager to see if their forthcoming release, which they were playing for the first time live, could top their well-received debut EP ‘Staveley Sessions’.

Judging by what I saw of them, it is safe to say that they have done exactly this. The new tracks they performed showcased how they have matured and developed, and I could also definitely get the feeling of abundant passion from them, which was present in the way they played their music. The audience seemed to agree, giving a universal positive response, which shows much promise for the recorded version, which will be out soon.

Yet again, going to a live gig in Stoke-on-Trent has proved to me that the local scene is currently one of the best-kept secrets in British music, and if the city is chosen later this year to succeed Hull as the UK’s City of Culture, then the rest of the country will get to find out just how rich and diverse it truly is.

 

 

 

CONSTRUCT – The Underground, Hanley, 18/02/2017

SUPPORT: Inscriptions, Despoiled, 2 Years 2 Late

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REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

PHOTOS by AMY GRIFFITHS

The metalheads of Stoke-on-Trent were out in force at the weekend to see local lads Construct perform in front of a home crowd.

The metal quintet were in town as part of a tour promoting their recently released debut album ‘The Deity’.

Waiting outside for the doors to open, I couldn’t help thinking that there seemed to be a more sizeable queue than usual, most of them in no doubt eager to see how the five-piece could translate the sound of the album into an effective live performance.

However, before all that, there were three local outfits, all varying in experience, to see.

First up were young band 2 Years 2 Late, who were playing their first ever live set.

Despite a rather shaky beginning, which was understandably down to nerves, they quickly began to relax and grew in confidence as the set went on, so much so that towards the end, the guys were showing the crowd what they were truly capable of.

Next on stage were Despoiled, also a fledgling outfit but with more gig experience, and a much louder, heavier sound, which along with the constant screaming vocal delivery of frontman Kurt Kennedy, contributed to the formation of the first moshpit of the night.

Despoiled are a band that evidently improve with each set, and if they carry on the way they have, then it should only be a matter of time before they are headlining a venue like this one.

Inscriptions, the final support, are currently almost at the same level as Construct, and this was evident in their stage performance. They provided a great warm-up, nicely setting the stage for the headliners and making their job of creating a good atmosphere much less difficult.

By the time Construct were ready to begin, the venue was buzzing and there was a sense of genuine excitement in the air.

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The Potteries quintet showed exactly why they are tipped to make a big impact this year, adapting the sound of ‘The Deity’ for a live set with relative ease. They also had confidence in abundance, playing a heavy, loud metal sound with progressive elements, and involving the audience as much as they possibly could, with frontman Callum Howle frequently issuing rallying cries to make as much noise and moshing as possible in a place as compact as The Underground, resulting in the room becoming one massive moshpit.

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Construct are a band that are now getting national exposure, and if every performance on the tour was like the one I witnessed, then it should be very easy for them to leave the same good impressions at venues up and down the country, and their fast-expanding fan base in unanimous agreement that the money they paid for a ticket was an amount well spent.

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BLACK STAR BULLET – The Rigger, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 07/01/2017

SUPPORT: Jesse’s Divide, Infinity

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REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
PHOTOS by SIMON WARD

The Rigger, a rock venue on the outskirts of Newcastle-under-Lyme, played host to three bands who were the perfect cure for the January blues.

Being the first full weekend of 2017 and after the festivities of Christmas and New Year, it would have been understandable if the attendance had been sparser than usual, but I saw absolutely no evidence of this, with a sizable audience, a real mix of young and more seasoned rockers, packing into the intimate space.

Local outfits Jesse’s Divide and Infinity were the best possible warm-ups, both playing a big, crowd pleasing sound, led by two frontmen who were naturals in this position, showing much confidence with their rallying of the patrons, but crucially, not letting themselves overshadow the music.

Infinity were great as always, they seem to have really grown as a band since I first saw them last year, with the whole group on top form, playing well their style of melodic hard rock.

Jesse’s Divide were an outfit who showed total concentration, perfecting their blend of progressive metal and alternative rock, containing some brilliant guitar solos.

However, this did not stop them from having fun, with vocalist/guitarist Simon Ward interacting freely with the audience, even throwing in some free custard doughnuts for them to enjoy.

Therefore, it must have been quite a job for Coventry headliners Black Star Bullet to top all that, but they rose to the challenge and easily succeeded, wowing the crowd with a set consisting mainly of good old fashioned, no frills heavy rock, which was of no doubt of high and wide appeal.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable evening watching three Midlands bands who vary in experience, but all have these important common factors: they definitely know how to play to an audience, and are all of immense talent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE TORCH – The Underground, Hanley, 09/12/2016

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SUPPORT: Bonsai, West Pier, Jupiter’s Beard

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

The Stoke-on-Trent music scene has had a fantastic 2016, and what better way to cover my last gig of the year than to go to one of the city’s respected music venues and see four local bands who have truly made their mark.

Jupiter’s Beard were first up, playing a mix of original tracks taken from their forthcoming EP and covers, which included a sublime version of Oasis classic ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’.

Next on to the stage were West Pier, whose set was interestingly half acoustic, half electric, which they seemed to pull off effectively, even though I did hear one or two groans amongst the patrons when they began to play a cover of a Justin Bieber track.

Even though Bieber is considered public enemy number one by the majority of proper music lovers, the four-piece performed the song well, making it their own and turning something rather mediocre into a good listen.

Bonsai, the final support of the night, are a talented outfit who I have had the pleasure of seeing live on a number of occasions this year, and every time, there has been a noticeable improvement, and this was no exception, with them playing what was their best set to date.

I really think that 2017 could be their breakthrough year, they already have all the necessary ingredients, a great sound, talented musicians and a rarity in music these days, a charismatic frontman in Chris Hough.

The majority of the females in the audience seemed to be enjoying it, when Chris did his now obligatory stage dive, some of them took the chance to eagerly grab the shirt off his back.

Headliners The Torch are another local fledging band that are tipped to go on to bigger and better things, and after seeing their performance, it would be difficult to disagree.

Despite the fact that some of the members may have somewhat overindulged in the liquid refreshment department, it certainly didn’t seem to affect them.

They wowed the crowd with their fast-paced, guitar-led indie rock sound with a few punk elements thrown in.

Towards the closure of proceedings, some members of the audience began to jump up on to the stage and join in, which in what seemed like a matter of seconds, had developed into a mini stage invasion, which was probably a health and safety officer’s worst nightmare.

Stoke-on-Trent is not normally a city you would associate with having a booming music scene, but after seeing so many immensely talented local bands this year, these four included, it is safe to say that at the moment, it is enjoying very rude health, and it should only get stronger in 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAGE CAVE – The Freebird, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 11/11/2016

SUPPORT: Filth, The Skirr, Lost Notes

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REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

PHOTOS by FRANKIE PEERS

The Staffordshire settlement of Newcastle-under-Lyme played host to fledging local rock trio Rage Cave, who were in town to promote their recently released self-titled debut EP.

In support, there were three other Potteries outfits who also look to have bright futures ahead of them.

Therefore, it was no surprise to hear that tickets had sold out prior to the gig.

Having supposed to commence proceedings at half past seven, a lengthy delay (caused by the late arrival of the sound technician) meant that things didn’t properly kick off until an hour and a half later.

However, immediately from the moment the first guitar string was plucked, courtesy of female-fronted alternative rockers Lost Notes, it was clear that it had been well worth the extended wait.

The intimacy of the venue enabled the bands to engage freely with the crowd, who quickly got into the swing of things, snapping up the free car stickers provided by indie rock ‘n’ rollers The Skirr and seeming to genuinely enjoy the high quality of music on offer.

Psychedelic rock four-piece Filth seemed to be just at home playing in the mosh-friendly environment as they were when I saw them at the more indie-oriented The Exchange in Hanley a few months back, and got just as enthusiastic a reception.

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It was then finally time for Rage Cave to take to the stage, and they couldn’t have wished for a better debut headline set, playing with the confidence and energy of a group with many more years of experience, and no doubt enjoying a boost from the atmosphere, which was probably one of the most vibrant I had ever experienced at a gig.

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I think that Rage Cave are a band to keep an eye out for in the future, if they can play sets like the one I witnessed, with the crowd singing along to the rallying vocals of frontman Max Jeffries, when they are barely out of school, then it will definitely be interesting to see what their gigs will be like when they all reach their mid twenties.