Tussk @ Sugarmill 17/01/14

Uncertainty was queried amongst onlookers throughout the Sugarmill when an unorthodoxly minimal sum of two musicians promptly bolted into their set; producing a sound which applies experimental jagged guitar riffs symphonized with interchanging drums that alternate between definitive rock loops and speedy solos, coordinated with a harmonious guitar and perfected to the ambience their music evokes. Pedro Don Key’s evident absence of vocal influence benefits the strength of their instrumentals and places further emphasis on forming a dynamic and varied melody, HifiDad. from their 2013 EP; ‘Das Boot’ was the most accurate example of this on the night, for its suggestive ‘Jazzy’ undertones and intelligently placed alteration of sound in different fragments of the song. The duo has two gigs coming up this forthcoming March in Manchester, at Gulliver’s Bar on the 2nd and Castle Hotel late in the month on the 29th so make sure you catch them soon!

Spring Yard invaded the stage collectively and rallied the audience forwards in awe of their boisterously energetic performance driven by the distinctive sound of their first EP; ‘Ease Town’ of which they paraded their best tracks from such as; Homebound which rippled the crowd with its shuddering combination of punk like crunching guitars and instants of softer backing instrumentals that spotlight the prevailing vocal of Alex Baskeyfield. However my highlight was, Up an Atom compelling similar crowd response; highlighting the impressive consistency in the 4-piece’s music so early on, with a characteristic sound matched with sparkling stage presence. Spring Yard are also currently gigging and with dates in the next couple of weeks, check their website for where you can see them next.

 Soon following, hailing from the Black Country were God Damn, and were second duo of the night – however the raw volume of dominating noise they produce reflects otherwise. God Damn release a radioactive wave of pure grunge sound using explosive guitar riffs that brawl with the equivalently hefty percussion; all infused with fiery vocals. Though amongst the brutish sound of majority of their set lied the melancholy delight of, Dangle Like Skeletons with a contrasting subdued opening to the song that gradually builds towards a thunderous conclusion which exhibits the echoing passion in Thom Edward’s voice. God Damn is a diverse hybrid of all things heavy and is currently on tour so I’d ‘heavily’ recommend them!

After a night of assorted Rock, anticipation was ripe for locals Tussk who’s innovative twist on metal didn’t go unnoticed. Tussk’s unique grasp on the genre is truly captivating through a vigorous twosome of guitarists that enhance the melody of their tracks, whilst maintaining an astronomical level of sheer power in their instrumental, throw in the transitional vocals of Sean Beck and you have a metal powerhouse. And if that wasn’t remarkable enough they pull off an unmatchable stage performance that corresponds with the intensity of their music seamlessly, and to pick a song from their set that encapsulates all this is near impossible; bet my best bet would be Shark Sandwich.  The changes in pace make this song unpredictably invigorating and undoubtedly my pick from their ‘Cougar Bait’ EP released in 2012 which earned them the warranted legendary status in the local area. It cannot be reiterated enough how much you should go and see these guys if you’re looking for something one of a kind.

FS

GreaterGhost EP ‘Polarity’ 25/01/14

        

After their debut EP, GreaterGhost return to kick some ass with recent release, Polarity. They are known as a post hardcore act, but I think there is a lot more to them than that. The EP runs at 24 minutes with only 4 tunes, which gives you a hint there would be a progressive element.

 

Silhouette is the first track from this; the intro gives a soft sound from the guitar which reminded me of djent metal band TessaracT. The vocals sound pop punky, but great nonetheless. The song is progressive when it comes to sound. The longer the song goes, the heavier the song is, and it’s a good pleasure listening to it. The production of the album sounds pretty darn solid; this song is a great start.

 

Next is, Safe to Speak, a brief soft intro only to greatly get heavier and faster. The chorus is solid and the singer’s voice when the music smoothens down is nicely reverberated and he’s great to listen to.  From the two songs I’ve listened to so far the progression isn’t time signatures or instrumental solos as such, but the sound of the songs go from calm to heavy, keeping the songs intriguing so they aren’t tedious to listen to.

 

The sound goes from heavy to very ambient and soothing to listen to with the song, Ghost In This Place. It’s seems typical there would be a soft song along with the collection of rock and metal songs, but this is relaxing. It feels like a signature song that everyone would know and love in live performance, the lighters would make an appearance.

 

Finally there’s the 7 minute monster Ash and Ember. The progression in this is again not instrumental when it comes to playing or time signature changes, but the sounds that drift from heavy and shouting to calm and harmonic keep this song interesting and a joy to listen to, the length of the song however would put some people off.

 

Overall though it’s a brilliantly produced second EP from, GreaterGhost. They stay in the genre limelight of the local scene yet stick to their own guns at the same time. The moods set in this album are brilliant, even though it may be quite lengthy for a 4 track EP I wouldn’t let the track durations put you off. Influences that appear to be post hardcore and djent metal (with the soft sounding guitar tone), Polarity does a fine job standing firm in its own right, and with a name your price offer on Bandcamp, it’s a generous offer for a great EP.

 

MC

Stone The Alchemist @ Sugarmill 18/01/14

Very recently the Stoke music scene has been given a swift kick up the arse to gain some audience attention. This realisation immediately hit after Incarcerate played locally and putting on a superb show. There was a time to act, and Luke Mansfield of Of Legions put things in top gear and came up with a Facebook group to discuss local music. One of the next gigs to come up is this one, The Sugarmill being a heavyweight in the small venue category remains a strong attraction for music.

Tonight had a rather full venue, with headliners Stone The Alchemist being highly anticipated. Including them are 3 other bands on the bill, that’s Fallen, Behead The Bride and Hex.

Hex, were the first band on, dressed up quite mid 80’s and reminding me of bands like Ratt with the bandanas on their heads and most of their songs sounding quite classic. They were the softer sounding of all the bands, having a massive vibe of bands like Guns N Roses influencing their music.

The lyrics are rock n roll and matched their music greatly, even their lit up logo in the back was pretty decent. Their set nicely included a drum solo, which seems to be a rarity in bands locally at the moment and it was a breath of fresh air.

Next up is Behead The Bride, who sounded instrumentally solid. Even though they were great performing, the singer and bassist of the band kept forgetting a few lyrics to a few of the songs which were slightly sloppy. His guitar strap also broke, only for him to handle the situation perfectly which some members of bands I’ve seen normally panic in situations like that. Drummer Will eases speaking with a nice drum beat so there isn’t any awkward silence. The solos and riffs were great, which seemed more fitting for the next two bands instrumentally.

Fallen, stepped onto the stage in front of a busy crowd, a lot of them seem to follow the band. A great fan base made the venue very lively and kept the atmosphere pumped and alive. Performance it was great, as tedious as this sounds in this review, they were instrumentally great. The vocalist was good throughout, though when speaking it was confusing if that was his normal voice or put on for show. It worked I suppose, they are so far one of the most decorated live band in Stoke on Trent at the moment.

And now the headliners take the stage, Chris Munday, their vocalist, mentioned to me having “pre-gig nerves”. However, he didn’t seem nervous whatsoever as Stone The Alchemist; were immense.

His vocal range is superb and one of the finest I’ve seen locally and confidentially commanded the band to victory. Even though there wasn’t as strong as a crowd compared to Fallen, performance wise it was better than them. The guitar tone was beautiful, quite (I dare say) “Djent” I think it is, a heavy tone with great playing ability from Matt Cartwright. It was a very packed set, with music of different feelings and emotions. One minute they are heavy (War) and next minute it’s calm and proud (Circles)

It was nice to see a wall of death as well that isn’t made up of 2 people at The Sugarmill for a local gig, it isn’t the pleasant of sights for some people, but I always find them fun to watch. At this point it was halfway through the set and the crowd returned to their lively state Fallen put them in.

The moshing and head banging was constant throughout, as the set remained in strength earning them a superb live presence. War was the highlight of the night, its progression and unexpected change in genre got the crowd in their hands, and concluded a satisfactory night.

All 4 bands were firm tonight when it came to performance, but the headliners mind f***ed the audience with progressive and poetic brilliance.

 

MC

Twenty Blocks Away – EP Review 07/01/2014

Where I live I’m surrounded by a music scene that is dominated by genres that have the word “-core” at the end of them.

As a Stoke on Trent man living in his own house eating cheap toasties and watching 90s anime from time to time I need to go and find out more about bands across the local scene.

Twenty Blocks Away is an electronic project which seems to rely on making music quite heavy yet somewhat groovy at the same time. The 6 track EP, entitled TBA_EP is a re- mastered and done up version of previous instrumental releases; two of the songs escape from the instrumental theme; good riddance too.

Liam Munday, the main man behind this, provides his lovely vocals which, in my opinion, have been long awaited in his music. This EP is more packed than I previous remembered, with tracks like; Black Car into the Night, coming on at the start. The distorted bass riff is a nice way to awaken the listener, crashing straight through your ear buds like a sea wave smashing through a surfers get together. The vocals have effects, it’s a nice take but; it is difficult to listen to what all the lyrics are until a second listen. When the effects are less used in the song the vocals become smoother, overall it’s a good short track which is catchy and heavy.

Egotism it’s less heavy but has more variety to the song, it’s a couple of minutes longer than the previous track, adding more progression. The voice effects are there again, however they seem more fitting with this song than the previous one, it’s still a bit difficult to hear the lyrics. The music shrieks a Nine Inch Nails prominent influence, but Twenty Blocks Away, remain their own sound.

Halfway point comes with States of Flux, at this point the vocals in the songs stop and the rest of the EP is instrumental. The intro sounds like the music is muddling up; it seems intentional as it kicks straight into a bass line that’s heavy and neat. The music changes slightly, it doesn’t remain completely repetitive and has its minor progressions that are refreshing and keep this song interesting. It’s a variety of sounds and effects all moulded into a nice simple and heavy groove.

This all cuts out and then a slowly rising intro comes up for the song Bits/Pieces.This track seems the most mellow so far. It’s still heavy in its own way, but there is a strange calm vibe to it, especially with the soft synth parts. Halfway through the song its gets heavier, the bass line more distorted but still at a slow tempo and steady progression, the song ends like it starts.

Belong comes in continuing the calm mood. It’s slow and sounds quite ballad related, the drum beat reminds me of Are We he waiting by Green Day a bit, they stop rather suddenly. Then after a while the song kicks in, the drums sound solid and the music calmly flows through, making it relaxing compared to the first half of the EP.

The last song, called Twenty Blocks Away has an ambient background introduction that reminds me of Da Funk by Daft Punk when the music kicks in. The music is good, however it gets very repetitive, and considering this and Belong are instrumental versions of these songs (which are clearly stated on their BandCamp page) it shows that the main thing missing from these songs are vocals.

This EP is strong; the music differs a lot from other musicians around Stoke on Trent, which to me is quite the relief.

The music is heavy yet groovy; its sound just gives a static funk vibe.

Whilst starting the first half of the EP with an in your face sound, it slowly calms down to a slightly heavy yet oddly relaxing state near the end.

The mix of moods and sounds are good as they don’t stray too far away from each other. Even though there are vocals in the first two of the songs, the last two songs really need vocals to them, the songs are solid but Liam’s voice on those songs would sound more packed.

A strong approach to electronic music, even though the last two songs are in need of vocals, the EP still manages to do well, especially as the songs are re-mastered from the originals.

TBA_EP is available to be purchased from Bandcamp.

 MC