FOO FIGHTERS. Earls Court, London. 17.12.05

There's no such thing as a bad Foo Fighters show anymore, the band are too well-oiled, Dave Grohl too good a frontman to let anything slip, they are just too good. The real though test is something like this, booking a band based around delicate emotion and huge melodies to play in the biggest shed in the world, where most of your audience are pinpricks in the distance and the best of your sound can be wishy-washed into the air.

Except at 8pm sharp Earls Court gets turned into the biggest and best party. Ever.

As giant screens lift to reveal a solitary spolit Grohl, the sound is perfect, even from a mile away. The screens look awesome, running live film of the band under special effects, synchronised video clips and art attacks while lasers streak across the room and what with the multi-amped stage set from the 'Best Of You' video and the official nicest man in rock sprinting from one side to side, there's always something to see.

It's worth listening in too, 'Stacked Actors' and 'The One' are perfect top-of-the-voice sing-a-longs and only sound better when the choir is tens-of-thousands strong. A big cheer goes up for Taylor Hawkins as he takes to the front of stage, swapping positions with Grohl for the best rendition of 'A Cold Day In The Sun' yet. 'My Hero' and 'Breakout' draw even more volume before 'Up In Arms' and a mostly acoustic version of 'Everlong' see Grohl take the spotlight again, abusing his uncanny ability to seem like the biggest of rock gods and infinitely likeable at the same time. He is surely the only man in the world that can ask for a round of applause for himself and get away with it.

A fantastic light show and the sight of Dave Grohl behind a drum kit again are glorious but it's when Grohl leaves the stage altogether, runs the length of the venue, turns through the sparse crowd at the back of the arena floor and plays a guitar battle with an onstage Chris Shiflett from inside the sound booth that jaws really hit the floor.

Finishing with an amazing 'All My LIfe' and the most sincere sounding American 'thanks' ever the Foo Fighters leave the stage. When they're on this kind of world-straddling form it's difficult to remember exactly what the band do. They played loads of songs, great ones, but they play their simple, effective, catchy rock music so expertly but so entertainingly, so fun, that it seems to pass in mere minutes. Flawless.

Talk about passing with flying colours.

Also appears at the-dish

COHEED AND CAMBRIA+ Saosin. Astoria, London. 16.12.05

It takes a fine band on amazing form to make the room they play in feel half the size and the set they play feel especially written for each member of those in attendance, but tonight Coheed And Cambria defy their patchy live reputation and become that band.

Since this lone English date (until the band return with Thrice in January) was announced there has been magic in the air. The show sold out in three days, driven by the feeling that this would be the last time to see the whites of Claudio and Co's eyes. They also have new material to play, the arrival of their ridiculously titled and some believe, breakthrough album, should mean the set list won't be quite so predictable.

Before the headliners claim the stage theirs, cult champions Saosin make their debut on British soil. Probably hoping to make some new fans on the trip, theirs is a whirling, screaming, impressive display, but it seems more than a few people have already picked up on the buzz.
People are singing loud down the front, girls are screaming and the bands smooth melodic hardcore has heads bobbing all the way to the back. If they can convert the energy of their live performance into next years album things are looking bright.

Coheed don't so much bob heads as blow them clean off shoulders, and they don't look bright, they blind. Arriving on a stage bathed in lasers and lights and decked with props based on the new albums artwork they soak up the cheers for a second before opening with an absolutely massive rendition of 'Welcome Home'.

The sound is perfect, Sanchez's voice high and clear and the crowd are locked in, singing along with even the most ridiculous lyrics. The music sounds so impressive, so big it sucks the space out of the room, bringing band and fans closer. Changes between venomous heaviness and gorgeous melody are as flawless as on record and the force is neck-snapping.

There's no denying Coheed can get excrutiantingly boring but tonight they shave most of the wanky excursions from the set list and slam through tracks like 'Ten Speed' and 'A Favor House Atlantic' with an almost unbelievable vigour.

They play 'Everything Evil' like they do everytime, even when no one wants them to. There is no 'Time Consumer' or 'Heartshot Kid Disaster' and most of the personality onstage is coming from a pile of hair but after the completion of a ropey new album appeared to signal the end of the Coheed story, it now seems, in the live arena at least, it could run and run.


THE BLED+ Fear Before The March Of Flames+ The Fall Of Troy. Zodiac, Oxford. 26.11.05

This is like a line up of the least fashionable fashion-core bands ever. Sure, members of The Fall Of Troy are wearing jeans so tight you can almost see through them and there are plenty of foot-long black fringes milling about the place but none of the music tonight is easy, predictable, or wedged with crowd-pleasing, sing-a-long choruses.

Despite their trouser choices The Fall Of Troy are awesome. They embellish their arty, messy rock with metallic jams, heavy breakdowns and a confidence verging on arrogance, all the while flailing around so hard they look like they’re going to pass out. In fact, singer/guitarist Thomas Erak, obviously believes he’s some sort of gift to the stage; break-dancing, improvising solos and diving into the crowd.

Those who got here early to hear warped versions of already mad tracks like ‘I Just Got This Symphony Goin’’, ‘Mouths Like Sidewinder Missiles’ and ‘Part One’, excitedly lap up all his efforts and just about duck his swinging instrument.

Compared to the devoted if diminutive reception the ‘Troy trio receive, Fear Before The March Of Flames face a massive lack of interest. For all the throwing about of gangly bodies, playing of fitful, intense metal and even a preview of new material they can only muster a cripplingly ordinary set.

The band do fight hard to make a connection for a few tracks but just don’t look as if they are having any fun; and this is only the second night of the tour. Their bad mood is catching and the bar is the busiest it will be all night.

The Bled arrive on stage without explosions or fire but moving with the assurance of headliners, quickly dragging people away from their pints with an overpowering mix of raw emotion and steely precision.

Far tighter than at their last visit downstairs here, the band are now not afraid to really kick out the jams and are able to do it sounding better than ever.

More measured wares, like first single ‘My Assassin’ from their new ‘Found In The Flood’ album, sit well with heavier, older material and James Munoz’s cracked voice is clear, powerful and just as impressive live as on record. His rattling strain remains the perfect compliment to The Bled’s layers of feedback, ferocity and bludgeoning melody.

Sometimes the aggression is lost in a mish-mash of clattering drums and grungey guitar (‘Hotel Coral Essex’), elsewhere it seems like it’s supposed to sound that way (‘Red Wedding’), but it’s all engaging stuff.

Ok, so the music tonight is intricate and demanding at times but isn’t it great when frontmen have more to do than mention their MySpace accounts.

also appears at new-noise

SKIN+ Make Good Your Escape. Zodiac, Oxford. 05.12.05

Hold on a second this was supposed to be a quiet show. The story goes that after Skunk Anansie quit being fucking political Skin’s solo career consisted of quietly anthemic, weakly industrial pop pap, built to show off her admittedly amazing voice but little else.

So it’s a shock when handpicked support band Make Good Your Escape are really loud. Not aggressive or confrontational with their volume but huge-sounding like Aereogramme or Muse.
Songs like ‘Real’ drip with atmosphere and feeling before growing out of control and vibrating eyeballs around the room, most of the people here should be running for the door, or the bar at least, but the masochists lap it up. Everybody is converted by the second song, cheering and applauding MGYE’s every move.

So when they leave, you can’t help feeling sorry for Skin, the girl who used to deal in nothing but confrontation before she lost her way. But then she arrives, looking like the punkest punk chick ever, jumping to touch the ceiling, hurling mic stands around and goading the front rows, daring people to pity her.

And then she sings ‘Hedonism’ and ‘Charlie Pig Potato’ and ‘Weak’ and then Skin; the name of the famous lady and her anonymous band, play some new material and unbelievably it’s just as good. And everybody is singing along except the people that are crying and the goosebumps get huge. And this was supposed to be a quiet show.

Playing the Skunk songs that everybody here obviously loves so much would be incredibly dangerous if the new stuff didn’t rock.

It is those old songs that are most instantly recognised and receive the biggest reaction but elsewhere, apart from a couple of perfectly measured semi-acoustic tunes, there’s a funky bounce and a hard bite throughout.

It seems Skin has rediscovered some of the bile and spite that made her previous band so essential but has lost none of the haunting, angelic perfection from her voice. Even songs that used to splutter and misfire like ‘Trashed’ have been converted into stirring, emotional rock tracks.

The best bit is the look on the lady’s face though, converted from unbridled aggressor through mock shyness to the confident and happy performer taking the Zodiac stage tonight. Never without a cheeky smile or mile wide grin and looking like she’s having the time of her life. A feeling reflected to the bar and back.

And no pop pap in sight.

also appears at new-noise

MY AWESOME COMPILATION+ Twice Upon A Time. Fez Club, Reading. 07.12.05

Inside The Fez Club it's freezing. It's a decent sized place but there are maybe 50 people here, there's frost forming outside but the air-conditioning inside is still on overdrive and there's certainly nobody dancing enough to warm things up.

The upbeat tunes of Twice Upon A Time and the neat, catchy rock of My Awesome Compilation could be packing out arenas with thousands of kids given the right backing but tonight those kids have homework to do. There's not a lot you can do to fill even a place like the Fez up when your greatest audience isn't allowed out on a school night.

Not that there's any dejection coming off the stage. TUAT (an unfortuante acronym) battle the cold by playing their emo like Brand New do or Northstar did, tight and tunefully with a touch of indie. There's a crunch and bite to their older songs and measured finesse in the newer ones. All good stuff, all failing to inspire any movement, even when they hurl themselves around like they're headling Brixton.

MAC's music warms things up a little, if only because it's impossible to stand still while they play punchy, insistent numbers like 'Put Up A Fight' or 'Longshot'.

They thankfully mix the old with the new too. Captivating, heartfelt early tracks, 'As Always' and 'Butterflies' mixing well with songs from their new 'Actions' album.

They play without mention of the low turnout, unfazed, unjaded, and very much with their own style. They leave without saying much except ,"thankyou so much for coming out and supporting Britsh rock," preferring to let the music do the talking.

Warms the heart, even if the fingers and toes are turning black and falling off.


TRENCHER/ESQUILAX Peel session split 10"

It’s a disgusting world out there. Some pretty messed up shit goes on daily and this might just be the soundtrack to the whole goddamn mess.

After a few years of low-sound-quality releases, London 3 piece Trencher use a side of vinyl and a session recorded for John Peel to further prove how much damage can be done with a sore throat, a perverted sense of fun and a tiny keyboard. They drag Birmingham noisy bastards Esquilax along to make their debut on the other side.

Although recorded live, Trencher sound better than they ever have before. Fast and loud, ambitious but awkward, frantic stop-start-stops and frightening noise spasms that make Converge look formulaic, their ugly grinding everything-core genuinely pushes for the boundaries of extremity and even the borders of listenability.

They describe their live shows as “violent, therapeutic catharsis”, a feeling translated into the high-speed drums, droning, relentless bass and ringing Casio squawk of tracks like ‘Blondes Of Meth’ and ‘Attack Of The SXE Attackers’ here. And whoever the hell is screaming must be getting some huge personal demons out. Or a killer headache.

Esquilax sound like that headache, or like an alien being pulled backwards through a tiny hole in a spaceship window by the vacuum beyond. Branded ‘terror pop’, they fire through 15 tracks of their piercing digital hardcore in just over nine minutes.

Like disco music played backwards too fast and mixed with the theme from some obscure 80’s cartoon, there are bubbling circus effects, a shattering drum-machine stomp and desperate, clawing vocals. Bouts of apparent randomness, some near-silent lows followed by shrill, scathing highs…this is probably what murderers hear when they close their eyes.

This is definitely all challenging stuff, but not a challenge like staying awake at a prog-rock concert; a challenge like escaping from a Terminator. Trying to kill you with a power drill.

Much closer to the dictionary definition of noise than that of music; for some, this will be genius at work, the captured sound of two twisted bands on fine form. For everybody else it could be enough to make them never listen to music again, in case something like this ever slips through the speakers for a second time.

Also appears at new-noise


The gloves are off...

...It's time to kill.

LISTEN TO Remembering Never.

Floridian hardcore kings making everyone mad about shit they shouldn't be get set to deliver another venomous bite of songs against the scene in the shape of 'God Save Us' due February 2006. If they can combine the song skills and huge hooks of their 'She Looked So Good in Red' debut with the sheer power and soul from second effort 'Women and Children First' there will be no stopping them.

You remember when people sung the messages from their heads and hearts instead of just posting them as bulletins on MySpace right? Never! Wrong.


ATTAKU+ Sylosis+ Ionica. Bullingdon, Oxford. 16.11.05

There must be a fear in the minds of all British metal bands that they'll never escape the toilet touring circuit. That their destiny is to become a 'remember them?', or even worse a 'who?' playing the same venues year after year after year before splitting up because nobody cares.
Depressing huh?

But it might explain the sweaty desire, desperate glint and practised fervour with which most of the bands here tonight play.After Ionica bore everybody shitless with their fast if vapid metal, Reading metalcore kids Sylosis can't help but seem tight, proficient and fun. Having finally cemented a line-up the band fire out dark breakdowns and death growls and guitarist Josh is next-generation-inspiration in the making.

Headliners Attaku though are the most professional outfit on show, and it's by a mile. Opening ferocious and loud theirs is bullet-fast technical metal, all attitude and jazzy breaks; it's like listening to a decent British version of The Dillinger Escape Plan.

This shouldn't be a gig in a toilet. There are no reasons left why these bands aren't huge. It's down to you to make that problem go away.


CAVE IN- Perfect Pitch Black

Living well is the best revenge. And if that really is true RCA records are pissed. After the major label dropped Cave In back in 2003 the boys in black bowed their heads and contemplated giving up but eventually thought better of it and have regrouped to compile their best album yet. Wise choice.

Despite that one major label album there has never been anything predictable about the way Cave In write songs. Even at their most delicate and dramatic they can be ridiculously heavy, and at their most aggressive can play one-note desert rock and be genuine and convinving. On 'Perfect Pitch Black'; essentially material collected from the last three years of wilderness existence, songs stop on a dime and speed off in entirely unexpected directions. Faultless pop spirals into indie serenity and heads-down metal, all steered by Stephen Brodsky's amazingly warm and wide voice, only interrupted by the welcome return of bassist Caleb Scofield's demon-voiced tourette's. Brodsky's lonesome tone is marvellous throughout, scaling walls of hardcore guitars and droning punk riffs without ever sounding desperate or spluttering, seperating these songs from the mush of any contemporary 'core and making them absolutely essential.

Cave In have always made music that sounds fucking great played loud and 'Perfect Pitch Black' is no exception. From the numbing rumble of 'Off to Ruin' to the Mastodon sound of 'Trepanning' to the beautiful simplicity of 'Down the Drain' these are gigantic riff-fuelled tunes allowing the band to run rings around most of todays (and gladly now tomorrows) young heavy pretenders.

Get 'Perfect...' now and shake the walls down.


THRICE- Vheissu

The first track on 'Vheissu', Thrice's fourth album proper, sets to demolish the rumour mill that's been in fifth gear in the run up to this release. The stories read that Thrice had discarded every element of the music that made their name, fled any scene tags that were still stuck, even abanoned rock and roll altogether. But 'Image of the Invisible' is a blistering and dynamic call and response rock song- the stuff lesser bands can't even dream of. And, if any were needed, instant comfort for fans of 'The Illusion of Safety''s quick-fingered mild thrash attack and 'The Artist in the Ambulance''s powerful heaviness that some of the Thrice of old remains. But it's all a front.

There are few other examples of the same kind of immediacy or aggression. 'The Earth Will Shake' is heavy but slow, 'For Miles' goes through four minutes of swaying rock before Dustin Kensrue gets to unleash his growl and 'Hold Fast Hope' feigns at hardcore punk before revealing a wilting, pleading melody.What there are, are songs that build from delicate but engrossing piano melodies, adding layers of keys, percussion, synths and strings until they become massive walls of sound. These can be heavy as on 'Music Box' or 'Like Moths to Flame' but always hide fragile indie strum behind them. And there are clicking, calm Radiohead-infused passages that make sure tracks like 'Stand and Feel Your Worth' and 'Atlantic' make their mark.The end result means the album has a massive ebb and flow, even within songs the mood rises to oppressive confrontation and falls to creepy effects and barely audible lyrical gems.

One of the bands goals for 'Vheissu' was to make their already kinetic and emotional music more cinematic, and that effort has definitely made this an 'album' in the old-fashioned sense of the word. This is Thrice's least catchy, or even, easy, release but this is isn't some token singles or studio stodge. This is a story from beginning to end where tracks don't stop they segue into each other.

But this isn't a Hollywood blockbuster; it's an obscure but interesting foreign film. It looks great, all moody and stormy but moves slowly, with purpose. It's in a language you can't quite understand perhaps, but one that reaches your ears smooth and clean, one that you'd love to learn and if you just try, it will be easy.

A personal triumph for a band that never wanted to be where they were put if nothing else


BRING ME THE HORIZON+ Architects+ Clone the Fragile+ Dead Summer Rising. Furnace, Swindon. 29.10.05

What's this then? Metalcore, hardcore, haircore? The 3rd wave, the 4th?

The reason people get annoyed with genres that come from out of nowhere to outstay their welcome is that the amount of copycats triple, overall quality drops like a stone, it gets harder to tell genuine heart from eyes filled with dollar signs and saturation point comes all too quickly. Like they say, there's only so much shit you can take.

But let's reserve that kind of judgement for at least an hour.

Dead Summer Rising
are really young and play that way. They are brilliantly talented but the whiff of fandom is overwhelming. There's Black Dahlia Murder, As i Lay Dying and Norma Jean in their lively hardcore but not one original note. Yet.

Clone the Fragile are better within a mic check and when they get down to it are writing the kind of familiar but exciting riffs capable of grabbing the attention of rooms twice this size. Theirs is still predictable stuff but at least gives the impression it will carry on after the spotlight drops.

And things only get better. Architects are awesome. They bring the Johnny Truant smash and grab approach from their shared Brighton hometown. Their dance moves and discordant mania may be fashion faux pa on such a black clad bill as this but they play genuine shredding metal, fierce and professional.

Already granted underground celebrity and much taunted for major stardom Bring me the Horizon may have won the audience over before playing a note but the adoration isn't entirely unfounded. The band are all decent players, with a live presense already pegged, and out of their stick thin frontman comes the voice of the devil. When the crowd know the words they sing along, when they don't they kick the shit out of each other. Not exactly good clean fun but at least they mean it.

It's debatable how many people are here for the music and how many got in free to wave at their friends but everyone caught proof that the UK underground is alive and kicking, sometimes in the wrong direction and, as always, some way behind the Americans, but kicking fast and hard.
Reassuring stuff


HAWTHORNE HEIGHTS+ Silverstein. Zodiac, Oxford. 21.10.05

Oxford smells like crap. Upstairs the Zodiac is thick with the funk of pubescent teens dancing badly to their new favourite bands.

As it is Silverstein could be one of too many bands dishing out similar screamy emo and the crowd would go just as wild. Songs like 'Giving Up' and 'Discovering the Waterfront' are neat adrenaline spikes but pimpled by bum notes and feedback, luckily the kids are screaming loud enough for no one to notice.

It is surely a huge joy for Hawthorne Heights to play some new songs tonight; they've been playing tracks from their 'The Silence...' debut for three years, and a real treat for the crowd to hear them. But it doesn't really seem to matter. The new tracks which are more of the same heavy melodic rock but darker and more frantic, recieve the same reaction as fan favourites like 'Niki FM' and 'Speeding up the Octaves', but the band look a little bored at playing any of them.
The screaming is ceaseless while HH go through the motions and this is the best gig these fans have ever seen- until next week.

An average night celebrated like the second coming.


Slowly we peel away the layers...

...and light slips through the cracks.


This is desert hardcore- dusty throated vocals over pounding drums and screeching guitars that scream love songs for sandstorms. And like they say 'if it ain't broke...', so there were no concessions to fashion for album number two 'Found in the Flood', released earlier this year.

Go see them make a giant racket and dance like idiots but not care when they tour the UK with The Fall of Troy and Fear Before the March of Flames next month.


DOPAMINE +Reubens Accomplice +Firstborn. Bullingdon, Oxford. 12.10.05

DOPAMINE + Reubens Accomplice + Firstborn. Bullingdon, Oxford. 12.10.05

This is one of those tours that sneaks up on you, a trio of interesting names messing around with getting a buzz about them, playing good songs in British basements-

Firstborn are first up and ripping off Incubus, their lively rock songs are nothing new but they play them with good old British charm and a rare intelligence. And it always makes a change to hear a singer with a sense of humour and even better, one who can sing.
Reubens Accomplice's light melancholy is at odds with the flashes of fun and brilliance elsewhere. It may be their folksy, road-weary style or maybe the only Americans on the bill tonight were expecting something more than a dark, half-full Oxford backroom to greet them.
Dopamine are good, their tunes as anthemic and endearing as on record. Opening with their debut albums one-two punch of 'Destroy Something Beautiful' and 'Laruso' is enough to get people looking up from their pints and when they lock together with the squeal and speed of 'Lifeline Excercise' this is fun, foot-tapping stuff that would sound utterly engulfing on a huge stage.

-there's obviously not a lot of money behind Dopamine and their tour, and that's probably the way it's going to stay, but that doesn't stop them playing without pretence or attitude and shaking awake tiny venues like the Bullingdon nightly.


HELL ON EARTH '05. Mean Fiddler, London. 08.10.05

This is more like it.
Despite plenty of examples to the contrary over in the States, the UK has had no experience of tour packages like Hell On Earth. Tours featuring the more interesting or experienced of bands playing metal and hardcore rather than a hasty line up of usual suspects and flavours of the month we love so much (Cough...Give it a Name, Taste of Chaos...Cough).

And Neaera prove a perfect antidote to all the floppy fringes and tight pants fighting for space at the bar. Behind the speedy guitar, sneering vocal growl and familiar but crushing breakdown the band are hilariously but unashamedly foot-on-the-monitor all out metal. They face the impossible, engaging a London crowd and 5 in the evening but do so with entertaining music and huge smiles.

Agents of Man have learnt their tricks at the Pantera and Biohazard school of noise, combining groove and power with a gritty melody, but despite their older, heavier material bringing the first real pit action of the day they haven't quite graduated.

Evergreen Terrace have lighter and punkier edges that work really well. Theirs is the sound most applicable to the fashionista element present but they play with such obvious desire and passion; frontman Andrew making the first of todays excursions into the crowd, that there is no sound of departing bandwagons and a real sense of justice in the busy pit that greets them.

Heaven Shall Burn are devil music. This is what satan coughing black bile must sound like, and its fucking brilliant. Desperately heavy rhythms grind and roar and fit and start and frontman Marcus has a simply monstrous voice. The fact that HSB have been engineering goliath hardcore like this for years is painfully obvious and their set is a real highlight.

But then we get to As i Lay Dying. The main attraction, and they better have something special ready to make the Mean Fiddler forget about the knee cramp and back pain from standing up the last six hours.
Fortunately, from the first note the band are titanic, in the original, not the boat sense of the word. AILD are the most professional here tonight, with no embarrasing mumbling, a real sense of 'show' and the way their new material always drills its hardcore crunch back to unforgettable melody.
Every band member is moving and sweating buckets by the time they play '94 Hours'. The pit hits overdrive and therein lies a problem. I'm sure getting punched in the face is great fun but it also makes for addictive viewing and the violence on the dancefloor makes it difficult to pay attention to the music. And when that happens at a show this good it's a real shame.

Some of the bands tonight have a tendency to attract the sweaty shirtless male back to metal, which is never good, but they are all resurrecting the lost art of having some fun at a rock show, and that is exactly the point.


Forget everything that was said before...

...now is the time

LISTEN TO The Hurt Process.

UK boys done good. The album 'A Heartbeat Behind' came out early this year and since then THP have been busy trying to convince Americans how good they are. But they're better than that.
This is quick but powerful, heavy and emotional rock, with the odd hardcore hissy-fit tempered by moments of serentity. And songs about pirates.

Go see them on the Trick or Treat tour with Aiden over the rest of October, it'll be interesting to see if the genuine intensity they used to play with remains after a few line-up changes over the summer.


CIRCA SURVIVE. Metro, London. 26.09.05

"This doesn't even feel like a show, it feels like a party," says Anthony Green as his new band play another rock song.

He's right; there's barely 50 people in here tonight. The big open space and blasting air conditioning hardly helpful for sticky gig mania and the band aren't even that good. But this isn't a party at all, and it certainly isn't just another show. This is a jaw dropping and actually unbelievable, intense yet utterly welcoming bona fide event.

Y'see all the people that are here are here because little Anthony Green used to be in Saosin. A band that should be huge but that's not the point, with Anthony shaking and high pitched singing at the helm they were a band that inspired absolute devotion. And the screams, sweat and tears of that still follow him.

From their first arrival onstage to their final shamble off it the band move in strobe, bathed in the flash light of what seems like more cameras than people. For the entire time.
There are hands everywhere and it doesn't matter what song Circa Survive play from their canon of dreamy post-hardcore the sparse crowd is amazingly loud, even pawing at the microphone, desperate to join in.

After nearly an hour the band finish and head for the bar but bowing under good natured but seemingly endless pressure for me Green sticks around, now with a guitar in hand, to finish this up properly. His solo song a reminder of how much impact rare things like star quality and sincerity still have.

For 50 minutes Circa Survive, or more appropriately, their lead singer, have the tiny Metro crowd transfixed. Really soon a lot more than 50 people will claim they were here to join in.


HONDO MACLEAN- Unspoken Dialect

Hondo Maclean, constantly compared to LostProphets and Funeral for a Friend through a fluke of geography, blow any musical similaraities out the water within ten seconds of 'Keithie's Done Himself a Mischief', the first track on this, their debut album.

The music is thunderous. Rolling percussion and sheet metal guitar skip and start, foot tapping grooves pop up from under discordant noise where vocals twine and float with the music.

As on their previous EP's, but here with more conviction and especially noticeable on the re-recorded tracks, Ben Woosnam's voice becomes another instrument at the band's disposal, switching from smooth croon to impassioned scream to hellish rumble.

There are reference points; the pop sensibilities of a band like Thursday fight for space with the varied aggression of Glassjaw and the dreamy droning of Hopesfall but Hondo never stay in one place long enough to be accused of copycatting.

A decent first album of diverse and memorable tunes that should see Hondo Maclean's fan base expand well beyond the boundaries of borders.

But rumours of the album being titled 'Get Your Riffs Out' should've been oh so true.


THRICE. Mean Fiddler, London. 19.09.05

Jesus, the Mean Fiddler can be an unforgiving sound sucking hole of a venue but my god, Thrice are a tight unit.

Playing the first of just three UK dates this week as a tease for new album 'Vheissu' which is out next month, the band come out not so much fighting but at least heads down and workmanlike, like they always do, and as always, it's a little underwhelming.

The first few songs are swallowed by the bad PA but Thrice, now with four albums under their belts, are all seasoned professionals and the absolute quality of the songs they produce shines through. 'Kill me Quickly', 'Trust' and 'Cold Cash...' are taut, emotional rock songs, just as on record, but tonight are transformed into forever memorable hymns.
And there is an adoration verging on bloodlust from the capacity crowd who listen intently, scream back every word and dance hard and fast, for many this is near religious stuff.

Four new songs appear tonight and despite the faintest whiff of meek and loose indie material, they eventually rock with trademark heaviness and melody.

Finishing with a perfect rendition of 'Deadbolt', Thrice leave to a lenghty, deafening roar but without fanfare, probabaly content in the knowledge that even without explosions or fire or eyeliner they'll see London many more times.

They'll be back in the New Year with Coheed and Cambria, miss that at your eternal regret.


SWIFT- The Absolute Uncontrollable

Genuine and beautiful melody and rangy but fast hardcore, spiky, racing guitars and fierce and fine vocals all cooking together. This is great stuff and it's all within track one.

Tribunal Records carry on their fine tradition of unearthing real gems (previously releasing stuff by Atreyu, Killwhitneydead and Prayer for Cleansing) with the arrival of Swift.

This is very much a blend of contemporary metallic influences but as 'The Absolute Uncontrollable' plays out it becomes a record impossible to pigeonhole. It isn't a perfect record, the production, despite being handled by Jaime King (He is Legend, BTBAM) leaves vocals low and the guitars too high in the mix and some of the songs, even as overflowing with clever hooks as they are, drag just a little.

Minor gripes aside, it is nearly perfect and how often can that truly be said. There are hundreds of ideas here but this isn't progressive, over reaching or confused, just plain old brilliant.


EVERY TIME I DIE- Gutter Phenomenon

Every Time I Die live shows have always seen the band walking the fine line between life-of-the-party ultra confidence and cocky arrogance and now the music they produce has gone and caught up.

'Gutter Phenomenon', their third album, makes their change from angry and loud punk kids to down and dirty, tune-puking rock'n'rollers, complete.

There are huge hooks here, from Keith Buckley breaking the habit of nearly seven years and cracking out the perfect smoke and whiskey singing voice to the handclaps and Slipknot like riffery of 'Pretty Dirty'.

'Gutter Phenomenon' is an album to prove every bad word ever said about Every Time I Die totally wrong. This isn't noise for noise sake, or metal kids acting clever. However sharp and spiky they play, producer Machine has made this thick sounding, enveloping stuff. The songs flex and ease in exactly the right places, the temper and tunes balanced, with just enough sass for new fans covering up the same old lyrical venom.

Destined to be huge whether you like it or not


SINCE THE FLOOD- Valor and Vengeance

With lyrics addressing the old hardcore standards of blood, family, revenge and respect grunted over barrelling riffs and breakdowns, Since the Flood are obviously not in this for the fame or the money or the chicks. There are no foot long fringes in sight, no hint of clean singing to appease any easy listeners. They mean it (man) but are absolutely unabashed at who knows it and that is just the sort of refreshing the growing-staler-by-the-day scene needs right now. A sort of honest and earnest brand of hardcore that very few of todays 'hardcore' bands actually employ.

That doesn't mean 'Valor and Vengeance' is straight ahead boring though. The pace is quick but not hurried and there are large chunks of guitar melody to colour the venom. All ably brough out by Ken Susi's fat production. The Unearth guitarist's influences can felt throughout as the distorted growl and inventive breakdowns of his band appear often.

No new wheels then but when a good old engine sounds a healthy as this, that doesn't really matter



Simplicity. One of the most overlooked qualities of good music, but one that My Awesome Compilation have in spades. Verse chorus verse may be a much maligned method, especially in these days of mathcore madness, but the class of tracks like 'Set to go' and 'Put up a Fight', despie their over Britishness and complete lack of fuss, is undeniable.

'Actions' is an album of delicious and memorable vocal harmonies, shimmering guitar and keyboard fun. Not exactly a recipe to make the band Britain's next great white hopes but certainly one with enough delictae uniqueness and wholesome honesty to ensure a loyal fan base and lasting success.

It's a long shot but MAC could be very big indeed.


FALL OUT BOY- From Under the Cork Tree

I hate Fall Out Boy. Since I listened to 'From Under the Cork Tree', the Chicago quartet's third album I can't get their sun punk melodies out of my head.

Lead singer, Patrick Stump, possesses a Marmite of voices, sounding as breathless as a teenage kiss but singing images of smiles with every line while the rest of the band do their best to win The Band That Sounds Most Like Everybody Else competition.
'Summer Song' and 'Get Busy Living...' rock and roll along on the kind of Morrisey mope that Bayside and Copeland also employ.

'Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner' speeds in sounding like No Doubt before skipping a beat into Blink punk territory, it may be a landscape laced with sarcasm rather than toilet humour, but this is instantly hummable stuff.

As most tracks arrive on the same skittery guitar noise there is a temptation to reach for the skip button but every song, left to sprint finish or slowly unravel, reveals a hook looking to screw its way into your brain.

From the opening track, to 'Dance, Dance', to first single 'Sugar, We're Goin' Down', these songs are going to sound amazing sung by thousands of arena goers and Warped Tour ticket holders. All that and then some beckons for FOB if enough people hear this album, even by accident, because one listen and it's in there, drilling deeper, until you have to know the lyrics, until you're dancing in your room.
In the middle of America while a thousand other misty-eyed lovers that have lost are finding emo, Fall Out Boy have found the sense of humour to laugh of their broken hearts and have some goddamn fun.

Makes sense to me.


THE NUMBER TWELVE LOOKS LIKE YOU- An Inch of Gold for an Inch of Time

A four track storm front of horrible, unblinking, wheezing noise only interrupted by Hades sounding vocal embellishments or shrill fret wanks. And a cover of My Sharona by The Knack. Awesome.


ZAO- The Funeral of God

It's difficult to know what audience Zao are going for with this, their ninth album.

The passing of time and band members has made 'The Funeral of God' far less abrasive than previous efforts and in fact weaker than anything currently on offer from same-label macabra obsessives Bleeding Through or riff brethren Throwdown.

The production is thick and fierce but lighter moments are mostly ugly interruptions rather than genuine flashes of a desire to change or brilliance and newly appointed clean vocals feel uncomforatbel and tacked on.

There are a few standout moments, the twisting static and screams of opener 'Breath of the the Black Muse' and the Pantera-like groove to 'Praise the War Machine' but the tempo, high though it is, remains almost constant, leading to deja vu and eventually boredom.

Back to the drawing board then.



Finished hiding in Green Day's shadow Alkaline Trio are here to turn your day black.
'Crimson' is the 'Trio's fifth album but the first one you feel is genuinely set to make them megastars.
'Time to Waste' is the first single and a note perfect opener. The quality continues ceaseless throughout and as the fast paced first half gives way 'Crimson' turns into an album your fingers and feet feel they already know.
Even if you don't declare yourself a punk fan give this a go. The lyrics amy be blood red dark but the music is easy on the ear. The catchy, varied and driving rock an excellent base for Daniel Adriano's gravel trap vocals an Matt Skiba's clean delivery.
Evil intent has never sounded so good.


Drag the lake...

...you'll find it full of love.

LISTEN TO Every Time I Die.

Fierce and black-hearted lyrics humping a fast and furious metalcore din that was good for an EP and an album and almost perfect for last album round, 'Hot Damn!'.
The Ferret/Roadrunner Records punk'n'puke metallers have gone through bassists like other bands go through drummers and hi-jacked Daryl Palumbo to bring you their new album 'Gutter Phenomenon', out August 22nd. Hear a track from it here, go see them here.
Let them change your mind


BUKANDSKIT FESTIVAL 2. Reading Abbey RFC, Reading. 19.06.05

It starts as a distant buzzing, like maybe there's a wasp in the car that you can't see.

Then it's more.

There's a bassy rumble, relentless banging and flashing lights.

Through the pollen haze of a sun cracked field in the middle of Reading comes the sound of loud music and the smell of overpriced beer and burning burgers. A festival is disturbing the peace in Reading but it's not the one you're thinking of.

The BukandSkit festival, a one-day, two-stage event is celebrating its second year today. The event is something of a renaissance day for British bands- Biffy Clyro and Capdown are headlining- and a genuine showcase for local talent- Reading bands open both stages.

The line up reads like a 'who's who' of the UK underground and as an introduction to the day TwinZero's crash site rumble is an ugly early-afternoon wake up call. Karl Middleton leads his merry men through a set of metallic pounding punctuated by razer sharp riffing and tribal tattoos.

Thirteen fulfill every prophecy of their name and suffer the first bad luck of the day- it's kinda hard to play your cymbals when they're at home. But after a mad dash to borrow some equipment they get to play their very now sounding poppy rock but push everyone's stage times back.

But the show must go on.

For Reuben- who transform their normally sedate grunge into sunshine-magnet festival rock- and Oceansize it must go on a little longer than expected when news filters through that Million Dead have broken down in Italy.

Sylosis have recruited Jor's old singer and seemingly pirated his confidence too. Their old school thrash and new style metal mix finally looks good enough to break into bigger leagues, the majors will soon come knocking.

Sikth are on form. There was a worry about how much of the truly awful new stuff they would play but only one song, 'The Death of a Dead Day', is aired and isn't half bad after all. Despite the blistering heat the first real mosh goes to Sikth and a belting version of 'Hold my Finger'.

Inside, on the second stage, it's like standing in an oven but Eden Maine play a blinder. Towering examples of aggressive, progressive mood music like an awesome 'The Hunter and the Hunted' and 'Hail Satan!' shimmer and flex in the heat. Their frontman all handclaps and dancing feet one minute, a flailing storm of plaid and hair the next.

This Girl have to face off main stage competition from Biffy Clyro and the advance of time as last trains and buses beckon but maintain an edge that people never seem to understand and the man will never pay enough money for.
People keep leaving but the band keep playing the good time rock'n'roll they make their own, even turning the mediocre material from their most recent album into hummable quirky perfection.

People are going home tired but happy, BukandSkit 2 has most definitely been a success and proven the British rock scene to be alive and well. As if we ever had a doubt.

Roll on next year.


TEAM SLEEP+Idiot Pilot. Mean Fiddler, London. 17.06.05

Team Sleep are loud. Really loud. Probably the loudest 'quiet' band you've ever heard.

The band throw out grooves other bands would kill for and when they lock together they make a sound like demolition.

No matter what they sounded like Team Sleep would've won tonights crowd over but supporting band Idiot Pilot are fighting that battle from first note to last. Y'see no one in Idiot Pilot is Chino Moreno.

For a two piece the band max out the volume just as well as the headliners but rather than building to their crescendos they commit sudden stop starts of drum machine and screams. If you need a reference point, think Radiohead but think Martin Grech rather than Muse.

Towards the end of their set most of the crowd is nodding its head and the band seem to be having fun and happy to be making friends. Hopefully friends who will buy their records.

As a parting shot one of the skinny duo extols the virtues of the Team Sleep album and asks how many people have it. In the middle of a sold out Mean Fiddler maybe 30 people raise their hands.

And there's the rub...

Most everyone seems to be here for a quick Deftones fix rather than a headfirst dive into something altogether new. After Idiot Pilot's dramatic and unexpectedly fantastic turn you feel were it not for Chino Moreno's prescence the running order tonight would be the other way around. Team Sleep have a lot to prove.

And they are by no means perfect- the drums clatter and jar, loose jams come off without point or promise and Rob Crow's beautiful vocal additions are inaudible, which on a song like 'Our Ride to the Rectory' is criminal.

However, they are special. Chino is as an engaging frontman as always and his band feel cohesive and familiar- a far cry from a bunch of hired hands. The songs feel louder, heavier even, and perfect moments like Chino's wail on the beginning of 'Red Skull' are there to be savoured.

Those looking for some Deftones adrenaline get it, but those looking for something more find that too. Tonight was about a good band playing good songs and what else is there.



'Hours' sounds like Funeral for a Friend.

Despite its resounding success there's no denying that for every perfect pop song on 'Casually Dressed...' there was a weak studio track of emo-fodder filler.

'Hours' is apparently something of a gut reaction to the ten-word-titled songs about girls of their debut but the ghost of that record haunts this one.

The galloping pop rock guitars, 80's metal licks and sing-a-long choruses are all present and correct but this isn't an attempt to maintain fame and fortune by cooking with the same ingredients.

The first few tracks are real reminders of FFAF's uncanny Nirvana-like knack of writing songs you've never heard that feel like you know every word. 'All the Rage' blows away the cobwebs before the charging riff of first single 'Streetcar' ploughs past in three minutes of music made for the air guitar. Unfortunately it ploughs to nowhere.

'Drive' and 'History' are slower, almost acoustic, tracks where Matt Davies sounds like Fred Durst and the band sound like Bon Jovi. And if that can be ignored the absolute banality of the songs cannot. There are good ideas here but no matter how shiny the production, one good idea does not make a song.

Rather fittingly 'Recovery' marks a return to form that remains until the album closes. 'The End of Nothing' is the heaviest track here- complete with guitar noodles, aggressive vocals and the albums darkest lyrics. It works as a real tonic to the weaker middle section.

'Alvarez' sounds like Alexisonfire, maybe because it has a little of the high life and joy in it that that band has made their trademark, life and joy that makes a mark in few other places here.

'Hours' is a fine release but nowhere near perfect. 'Hours' is an album one half towering rock songs and pop genius and one half instantly forgettable filler and plain mediocrity.

Like I said, 'Hours' sounds like Funeral for a Friend.


OPEN HAND- You and Me

Open Hand have swapped the dreamy emotional content of the album that they released before imploding for the grungey, dusty, lights and darks of this album, the one they released after getting back together.

'You and Me' is a beating rock heart, a biting, foaming mouth and fingers reaching round a steering wheel manouvering a car through a desert at 80mph. These are songs for the deaf, to be played in the sun- elephantine jam sessions gone wrong, driving rock tracks, and breeze powered vocals that know exactly when to come in.

Open Hand is dead. Long live Open Hand.


HOPESFALL. Mean Fiddler, London. 14.05.05

There are other hardcore bands. Other bands kicking and screaming out of East coast America all relentless verses and choruses that fly higher than the jumbo they got here on. But tonight Hopesfall stand alone.

The bass and drums are heavy and constant, rumbling out washes of noise for the guitars to pick delicate leads or put anthemic melodies over.

Vocalist Jay Forrest has a strong, hypnotic, singing voice and can muster the scene staple impassioned scream but the man is a genuine enigma. Standing still for minutes at a time he nods along to his bands coiling space rock, fixing crowd members with a stare that seems to shift from confontational to embracing in a split second. Just when you're about to question his involvement he dives into the pit, walks over the crowd on people's hands, or leads a healthy clap-a-long.

The set mixes the old, the very old, and the new to great effect. Their contemporary softer sound does nothing to damage Hopesfall's magic or confidence and like all good performances it feels over too fast and leaves you wanting nothing at all but oh, so much more.

Other bands are in this for the chicks or the cash.

Other bands write crappy filler for shitty albums and play sloppy live sets for audiences that don't care.

Other bands aren't Hopesfall.



THE HURT PROCESS- A Heartbeat Behind

Despite the faintest whiff of their nu-metal pasts in the beginning of 'Anchor' and some over-emo choruses that stink of drive-by's and butterflies everything comes up smelling of roses (and metalcore) for The Hurt Process on second album proper, 'A Heartbeat Behind'.

The band have gone through some changes since recording their last album which would explain a shift in sound and a lot of the lyrics here could be tiny barbs at those who can't take the pace and jump ship. Maybe. There's definitely added bite to the music.

The shot of vitriol could be seen as an attempt to hi-jack the latest bandwagon were it not for the variety and quality of the songs. The title track ducks and weaves like Killswitch. 'Anchor', 'Take to You' and 'Delicious 53' are exactly the sort of riff heavy metal the last album needed to balance out the abundance of the 'e' word, while 'Boogie Nights..' and an acoustic number ensure The Hurt Process' damn catchy nature and pop sensibilities shine through. These are all still songs you can dance and 'woo!' to, just bolstered by an improved confidence and better writing.

An album of madness, method, and charm to be admired then. Now go see them absolutely rule live.


EMANUEL- Soundtrack to a Headrush

We need a flood, a wave on a biblical scale, to wash away everything that's not working. We need some sort of scene Noah who gets to decide who sticks around to wear more make-up and make out.
But are Emanuel part of the problem or the beginning of a solution?

'Hotline' starts like Every Time I Die then explores every stop on the garage rock A to Z. The chunked guitars, vocal harmonies and slick production of 'Make Tonight' and the title track sound like Blindside of all people. And the end of 'Breathe Underwater' points to possible teenage Nirvana obsessions.

The sounds are as varied as the influences above but the lyrics and structures get a little formulaic.

I'm not going to argue about punk rock with you. Whether you include The Damned and The 'Pistols or Blink and Good Charlotte or all of them, if you like fast and stuttery, call-to-arms, danceable rock you'll find a tune or two on this soundtrack to prick your ear. Just maybe not with a safety pin.

Pretty soon that wave will come and the world will end. Emanuel don't care, it's time to get down.


GIVE IT A NAME. Alexandra Palace, London. 02.05.05

OK, so every promoter in the country is wishing they'd thought of this first but it probably seemed so impossible, so unbelievable.

Just write a list of every next big thing and name of the moment, get them to turn up and play in a North London venue that probably hasn't seen a rock show for decades, and watch the money roll right in. Simple

Except on arrival to the giant greenhouse that is the Alexandra Palace, it seems as if counting the money, rather than spending a little, is all the organisers have done. There are 8000 people sweating under the glass ceiling, no one is allowed back outside unless that's where they want to stay, and the four bar areas that open with the venue doors at 1 have to close two hours later when the shelves are emptied by the parched crowds that weren't allowed to bring any bottles in. This does not please anyone in the 200 strong queues

It might explain why no one has anything to throw at Fightstar, not that they deserve any of that one bit. Looking alarmingly more like rock stars every time they play, the band breeze through a set of rock by numbers that's full of charm but still lacks bite.

Mae provide a little bit more of the same, but some softer edges and the angelic voice of frontman Dave Elkins help them stand out.

British rock, as always, is playing catch up with the almighty american music machine but, as always, some of us don't give a fuck. The Lucky Nine are such a bunch of likely lads. Everyone seems to wish they didn't have to look so damn cool so they could have a little dance.

Alexisonfire normally shine. Their upbeat tunes, family message, and original take on what's hot turns has previously turned macho mosh pits to dance floor party centrals but today they never quite take flight.

The old and tired debate on mixing politics and punk means nothing as Rise Against rally the troops, new single 'Give it All' raises some roars but not from sore-throated singer Tim. Alexisonfire guitarist Dallas does his good deed by supplying some vocals but apart from the hardcore punk rockers down the front most of the Palace seems uninterested.

Coheed and Cambria have always been the weird ones. Piano-sounding guitar lines, a coffin-tight percussion groove and helium-voiced SOAD-isms make these geeks unique but it does get a little bit jazz odyssey at times. That and the heat seems to making people fall asleep.

The sun has set but the heat remains and despite nearly 5 years of waiting so does the anticipation for new Finch material. and it's a weird one. They sound like Dillinger now, they sound like Minus. Nate Barcalow sounds like a baby monitor distorting the voice of satan and everyone takes a step back. The new songs jar glaringly with the poppy older material which the crowd lap up but the band seem utterly bored with and frustration rears its ugly head with temper tantrums and a broken bass.

There was a tiny doubt whether they deserved it and a slightly bigger one whether they could pull it off but the night eventually belongs to Funeral For a Friend. Someone with their finger on the volume control helps them out a little but FFAF's patented emo rock makes the biggest bang of the night.

The 5 Welsh boys still look and sound 12 years old, their potty mouths extending to making the whole venue scream profanity, but the songs are as catchy as they've always been. New single 'Streetcar' is aired quickly and turns out to be a highlight, all galloping guitars and achy breaky melody.

'Bend Your Arms to Look Like Wings' and 'She Drove me to Daytime TV' are greeted like old favourites, everyone sings back the choruses and even though the band are undoubtedly used to the crowd being louder than them it's a fine moment. It seems like people know most of the new stuff too. You pesky downloaders you.

FFAF continually thank people for hanging around but as last train times loom, the streams of those leaving grow wider, picking their way across festival style piles of shit, yawning but happy.

yeah, what he said


THE CHARIOT-Everything is alive, everything is breathing, nothing is dead and nothing is bleeding

Ex-Norma Jean screamer Josh Scogin is now driving The Chariot, and this thing is out of control. There are elements of all this that came before with NJ but where they have got tighter, added groove and flex, these are listing, sinking ships of songs. The music always seems on the edge of collapse, any tunes that do emerge are quickly flattened by machine gun anti-rhythms and die. This is the soundtrack to a choking, the sound of fingernails. The God bothering is kept to a minimum too.

For fans of Ashlee Simpson. Apparently.


SKIRTBOX. Metro,London. 15.04.05

This is a party and people will cry if they want to.

The Metro basement is hosting the release party for Skirtbox's long delayed new album 'Bitter and Direct'. Having finally given up on finding a major labal home the band have chosen Allstar Recordings to showcase their evolution from skate punks to the poppiest of rockers.

Before all that there are some VIP party guests to meet 'n' greet.Mainline sound like Somerset. Mainline sound like The Cable Car Theory. Mainline sound like Thrice dipped in Jack Daniels by Malboro men. The Bombjacks are back and get feet moving with Weezer harmonies, surf guitars and Moog moments. Neither of these bands will escape London support slot status but both produce perfect alterna-party tunes.

Skirtbox must be sick of looking at the inside of the Metro and apart from a happy happy joy joy performance from bassist Tom Wright the band do look a little bored. Maybe it's because these new songs aren't new at all, The band have been playing 'Heading for the Start' and 'For This Alone' for nearly a year. That doesn't stop them from being head-nodding rock, all of which would fit perfectly on any drive-time compilation if all drive-time compilations weren't shit.

At times Will Stapleton's voice slips into horrible Ville Vallo territory but after the initial shock it works quite well. His smooth croon fitting over Top Gun rock and 80's guitar solos.

Skirtbox could be your new favourite band, Skirtbox could be the new Ataris. Skirtbox should be able to leave High Wycombe houses for LA mansions by the end of the year. Typically, the lack of record label support and cold, hard cash could be crippling but nowhere near as much as performing like workmen rather than rock stars.

ATREYU+ Norma Jean+ He is Legend. Astoria, London. 16.05.04

Bands always disappoint. You can wait in shivering anticipation for a tour like this to come around only for rockstars to act like rockstars and Americans to be just like Americans.

But He is Legend are a revelation, by the end of a short set played by men dressed like tramps, dancing like fools, the Astoria is converted. Shake that thing!

Norma Jean have replaced a singer and added a grungier element to their sound but haven't missed a beat. They fill the stage with tantrum dancing and flying guitars, the sound- screams and hooks riding a death rattle wall of feedback- fills the room. NJ make the show feel like the tiny club dates they're used to playing, it feels like cathartic brilliance.

Atreyu disappoint. Members of the band could be seen before doors taking pictures of the blacker than black queue stretching round the venue, almost as if they themselves couldn't quite believe they had managed to get this big. And on tonight's evidence their success will need way more blind luck to continue.

From first track proper, 'Bleeding Mascara', the sound is the worst of the night and barely improves. The technical touches of 'Deanne the Arsonist' and 'The Crimson' are lost, leaving only straight ahead mosh behind.The band plough through a lacklustre performance pulling all the right moves but seemingly finding no joy in them. Even synchronised guitar moves, party tricks and a cover of 'You Give Love a Bad Name' seem forced a little old. And wearing all white is the oldest gag in the book for bands so often dressed in black.

Atreyu are heralded as leaders of a scene, one of the few that will continue when fashions change but tonight they were outplayed, outclassed and simply undone by bands that are still hungry for that headline slot.

I hope Atreyu were nice to people on the way up.



"Come on, come on" scream The Blood Brothers as the chorus to 'Trash Flavoured Trash' and an invitation to new album 'Crimes', their first for new V2 record label home.

Bruising titles like 'Love Rhymes with Hideous Car Wreck' prepare you for more schizophrenic, loose-limbed, high-pitched, hardcore but this time clash with the sleepy synths and relaxed electronics that pulse round the whole album.

'Rats...' stops, drops and rolls into Ricky Martin territory before becoming a garage riff workout that dies to the sound of Dillinger-esque jazziness.
The title track is a fantastic funerial march through a sanitarium, all out of tune humming, piano, and a lonely picked guitar.

So everything changes, this is still The Blood Brothers though.

The band still create stabbing messes of noise from which impossibly catchy tunes emerge; parts of 'Live at the Apocalypse Cabaret' and 'Crimes' are pure pop music. Their songs still fold together into feedback, telling warped stories with voices that sound like a proper punk rock Jack White and a hyper Marilyn Manson, and no one has taken that drunk away from the piano.

The jarring differences between 100mph thrash punk and catchy piano key melodies make whatever crazy pills the band are taking seem all the more effective. The constant, headache inducing, metallic rush of previous work has gone and 'Crimes' is allowed to breathe, and allowed to run.

"This is a fucking fantasy", or the best nightmare you ever had.



Hard and fast, strained voiced, no guts no glory, kicking and screaming drum roll death rock. Simple, fierce, smoke headed, black hearted, hands in the air, ricochet quick, two stepping punk that paints the state of the world the blackest black and then some. Ace.


ROSES ARE RED- Conversations

The Trustkill name maintains a revered place at the head of the US indie label table but despite success stories like Poison the Well and 18Visions has signed some questionable acts of late.

Roses are Red are the new kids on the block and they might become a stumbling one for Trustkill.

'Conversations' feels like a rushed album of half ideas and not quite, nearly there tunes. Vicent Minervino's thin wail smothers every song, sounding suitably Americ-emo but sounding nasally, whiney and reaching.

A thin drum sound doesn't help with fluid, pacey, tunes that could be exciting stuff had it not already been recorded by other bands. 'Oceans' steals from Funeral for a Friend, 'I Apologize' from Taking Back Sunday' and 'You and me Both' from The Used.
And this keeps happening, and will keep happening to bands whose sole influences are the leading lights of the scene they want to be seen in and nothing from dad's record collection.

It makes original moments like '12:34' and 'White and Gold''s rousing chorus really stand out, but like pennies in dogshit rather than jewels in a crown.

Calling out every member of the newer breed of 'hardcore' or 'emo' acts for being fakey, whining, sellouts is becoming something of a journalistic cliche. By all means give Roses are Red a chance, just don't expect anything shiny and new


HATEBREED. Zodiac, Oxford. 14.03.05

It's always seemed a little weird that after ten years of Hatebreed preaching messages of family, friendship and hardcore unity, their fans still insist on beating the shit out of each other. Gang vocal anthems like 'Live for This' and 'I Will be Heard' are screamed back to the band like blood oaths but the blood on show tonight is all too real.

Before the carnage begins the melodic hardcore of Caliban and the spit-soaked sludge of Crowbar do their best to impress. The pit monsters get the chance for a good warm up during Caliban's take on what's currently hot. The amount of energy the five Germans put into their performance explaining why they're so skinny.Crowbar wander onstage like lost Spinal Tappers, like the mess of drunk hillbilly dads they probably are, and begin the most professional of amateur half-hours that the Zodiac has ever seen. They start, fuck up, start again, swear, sweat, and mumble and pretty much rule.

All of which is like a wafer thin mint before the three course meal that is Hatebreed. The squeal of feedback gives way to a three song set-starter and things never dip. The pit is a danger zone from the first note, frontman Jamey Jasta's seemingly never-ending vat of attitude and energy spilling into the crowd. Hatebreed rip into 'Straight to Your Face' and Jasta calls for a warzone. Oxford delivers.

'Call for Blood' and 'Perseverance' keep the tempo tipped maximum and an hour of brutal aggression punches past in what feels like ten minutes. They may be old hands at this but the band show no signs of age, no signs of pandering to any stream let alone the main one and despite feeling a little impersonal the perfomance is nothing less than absolutely professional.


STRAYLIGHT RUN+ The Spill Canvas+ The Junior Varsity. Zodiac, Oxford. 07.03.05

I'm getting too old for this shit. Everyone in the Zodiac tonight looks about 14, but they're probably only 12. The EmoYouth army are out in force, all sideways black hair and 'the biggest belt buckle wins' competitions, far too cool to salivate over the great line-up. Watching these kids grow up and try to get a job with all these shitty tattoos and fresh piercings is going to be interesting.

Anyway, on with the show. And Asa Dawson certainly knows how to win over an audience. The Junior Varsity frontman looks and sounds genuinely excited to be here but wastes no time dealing in patronising American pap, just zeitgeist-humping pop tunes. By the end of the short set the contagious smiles on stage have infected more than half the crowd.
The Spill Canvas are a completely different story. Nick Thomas leads his band through a set of acoustic heartbreak that's thick enough to choke on and despite some clapping along Oxford remains unconvinced.

Now, if you don't know the story of Straylight Run already you're avoiding all the right emo conversations. Abandoning ship (or being made to walk the plank) from Taking Back Sunday, John Nolan and Shaun Cooper decided to sail away to slightly lighter musical seas. The piano keys and vocal harmonies of their new self-titled album being the successful result.

Opening with a fine rendition of 'Mistakes we knew we were making' the band seem much more at ease than when they supported Brand New upstairs. It's a real rush to hear the songs that have been available for download for so long entirely cobweb-free and newer album tracks so full of colour.

There are reference points, especially to the sing-a-long stylings of Taking Back Sunday, but the pace is far more sedate. The electrolisised beats of 'Tool sheds and hot tubs' and bouts of instrument swapping providing suprises. It's going to take a lot more than a few good gigs like this for people to forget the spectre of TBS thats hangs over Straylight Run but this is one small step in a run up for a giant leap.

PRESIDENTS OF THE USA. Astoria,London. 03.03.05

god. like. genius


THE MARS VOLTA- Frances the Mute

If someone walks up to you painted orange, slaps you in the face with a fish, shouts 'I'm weird me' and sprints away they're pretty odd right? Or are they looking for all the attention they can get. What you want to watch out for is the only guy in the crowd who doesn't turn round to watch, what's going on in his head that's more interesting than watching you getting Tango'd? It's always the quiet ones remember.

And this is where I tell you that the new Mars Volta album is a masterpiece of salsa shake 'n' roll, too utterly concerned with itself to care what everyone else is doing. Except, and you know this already, nothing ever goes to plan, this album screams and shouts so loud for your attention in places that it's like watching a grown man piss and shit himself for fun rather than witnessing something truly beautiful.

Don't get me wrong, some of the music here recalls the genius of the first album. Instrumental voices open the album crashing together in an orchestra of deranged stop-start-stop death pop. The second track sounds like a haunted house ride through the afro's of the two men who made this mess and track seven is based around a stunning string section that sounds like a mutated James Bond theme while Cedric Bixler squeals about the worst day of his life. This is the stuff goosebumps are made of.

But, and it's a big but, too much of it meanders and slinks around sounding very sexy but never quite getting anywhere. The moments of pure joy at how good these guys can be are seperated by ineffective devil voices, bad trumpet solos, or a clock-watching jazz odyssey.

When The Mars Volta are good, they are very very good. There are movements here that in the most horribly cliched sense of the phrase, make you 'feel'. For the rest of the 75 minutes this album takes to run they shift from irritating brass-section white-noise to background music for crack pipe parties.

Then again, maybe i just don't get it. Maybe, I just don't do enough drugs.

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