BURY YOUR DEAD. Islington Academy, London. 17.12.08

Bury Your Dead are in a weird place right now. And that doesn’t just mean the Islington Academy- the venue inside a shopping centre- that they’re playing tonight. No, tonight marks the Massachusetts outfit’s first UK outing since their transition from hardcore heroes to heavy metal band really picked up steam.

That all started with the release of their self-titled album in March of course but tonight, with the band slowing songs down to add even more groove than usual, guitarist Slim throwing rock star moves, and frontman Myke Terry’s contant demands for people to put their hands in the air, jump up and down, and bang their heads (not at the same time, mind), it’s arrived live and in the flesh. As much as they throw their all behind it though, if the, ahem, limited attendance and odd atmosphere tonight are anything to go by then the changeover is not going entirely smoothly.

Ok sure, the songs, both old and new, are great- ‘Magnolia’ is still a brilliantly violent burst of noise, ‘House Of Straw’ is a moshable monster, and newie ‘Fever Dream’ might be the best thing BYD have ever written- but they don’t all sit well together. And occasionally, like when the wicked shimmy of ‘Top Gun’ tramples all over the smoother finish of ‘Hands To Hide The Shame’, or when Terry struggles to switch between low growls and clean singing quick enough, they downright sound like the work of different bands. And with the crowd unsure whether to throw down or headbang, windmill or play air guitar, the whole night ends up feeling a little… awkward.

Bury Your Dead are still in the middle of an evolution then, that much is clear, and while it does feel like they’ve got a decent shot at making it stick, tonight illustrates it clearly isn’t finished. Time, and whether another tour gets booked soon, will tell here.

THE GHOST OF A THOUSAND + Rolo Tomassi + The Casino Brawl. West End Centre, Aldershot. 13.12.08

This shouldn’t work. Not just because of the weather (torrential rain is great at keeping gig-goers at home) or the location (far-from-rock’n’roll Aldershot), but because the bands collected here tonight sound so very different. And how- newcomers The Casino Brawl bash out distinctly American-sounding post-hardcore, Rolo Tomassi ram wonky pop into thrash weirdness, and The Ghost Of A Thousand put the punk rock fury on top. But it does work. All of it. And like a fucking charm.

Sure, The Casino Brawl might pander to US acts like Every Time I Die but they do it mighty well, throwing themselves about with addictive enthusiasm and cracking out one song that could almost make breakdowns worth doing again. Almost. A few more tours, a bit more confidence, and just a bit of luck and they could brilliant. Next up though, and Rolo Tomassi are already there.

Second on and the Sheffield noiseniks haven’t just advanced giant leaps over the past year; they’ve very quickly become a frighteningly competent and complete proposition. Hyper-intense older cuts like ‘Film Noir’ still swell with a glorious sense of danger but the release of debut album ‘Hysterics’ has given them a much fuller palette to work with and splat across the room. ‘I Love Turbulance’ combines streamlined rage with eerie serenity, ‘Fofteen’ is an explosion of spidery riffs and feral screams, and ‘Abraxas’ is a thrilling bleeping, screeching slice of fried gold. It’s all brilliant, and should make things very difficult for the headliners.

Except The Ghost Of A Thousand are flawless. Ok, so frontman Tom Lacey has to transmit it to the crowd directly, climbing off the stage and starting a circle pit himself, but there’s more energy coming off this band than a toddler with his wet fingers in a plug socket and armed only with direct punk rock songs (albeit every one better than anything Gallows have written) they make the West End Centre feel like the only place in the world for a rock fan to be tonight.

‘Bored Of Math’ is a raw but razor-sharp call-to-arms, ‘Black Art Number One’ is brutal but brilliantly catchy, and new song ‘Running On Empty’ bodes very well indeed for the Brighton outfit’s second album due early next year. They don’t hang around to plug that though, and like all the best bands of their genre they make their set a short, sharp, satisfying shock and leave Aldershot clearly wanting more. After that, even the refreshing rain outside makes perfect sense. The gods, geography, and genre divisions be damned then- this worked out wonderfully.