By Lauren Brooks
I’ll never let anyone say I’m not dedicated to metal, as not only was I subjected to a disappointingly alcohol-free bar, but also a ten hour fast as I had come to the gig almost straight from work and hadn’t eaten since 12pm. However despite these things, I soaked up the atmosphere of the gig and found myself sufficiently sustained by the metal I experienced – sort of like a heavy metal Galactus. So commenced Asphyxia Metal Night, with four bands at £4 entry.
First onstage, Immolator kicked off the night with three chunks of pure death metal/thrash aggression. Although a man down, Immolator played a strong instrumental set despite seeming out of their comfort zone. Matthew Brewster’s drums are the highlight, sounding as powerful as an airstrike, each hit of the cymbal more piercing than the last. They played three meaty songs which warmed up the crowd, however they had a lack of stage presence as they didn’t announce themselves or interact with those in attendance – although I expect this would change with the recruitment of a vocalist. Both Austin and Connor (guitar and bass respectively) are talented and did show this, but after listening to their demo Blood Money online it does seem the songs rely on vocals. As this is the first time I have seen this band, it would be interesting to see the development of their songs once their search for a frontman comes to an end. On the night, however, they were a fine start to the night and showed a lot of potential, I will be sure to see them play again in the future.
Mister Sister Fister took to the stage next with an explosion of energy – both from the band and the crowd. Full of the ferocity typical of the deathcore scene, the band incited a mosh pit with all the intensity of a full-scale hurricane, despite the head-count falling on the low side. With Aaron’s thundering drums and the roaring riffs of guitarists Sam and Eddie, it was easy to see their inspiration comes from legends like Lamb of God (Luke’s vocals sounding very similar), and although their style rarely deviated from this, their most notable song, (ironically) a cover of Oceano’s District of Misery, hit the crowd like totalitarian enforcers at a political uprising. The hate and misanthropy featured in the song’s lyrics fit the general tone of Mister Sister Fister’s set and allowed them to let loose. Amidst the powerful drums and guitar shredding Liam’s bass becomes a little lost, though this will mostly be down to the fact the volume of the other instruments is turned up higher and is not an indictment of his playing.
Throughout their set, it was evident that the band put a lot of effort and passion into their music, which never faltered even when the band members leapt and thrashed like lunatics on a caffeine concentrate. They were a strong follow up to Immolator but I’m not entirely sure whether they would have received a better reception at a different gig as only a small number of the crowd seemed to immerse themselves in the experience. Deathcore can be something of an acquired taste and since the band religiously stuck to this genre (not that it’s a bad thing) they were only fully enjoyed by a handful of people; which unfortunately seemed to underplay their obvious talent.
Fools To Favour followed with lashings of Metalcore, their style encompassing a lot of the mainstream bands such as Killswitch Engage and Bullet for my Valentine. By this time, the crowd had warmed to smoldering and a good number pitted relentlessly throughout the set, even knocking the vocalist off the stage at one point. Fools To Favour had a good rapport with the audience, mostly due to their charismatic vocalist Max Smales, who encouraged the crowd to join in and celebrate guitarist Jamie Pentecost’s birthday with a round of happy birthday – which everyone seemed to relish. Drummer Edan emphasized the band’s comical moments with the traditional ‘badum-tish’. As for his actual playing style, he is able to go from playing slower more background noise drumbeats to violent ones – though he is conservative and never plays to the point where it is impossible to discern one drum stroke from another. One of the tracks in their setlist, Life and The Sea, shows off their versatile combination of influences. The clean vocals on the bridge seem very KsE inspired and work well, especially against Max Smales’ scream vocals and death growls. This makes Fools to Favour a bit like Frankenstein’s Monster, but unlike him they won’t kill your family – unless they get caught up in one of FTF’s ruthless pits that is.
Lastly, XIII claimed the stage for the night to a lively and enthusiastic crowd. This band clearly enjoys being onstage and was as much in its element as an arch-demon in the underworld, even despite lead guitarist Dan Murray’s guitar dropping out of tune mid- Eclipse. As for the music itself, the crowd was treated to a highly enjoyable brand of thrash, with solos as technical as an essay by Albert Einstein and aggression matched only by a pitbull with rabies, all set to Dan’s authoritative vocal style. The drum beats performed by Alex are often fairly simplistic but rhythmic, effectively establishing the pace for the tracks, never clashing with the other instruments and causing an audio mess. He can also prove himself to be an extremely talented drummer at times unleashing all the fury his biceps will allow on his drum set.
For me, James’ bass riff in the pre-solo of Devastated By Reality was the particular highlight of their set. Sadly, the crowd slowly dispersed throughout their set, with only the dedicated staying until the end, which was a shame because XIII deserved a larger audience than what they received. That is the inherent problem with headlining an under 18’s event such as this, as people mainly come to support their friends and the lack of alcohol means the fatigue sets in quicker. XIII’s ferocious onslaught was unlucky to be cut short, when they were told by The Lamp staff the gig was to end at 10.30pm and not at 11pm as previously thought. Those that remained raucously demanded more, with a hunger that would only be satisfied by another dose of skilfully executed thrash – and this is exactly what they received when, with moments remaining on the clock, XIII burst into a thrilling ten-second solo led by Mark Storr, ending the night on a powerful high.
All in all, I have to ask myself, was it worth the £4 entry fee? I would say so, as it opened me to some bands that I had never seen before – bands that impressed me. For me, the highlight of the night was Fools To Favour purely because I wasn’t sure what to expect from a metalcore band (it is a diverse genre of varying quality) and was honestly impressed with the refreshing offering that I experienced. The low point of the night was arriving only to find no alcohol being served as throughout the gig my hand was lacking an ice cold pint of cider.