By Ashley Bailey
On the evening of Friday the 9th of March, Vine was home to a very bizarre gig. It was certainly an enjoyable gig, but the juxtaposition of genres was jarring and odd to say the least. The mostly alt rock four band line-up was headlined by Manchester based melodic groove metallers Wolfcrusher; a band whose heaviness is made perceptible by a name which could also be used to describe how Thor spends his weekends. Now originally when I formulated my plan of attendance I didn’t factor into the equation that a forth band would be added, so I did miss the majority of opening band Screen People’s set; though I did catch enough to give them a brief review.
Screen People were originally a three piece alternative rock band, but on this occasion they were minus their bassist. They can best be described as Radiohead meets Dirty Pretty Things; Alie’s vocals have a certain Thom Yorke quality to them, whilst the music itself can best be described as less dispirited and more energetic than the work which Radiohead continually releases. As I mentioned previous SP are without a bassist, and as a result their set did feel flat in places.
I hadn’t previously heard of the band so I naturally I assumed that this was their first gig as they didn’t exactly exude confidence, and they were plagued with technical issues; the worst of which interrupted proceedings by at least ten minutes. Although I may seem critical, I did actually enjoy their set of unashamedly British alternative rock; which is why it is a shame that they aren’t living up to their potential. With the inclusion of a bassist and improved crowd interaction Screen People could be a force to be reckoned with.
Next up were Prowl, an alternative rock band from York. With their hard rock leanings they were, after Wolfcrusher, the heaviest band of the evening. For a three piece, Prowl successfully managed to pack their set with infectious choruses and more cutting riffs than The Colbert Report (did you see what I did there?). I hadn’t seen them live before but the aspect which impressed me the most was Ben’s strong rough but melodic vocal style; especially since it completely contrasted his genial disposition. His vocal range effectively switched between a typical hard rock style to slower, more haunting vocals (during songs such as the ominous feeling Giving In); and everything in between.
As you can imagine from that last sentence Prowl’s set covered most facets of rock; including the heavily down-tuned, effects pedal laden Awkward Silence and alt-rock ballad Encounters. The whole package was brought together nicely by proficient guitarist Jono; adding levels of depth to the set with just a pedal and crispy riffs, such as the intro riff of the fast paced Obey – which was reminiscent of the main riff in Velvet Revolver’s Slither. Drummer Loz went down well with several members of the crowd, and I easily understood why as soon as Upside Down started; opening with a raging drum solo which gradually builds in intensity.
Overall their set was fantastic, with seven songs that mostly hit the mark. Though it would be difficult to compare them to the headliners they did place me in an appropriate mind-set for the rest of the gig. The set wasn’t without its weaknesses however; Little One could easily be dropped from the set and I wouldn’t exactly be disconsolate. Whilst the song did feature Ben’s melodic vocals at their best, its slow dragging pace just didn’t provide enough oomph. And though my favourite song may have been Upside Down I do feel the chorus was somewhat lacking; and could have been improved significantly by the inclusion of gang vocals.
The main support came from Stimpy Myth, an alternative/indie band formed by several members of the now defunct Pirate Radio characterised by fluffy riffs and melodic hooks. Usually the unwritten law of the gig dictates the progression of bands is arranged by order of heaviness, but SM were the lightest of all four bands. Stimpy Myth are fairly unique in that they are a bass led band. The prominence of the bass (helmed by vocalist Will) was instantly recognisable, though they were plagued by bass feedback issues early on.
Will’s unrefined yet powerful vocal style helped to elevate Stimpy Myth beyond a generic indie sound; though lacking in range, his vocals seemed suited to all the songs in SM’s set and he was more than capable of pulling off long, powerful screams or Kurt Cobain esque slurred, guttural moans such as towards the end of Four Walls.
The majority of the songs were light and upbeat, with simple rhythms, especially Flowers, a hydrant and a stain; an acoustic led (Dave) song which downplayed the bass and drum elements, and was the sort of song one could envision being on the soundtrack of an offbeat romantic comedy starring Zooey Deschanel. But they did have a handful of songs that bordered on being hard-rock; such as A Siren’s Song which featured a foot-tapping chorus and an enjoyable string-binding solo, and their final song Piece of Mind had a fast tempo and general hard rock chord progression – and some excellent speedy drumming (Andy) towards the end to finish off with a bang.
I had trouble finding out a lot of the song titles as Will would speak very quickly or not mention the titles at all, and I was forced to cross reference with their recorded songs to find out the titles (though there are only five of the ten tracks available), so this would be something I would recommend to the band to consider in future. They came across as nice guys, and their attitude matched their musical style well, I had to chuckle at Will’s “That was just to get you in the mood for Wolfcrusher” line.
Wolfcrusher took to the stage around half eleven, and by this point only the dedicated few remained in attendance – something which struck me as peculiar. From the very moment this five piece stormed onstage they remained an overwhelming and almost intimidating presence – helped in large part by a wonderfully maniacal performance from vocalist Gary; who was overly reminiscent of typical horror movie villain who is too insane for even a lunatic asylum. Of course Gary’s unstable performance complimented his vocal style perfectly; vocals which perfectly marred harsh gutturals and shouts with haunting melodic wails. The more melodic sections were extremely catchy (see the chorus of Lost at Sea), I found myself wanting to sing along, or fist pump or anything just so I could be doing something as I was caught up in the moment. During Refuse/Resist (originally by Sepultura) Gary managed to emulate Max Cavalera’s raging vocals almost perfectly with his own sinister spin.
Aside from the repetitive mid-tempo opener Reborn and a cover of Judas Priest’s Breaking the Law, Wolfcrusher played a blistering septet of mind raping technicality. Guitarists Daniel and Arun both shared lead duties, a role in which they were near equals – with neither subsisting solely on the sloppy seconds of the other; though I would say Daniel’s old school sounding instrumental prelude to No Chance gave him the edge. The highlight of the night was Lost at Sea, with two minutes worth of tapping and shredding solos, helmed by both Daniel and Arun; who also utilised vibrato in a very atmospheric way.
Dan Mikietyn’s thunderous, syncopathic drum beats kept the pace at breakneck speed, which was best demonstrated in Moving Moutains by the strong and steady percussive beats reminiscent of military field drums during the post choruses.
Considering the lateness of the hour and the distinct lack of crowd, Wolfcrusher put on an admirable performance and engaged with the audience. Gary’s performance was a spectacle to behold – he would crawl around and put himself in a variety of unusual positions like one of the Deadites from The Evil Dead. I particularly enjoyed the pisstake of the Breaking the Law video (and cheesy metal videos in general) expertly pulled off by bassist Chris, Daniel and Arun. I can think of no fault to pick with WolfCrusher’s set, other than the forced re-start of Focus; making this all in all a strange gig, but thoroughly enjoyable one – which unfortunately could have been better attended and had more appropriate support.