Review by Natalie Zed; Photos by Albert Mansour
This is the kind of show that puts me in a good mood before I even walk in the door. A four-band line-up is just about perfect in my books. Shows where five or more bands perform nearly always end up being epically long and inevitably drain the crowd’s energy by the time the headliner is ready to perform. This particular evening, however, there’s just enough strong support to get the crowd excited but not exhausted. All the supporting bands suited the headliner’s aesthetic extremely well, complimenting each other while retaining enough of their own sound identities to keep each performance interesting. For all their heaviness, every single band is also passionately interested in being entertaining, and making sure that they, and their crowds, have an excellent time. Well-curated events please me; they appeal to my taste as well as my OCD.
An uncharacteristically merciful work schedule meant that I arrived well before the show began and was able to hear every note of Bonded By Blood set, beer in hand and merch safely purchased. As their name suggests, Bonded By Blood locate their sound and visual aesthetic firmly beneath the canopy of Exodus’ influence. They thrive in the shade, producing music that pays a great deal of homage to their progenitors, while fully exploring the musical territory within the constraints they set out for themselves. The most notable deviation from their namesake is their lightness, both in terms of their sound and the subject matter of their songs. They’re a playful band, who write about comic books and ninja turtles as easily as death and destruction. Regardless of topic, their songs are incredibly catchy and easy to lose yourself in as an audience member. “Feed the Beast” got my neck muscles burning and well-warmed up for the rest of the night.
Next up were Gama Bomb, another member of Earache’s thrash family (as are Bonded by Blood and Evile). Hailing from Ireland, they definitely had the most frenetic set of their night. All of their songs are super-short little nuggets of tasty destruction that go down easy and leave the audience always feeling like they could hear one more. This length suits their aesthetic extremely well. I felt that each song gave exactly the correct dose of sound. I was impressed with the Paul Caffrey‘s drumming, which leant a great, meaty anchor to the frantic, sometimes flailing character of their songs. I particularly enjoyed “Slam Anthem,” “Bullet Belt,” “Mummy Invasion” and “Zombie Brew.” As these song titles may reveal, Gama Bomb are another band that gleefully don’t take themselves very seriously, to hilarious and extremely fruitful musical results. If I have to quibble at all, I did find that I was not completely in love with vocalist Philly Byrne‘s performance. He talked the lyrics more than he sang them, which might have had something to do with the breakneck speed that they were delivered at. Whenever he really let go and wailed, it was clear he had some pipes, but didn’t show them off as much as I would have liked. Still, it was a great, punchy set that served to whet the audience’s appetite.
Evile filled the penultimate slot on the bill, and put on a rock-solid performance. They opened their set with “Infected Nations” and “We Who Are About To Die.” Evile have always struck me as an unusually intellectual thrash metal band, and this this performance leant additional credence to this impression. Their longer-format songs stray toward the epic, and rather than simply being topical their lyrics are generally quite narrative, even sophisticated. They’re a band whose lyrical content and expert musicianship can give your more developed brain some genuine meat to gnaw on, while the lizard impulses in the brain stem are equally satisfied with their face-melting sound. They have a great balance going on, as excellent musicians who are also interested in showing their fans a damn good time on stage. Before they closed the set with “Enter the Grave,” Matt Drake reminded the crowd: “Enjoy yourselves! That’s what really matters in life. And tits.”
When headliners Forbidden stepped out onto the Mod Club’s stage, the excitement in the room was as palpable as it was audible. The crowd was somewhat modest in number (possibly a couple hundred dedicated metalheads attended on this chilly Tuesday) but incredibly passionate and vocal in their support. Forbidden played a long set, slightly over an hour and a half, which was as unsurprising as it was welcome. As the band declared at one point: “We haven’t been here in fifteen years, so we’re going to play some fucking music!” The set list was drawn from all over their considerable catalogue, though they did play a couple of songs from their newest CD, including the title track “Omega Wave.” They were generous to the crowd in terms on song choice as well, satisfying everyone’s long-neglected cravings to hear “Step By Step,” “March Into Fire” and “Twisted Into Form” performed live. The audience reacted to each song announcement with blissful cheers, as though a itch that had been lingering for ages could finally be scratched. Throughout the set, I was consistently impressed with Russ Anderson‘s vocals. His range shockingly impressive, able to deliver bright, vibrant, almost supple high notes as easily as incredibly deep death growls, and his voice is seemingly tireless. I sincerely hope that the energy present at the Mod Club at this performance speaks of a long future to come, a time of genuine renewal for Forbidden. They certainly have a lot more to give.