The impression we got when we entered a nearly empty Fibbers tonight was that, apart from us, most of the rest of the audience were members and friends of the bands. If I’m honest, I was only there for one of the support bands and knew nothing about the other two on the bill. In hindsight, I should maybe have done a bit of research.
It might have been the lack of crowd that made Scarborough’s The Antiquity seem reluctant to take the stage and kick things off. After finally being cajoled on, twenty minutes after the advertised start time, there was much shuffling about and lots of warming up from Gary Stephenson on drums before a recorded intro led into their first song. Well, I say song, vocalist Joe McEvoy seemed to be barking (or, perhaps, burping) into the microphone. There was little indication of anything that could be described as lyrics. This style carried on throughout the set, with McEvoy putting so much power into his vocals that he seemed to have to squeeze his body to get extra air out. I’m only guessing but I doubt that these were love songs and were more likely about death, destruction and the need for Strepsils the morning after a gig. The music was thunderous. There was a chainsaw sound effect in the middle of one song. At one point one of the guitarists looked to be doing something interesting, playing along the neck of his guitar, but I couldn’t pick whatever he was doing out of the mix. The blessedly short set of just five songs, all of which sounded very similar to me, was over almost before it started, although there was an unexpected bonus of a brief, somewhat dark, melodic section in the middle of the last song. Andy, who is usually better at pre-gig research than me, couldn’t help but laughing at the performance. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that The Antiquity are a bad band, they just play a style of music I don’t like. That’s not their fault, is it?
Apparently, it’s over two years since I last saw InSpades.Inc. “I think we might stick out a bit,” frontman Stewart King confided in me before they took to the stage. And it wasn’t just the shirt, tie and waistcoat worn by dapper-from-the-waist-up drummer P.G. Branton were a world away from the muscle-shirts sported by most of the rest of tonight’s performers. Ghost In The Mirror set the scene – heavy but not brutal with vocals that were your actual singing, rather than just growling. Andy’s feet were already tapping, a good sign. The music is definitely heavier than I remember but not excessively so, with some of the older songs being re-worked for this set. The previous melodic leanings are still in evidence, though, if not quite so prominent. Each song seems to include an impressive instrumental section and P.G.’s drumming gets more and more frantic as the set proceeds. When Sucker Punch is introduced, I mention to Andy that I like it, then find that I barely recognise it in its new form. It’s still a good song, though. Tempting Fate, with its brief, semi-doom-laden opening seems to epitomise the new direction, while latest single DNR, a powerhouse of a song in recorded form, ends the set in style, showing that metal doesn’t have to be simply a wall of noise and that being able to hear the individual guitar lines is possible.
I’ve learnt recently that, in the right circumstances, “cookie monster” vocals aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Sworn Amongst, with their Cthulhu-inspired stage banners, are practitioners of this particular style but, musically, they provide none of the subtlety of, for example, Opeth. Their music is full of brutal riffs and power-drumming but one thing is certain – however good fans of The Antiquity might think that band is, their near-neighbours from Hull are much more accomplished, have a more mature sound, bags more energy and a lot more stage presence. To my ears, they still produce noise, as opposed to music, but it’s a better noise. It’s heavy but there is music underneath. The problem is that it is relentless, all one level, with little relief. The band are tight and the vocals, while mostly growls to these untrained ears, give the impression that they contain lyrics rather than just sounds. On the rare occasions that songs were introduced, we were able to pick out the titles within the lyrics. There were occasional glimpses of noise-penetrating guitar solos but, apart from those, the entire set was an brutal onslaught with barely a break between songs, impressive in its intensity but, just like the openers, this style of music does nothing for me.