Fri 9th December 2005
Just so you all know, I've been looking forward to this tour ever since it was first arranged/announced to be featuring the considerable talents and fine UK metal heritage of no less than three of my very favourite bands Charger, Black Eye Riot and Lazarus Blackstar, all of them Undergroove bands so please, understand that in absolutely no way is this an impartial observers review. Glad I got that off my chest, now I can rant like the sad little fanboy I am, ha ha ha...
Important fact #1 about Lazarus Blackstar: they've produced one of the finest albums of the year in 'Revelations' and arguably one of the best doom albums for as long as most people can remember. Important fact #2: the band is a victim of serious over-genre-isation, being referred to as 'crust', 'sludge' and fuck knows what else so let's not dick about here people... Lazarus Blackstar are DOOM, pure and simple. slow, bassy as fuck, misanthropic and about as groovalicious as it comes. One term you tend to hear far too often in reference to heavy bands these days is 'bowel loosening' but even that doesn't do the boys from Bradford justice. Try something along the lines of 'structurally damaging' for a more accurate mental picture. Seriously, it's just as well these boys don't stand a chance of ever getting bigger than their own scene (BOO!!!) as they'd level cities in minutes with a serious sound system behind them... so anyway, as the set starts with the lolloping drums and bass line of album opener 'Revelations pt I' it's clear to all that no-one's gonna be able to hear the rest of the bands after these guys have finished. Within these opening seven odd minutes I'm rocking out so much I already know my backs gonna be fucked the next day. UK Metal legend Paul Catten's vocals are as impressive as ever above the wall of bass and guitars and he's clearly enjoying the freedom and room to manouvere that this slower material is allowing him compared to the other multitude of bands he's involved with. The boys crawl, iceburg slow, through a further three songs, all album highlights in the shape of 'Defaced Photograph', 'The Tradgedy of the Monochrome Man' and finish on 'Revelations pt II' and as the wall of feedback heralds their exit the (disgustingly small) crowd all seem to snap out of some strange trance and look around rather stunned as if they don't know how they got here. Truly glorious stuff.
Next, Black Eye Riot get going. Now it should be remembered at this point that the boys are playing their fourth gig in four days which is more than they generally manage in an entire fucking year so they're all looking rather shattered and the wonderfully manic energy that screamers Dex and Willis are renouned for is a bit lacking but non-the-less they start to get into it and those of us who know them well are fists pumping and shouting their lungs out before too long. Crashing as shamboloically as normal through a few newer numbers the set mostly draws from the bands belting 'No Hope, No Future, No Worries' CD including the absoluetly faultless 'Instict' before ending on crowd favourite 'The Cunt' from the older Taint split CD joined by Jay Charger and another guy I didn't recognise on vocals and everyone screams/air punches along with glee. Now it would be irresponsible to not mention the main reason I love this band so much at this juncture so here goes: as everyone knows there's an ongoing debate as to what constitutes 'Hardcore' or it's multitude of sub-genres nowadays and people rarely refer to Black Eye Riot in these terms which I think is a crying shame as I personally think they're closer to what that word means than almost any of their contemporaries as they live and die by one simple premise: passion over proficiency. When hardcore punk started it was all about stripping back to the bare minimum and cutting out all the posturing and image to enjoy the pure blood and guts beauty of punk rock. Black Eye Riot stay truer to this ethos than any other accepted 'Hardcore' band around. Anyway, back on track. I'm glad to report that by the time they stagger off to the bar the huge beaming smiles usually seen on people leaving Black Eye Riot gigs are finally in place and the crowd is slowly starting to fill out to a more acceptable size.
Final act of the night Charger start with the expected but no less impressive massive wall of feedback that evolves into new song 'The Amputee' from the Black Eye Riot split and preceed to grind their way though a set of new gems and old crowd pleasers almost exclusively from 'Confessions of a Man (Mad Enough To Live Amongst Beasts)'. Somewhere between the last time I saw him halfway through Black Eye Riot's set and now, frontman Ives has apparantly gotten very drunk and looks deeply mean for the duration making everyone more than a little uncomfortable although the effect is somewhat spoiled by the fact that his flies are undone for the entire first song before he realises! Much as I'd feared, personal favourite 'Carbon Wings' doesn't get an airing but there's no denying the ferocious intensity these boys display and the much loved Ives-wit rears it's ugly head once or twice, met with nervous laughter by those who don't know him that well (was that an Aids gag I heard there Martin?). After a good forty-five minutes of sludgy, grindy riffing the boys close with another newey, 'For All Intents And Purposes (You Are All Already Dead)' from the Birds of Paradise split, showcasing them at their most doomy and Ives spends almost the entire song displaying once again how supple he is for a big lad in an almost impossible position on the floor amongst the ever more nervous crowd. It's a tribute to his abilities to be able to comfortably front a band perceived as having such a 'nasty' sound and/or vibe as Charger are that he can instill this reaction in well over fifty people after replacing a very well established singer (original vocalist Tim), especially as the two splits only released days before the tour are the first recordings featuring him as vocalist and closes the show brilliantly.