Tag Archives: Heights

Year in Review – Gigs (and which were the best?)

Well, December is almost over and it’s time to dig through the reviews and see what I reckoned was the live musical high-point of the year. And it’s bloody hard, believe me. If you just want to skip down to the bit where I try to make my mind up, scroll down until you see the headline. Otherwise, let me take you on a quick run-down…

First gig was Reel Big Fish at the Garage (and they’re touring again in early 2013). Having never seen them before, I was very pleasantly surprised with an excellent atmosphere and a ton of fun!

Biohazard made a welcome return in February, playing a crushing set at King Tut’s, but the highlight of their gig was touring support Heights. Definitely ones to watch out for.

Alestorm drowned the Garage in rum a week later and also supported Dragonforce in September (for those who got to the ABC in time to see their ridiculously early slot).

Less than a week after that and a tremendous two-header hit the Academy with soon-to-be-fecking-huge Halestorm opening for the brilliant Shinedown. Both bands reappeared later in the year, with Shinedown headlining the HMV Picturehouse on Hallowe’en and Halestorm upgrading from the Cathouse to the Garage (which then sold out) due to phenomenal demand.

The first let-down of the year was Theory of a Deadman. Not the band themselves, but the truly awful sound at the Queen Margaret Union building. One I’ll be avoiding in future, though I’ll certainly give the Canadian rockers another chance if they play elsewhere in future.

February drew to a leap-year close with Rammstein at the Newcastle Arena. Not so much a gig as a spectacle, and something that any band would be hard-pushed to beat. They’re headlining Download this year and if you’ve not seen them then they’re worth the ticket price alone.

Another ridiculous (and unannounced) change to the door times meant that I missed the two openers for Cannibal Corpse at the ABC, but did get to see most of Triptycon’s set. Corpse, however, played a drastically shortened set in part due to now knowing they had to be off-stage at 10pm for the student night to take place.

March ended at a blistering pace with three cracking gigs in the space of a week. Black Stone Cherry rocked the Academy, Bowling For Soup (and People on Vacation) had us entertained and laughing along at the Oran Mor with their acoustic tour and Steel Panther taught us all The Shocker at the Academy (a few months after stealing the show from Def Leppard and Motley Crue at the SECC). Hard-working as they are, they were back in Scotland soon after with a show in Edinburgh.

Into April and two very contrasting styles of music in a fairly fallow month for me. First up, an unadulterated party atmosphere lifted the Garage when Andrew W.K. came the play. Barely a week later and Paradise Lost angled more for the doom end of the scale in a wonderfully downbeat performance at King Tut’s.

My only gig in May was to see the delightfully ridiculous Tragedy with their tie-dyed, glitter-encrusted Bee Gees cover extravaganza at the ABC2. Only a few days after the sad passing of Robin Gibb, I doubt he could have been more proud of the send-off this group of fans gave him.

Halfway into the year as June finished and two gigs that month. Sacred Reich with their first Scottish date in eighteen years as they tore up the Wah Wah Hut; and a slight departure for me as I sampled Combichrist at The Arches with their dance-infused metal.

And then… a breather. July and August passed gig-free despite us staying in the country. Virtually every major band was heading to play the festivals which we couldn’t attend due to work and family commitments. On the other hand, we saved some cash.

We made up for it in September with no fewer than five concerts. The Darkness were touring the UK with Lady Gaga (I know, WTF?) but as the tour wasn’t hitting Scotland they opted to play a one-off headlining show with long-standing local favourites Gun at the ABC.

Three gigs in three nights saw me at the Cathouse (Dying Fetus, Job For A Cowboy, Revocation and Cerebral Bore), Edinburgh PlayHouse (W.A.S.P.’s 30th anniversary tour) and the Garage for the aforementioned sell-out Halestorm show.

Another previously mentioned gig ended the month as Dragonforce and Alestorm formed a perfect partnership at the ABC.

October could have been the busiest month of the year gig-wise. We still did very well, but missed no fewer than five gigs. The first one we had to skip was Soulfly as it clashed with Nickelback at the Newcastle Arena and we got tickets to see Chad and co. before those for Max’s project were announced. The Canadian guys were good – very good – but Soulfly would have been much cheaper and closer to home!

Nickelback became the last gig I went to with my fiancée as we skipped Bowling For Soup, Trivium, Muse and Terrorvision to jet off to Jamaica with the family and get married! I did try tweeting most of the bands, but they didn’t reply as to the possibility of shifting their gig dates. Pah.

Our first gig as a married couple was a second performance this year by Shinedown in Edinburgh (mentioned back at the top). A big crowd despite playing on the same night and less than 2 minutes walk away from Alice Cooper’s seemingly annual Scottish show.

The second-last month of the year equalled the second as November joined February in hosting six gigs. Sabaton / Eluvetie at the Garage opened the month for me with an interesting combination and more people on one small stage than I’ve seen since Lawnmower Deth allowed stage-diving at the Newcastle Riverside. We then had the choice between Motorhead’s annual gig at the Academy or going to see Steel Panther again, this time in Edinburgh. There was no decision to be made as soon as we saw Lemmy’s support band – the mighty Anthrax. Glasgow it was.

Two nights later I headed to the Cathouse for the Metal Hammer Razor Tour II  featuring Steak Number 8 (missed them, sorry), Heart of a Coward, Heights (again) and Devil Sold His Soul. I love cheap gigs like this featuring relative unknowns and this was a prime example. All of the bands on here should do well though, again, Heights stole the show for me like they did in February opening for Biohazard.

Turbonegro brought their brand of death-core-punk to King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut towards the end of the month and impressed, while legendary Thrash-meisters Testament made a triumphant return to these shores after far too long. They destroyed the Garage with a mixture of old material and stuff from their superb latest album. Barely pausing to draw breath, I was at the SECC the following night to see the Twins of Evil tour. Marilyn Manson put on a decent enough theatrical performance while Rob Zombie deservedly played the “headlining” position of this equal-footed billing.

The year drew to a close with a hugely anticipated comeback tour from the Little Angels who rocked the ABC as if they’d never been away these last twenty years. Just under a week later and Fear Factory gave me a birthday present consisting of an hour-long set at the same venue in support to the Devin Townsend Project.

SO – GIG OF THE YEAR?

Bloody hell. That’s a tough question. At a rough count, there are 39 bands in contention (including some of the support acts) for the top performance. Hell, there are some I’ve not even mentioned such as Deathstars who opened for Rammstein. Not in contention, but deserving of a mention. As are Lionheart (Biohazard), The Treatment (Steel Panther), Insomnium (Paradise Lost), Skin (Little Angels)…

So let’s just hand out some awards based on certain performances. That’s fair. After all, what small band – no matter how talented – could expect to play a 200-capacity venue and compete with the:

Most Spectacular Gig

Easy winner – Rammstein at the Newcastle Arena. At £50 plus fees plus travel expenses, not a cheap ticket but worth every penny as you could see where your cash was going. Superb songs wrapped in probably the best showmanship in metal these days (Iron Maiden at a festival are about the only band that come close) and I doubt a single person that night left the venue feeling ripped off. My only disappointment is that it’s still the only gig I’ve ever been to that I don’t have my ticket as a souvenir. Stupid floor policy of taking your ticket off you!

Best Atmosphere At A Gig

Quite a tricky one as there are different atmospheres. The expectation at the Testament gig after their long absence. Similar with the Little Angels. Reel Big Fish, of course. The boos rained upon Turbonegro as they chose to play an England football song before they came on stage in Glasgow. Tragedy, who could have been playing to thousands, not just the couple of dozen who showed up (shame one you – see them next time). But, no. As with Rammstein above, there’s only one streets-ahead winner of this award: Andrew W.K. at the Glasgow Garage, who put on as big a party as he promises in his Twitter feed day after day – using nothing but the power of short, silly, punchy rock anthems. A man who can talk the talk, walk the walk and rock the rock.

Best Comeback Gig

A surprising number of entrants this year (and many more who I didn’t go to see, sadly). Some just haven’t toured the UK, some have actually been split up for years and reformed recently. In the running, we have:

  • Biohazard
  • Little Angels
  • Testament
  • Sacred Reich

Bloody hard to decide with this one. Really hard. My heart says Little Angels because of the fact I saw their last ever gig before they split. My heavier side (and the bruises) say Testament. My “support the underdog” mentality says Sacred Reich. My surprise at having a guitarist standing my shoulder during the first song says Biohazard.

The heart wins. Little Angels at the ABC take the prize, partly as I’ve seen Testament and Sacred Reich at Graspop in more recent years.

Best Support Act

Let’s not forget those poor sods who often get ignored (or worse) trying to warm you up for the headliners. This year, there were some great bands – many of them listed at the top of this section. The winner will come as no surprise, but special mentions to Halestorm – headliners in their own right, frankly, but still touring as a support band in 2013 – and Anthrax, who for some reason haven’t done a UK headlining tour in far too long.

Heights for two gigs – Biohazard and the Metal Hammer Razor Tour II. They’re back in Glasgow again in February, if I recall correctly. And main support again. Keep up the hard word guys, and here’s hoping we get ninety minutes from you in the years to come.

Best Sound At  A Gig

Now this one is a toughie. Some of the venues can be hit and miss with sound (ABC), some are usually crap but somehow pull a blinder once in a while (Academy), some are just awful (Queen Margaret Union, Cathouse) and some have the advantage of being huge (SECC). Winner this year? Bowling For Soup (Acoustic) at the Oran Mor for being just right. Maybe it’s easier as the volume doesn’t need to be cranked, but we could hear every note being strummed.

I’ll leave the awards there for this year. Next year will be a little quieter gig-wise  as I’m changing to a part time job with the equivalent drop in pay. Unless someone wants to sponsor me buy buying tickets or guest-listing me…?

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Metal Hammer Razor Tour II, Glasgow Cathouse

Heart of a Coward
Heart of a Coward (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

[Pics of three of the bands on Flickr via these links: Devil Sold His Soul / Heights / Heart of a Coward]

Four bands, eight quid, beer for £2 a pint and t-shirts at a tenner. Can’t turn that kind of an offer down. Especially when one of them is Heights.

As ever, I managed to miss the opening band (Steak Number Eight). I guess they hit the stage very shortly after the doors opened as I got there at around 7:45. A teething baby is a little more important, though!

The first band I saw were Heart of a Coward, who I’d never heard of before. Their t-shirts made them look like a US hardcore band, but they’re very definitely from the south of England and very definitely a (very) heavy metal act. With a lead singer who looks like he could punch you through a brick wall (ex-Sylosis front man Jamie Graham), the only South Asian I can recall ever seeing in a metal band (Vishal Ketia) and synchronised from-the-waist headbanging, they’re an incredibly powerful live act.

With maybe half an hour to fill, they pummelled through a good number of tracks whilst trying their best to get the small crowd to join in the fun. Despite only a couple of dozen people bothering to hover near the stage, they performed as if they were in front of a full house.

A great performance from a band I would happily go and see again.

Next up were the band I had paid my money to see – Heights. I first saw them when they supported Biohazard earlier this year and they seriously impressed me.

Heights
Heights (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

Well, you know how you come away from a gig telling people how good it was and then when you see the band again, they’re a shadow of that one night? Not the case with Heights. They’ve got better. My apologies for the lack of decent photographs, but they wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to focus. I swear they must have been raised on e-numbers.

Within a minute of the opening track, the singer (sorry, no idea of the guys’ names) was up on the barrier passing the microphone to fans who knew the words. Not to be bested, one of the guitarists joined him – somehow balancing on the metalwork while banging out riffs.

Barely stopping between tracks, they battered the living hell out of the crowd. Facing the same problem as HOAC in that a large portion of the growing crowd preferred to stay near the bar, our intrepid vocalist clambered off the stage and onto the dancefloor. Shoving people around while singing (microphone cable trailing back onto the stage), he managed to start a small but violent pit before the end of the final track.

Guitars were thrown around, mikes dropped and cheers erupted as the most energetic band I’ve seen in years stomped off to cries of “one more tune!” – which we didn’t get. Boo.

Heights are an angry bunch. Loud and aggressive, you get the feeling that if they weren’t battering out ear-crushing riffs on their instruments they’d be using them to commit genocide. Watching them must be like watching the Sex Pistols back in the day before they made it big. They’re a breath of fresh air, a wake-up call. Hugely entertaining and seemingly constantly on tour. I’m hoping I have the chance to see them in February again when they tour with Your Demise.

Devil Sold His Soul
Devil Sold His Soul (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

Last band of the night were Devil Sold His Soul, I think the only act who could lay claim to having more than one album available. They seemed to have brought half of Blackpool Illuminations with them, along with their own lighting guy who was on stage tapping buttons so that everything was in sync.

All very impressive visually, but musically… well, I guess I was in the minority as they certainly seemed to be the band the crowd were waiting for. They weren’t bad, but they just didn’t grab me the way that Heights of HOAC had done. They weren’t helped by the fact that someone decided that the headliners should be louder than everyone else to the point where half of one song sounded to me like Rolf Harris playing the world’s largest stylophone with the bass and reverb turned up full. In a wind tunnel.

Still, can’t complain for £10 (including booking fees). It’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for tours like these. Back to grass roots, bands manning their own merchandise stalls and carrying their own kit – and with the cash they raise going into their own pockets.

Roll on Metal Hammer Razor Tour III!

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Biohazard – King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow

Lionheart
Lionheart (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

[All pictures available from these Flickr sets for Lionheart, Heights and Biohazard]

Time for a comeback with the eloquently-named “In Your Fucking Face” tour, Biohazard once again returned to these shores with no fewer than three bands in tow. Due to being buried in work and just being tired, I missed openers Dripback (who I gather feature a member of Sonishphere’s publicity team on bass).

I got to King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut (best venue name ever) in time to sup a pint of their name-brand beer while catching the tail end of Lionheart’s set. Typical hardcore – bouncy, rhythmic, angry and fronted by a scary guy wearing tattoos and a bandana. A decent reception from the crowd, too. The venue is the kind where the band walk of stage via the crowd so they’re buggered if nobody likes them.

As I waited for the next act to some on, a couple of guys with fairly posh English accents excused themselves to get past and started sorting kit out on stage. It turns out that these very young men with their posh accents were the next support act, Heights. As they themselves admitted whilst on stage, they were somewhat out of place on the bill but they made the most of it.

Heights
Heights (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

Playing a more heavy, thrashy, deathy kind of set they were definitely not playing to a crowd which would automatically accept them. However, they showed no nerves, took no bullshit and played a blinder. Frankly, for a bunch of guys that young it was a hell of an energetic and charismatic set. The moment the first chord was struck they changed from a bunch of university muppets into five rather insane and scary beanpoles.

Hanging from the ceiling, climbing the barrier and posing on the monitors they looked like they owned the damn place.

Helped by a small bunch of their local fans, I genuinely think they went down surprisingly well. Certainly, there was none of the jeering that Orange got before Reel Big Fish the previous night. Or the shouts of “shit!” and glasses of water (probably) thrown at Bring Me The Horizon prior to Machine Head coming on stage (mind you, that was justified – they were bloody awful).

As I mentioned before, the venue is pretty small. As such, it was possible to talk to most of Biohazard as they warmed up and set up their kit for the set. Several of the audience took the opportunity to do so, grabbing some photos and a handshake. It was very much like being at a small gig where your friends were playing on stage. No pretence, no “we’re better than you” bullshit. Just some guys hanging with their mates before jumping on stage and rocking the living shit out of them.

And such they did.

As with RBF the night before, I’m not a huge fan of Biohazard in as much as I don’t really know much of their stuff. The last time I saw them was maybe 1994 or something, back at Bradford Rios when it was still good an attracted a lot of big names. One thing I do know is that they have a reputation. They certainly lived up to it.

Current frontman/guitarist Billy Graziadei was as pumped up and angry as any hardcore lead should be. No messing about, by the first chorus he was in the crowd, standing on their shoulders and being carried around. This was repeated towards the end of the set.

The barrier was chastised and (with the blessing of the two security staff), fans were invited to get on the stage and hurl themselves back off. A handful rose to it, but the barrier did make a difference to how easy this would be.

With a set running to just under ninety minutes, they played a good variety of songs including the one I really do know (from my Radio RamAir days), “Shades of Grey”. Other than a break in the proceedings to raise a glass to a drummer Danny Schuler’s fifth stint at fatherhood (with free beer – thank you!), the show was pretty relentless and hugely enjoyable.

I had to admit that I was surprised that they had chosen such a small venue for this tour, good though its reputation may be. It surprised me more not to see it completely jammed, though I don’t know if this is normal and they just keep numbers low for licensing/security. Whatever, it was a perfect atmosphere with great sound for a band with their stature to play an nice, intimate gig.

Definitely a band I’ll be looking forward to seeing again.

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