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METAL! ! ! Nemhain
Savage Messiah
Severed Heaven
The Rocket, London
Thursday April 24 2008






In a vaguely surreal touch of decor, there are several posters on the walls of tonight's venue that simply say 'METAL'. I think we can infer from this that it's metal night, then. Not that we really needed to be told, but it's always nice to get these things clear from the start, don't you think? Right, then. Having established that we haven't come on jazz funk night by mistake, let's get a beer, and pay some attention to the musical entertainment.

Severed HeavenLondon can be a tough nut for a band to crack, and tonight I think Severed Heaven are learning that lesson. Down from Leeds for their first London gig, they're suitably fired up and certainly ready to rock it up. The audience, alas, is minimal – it's one of those gigs where there's a mere handful of people in the room, and most of them are members of the other bands. Thus it is that Severed Heaven end up hurling their roaring death metal noise at a wide expanse of empty floor. Undaunted, they swagger through their set as if a seething moshpit was before them – a fine example of gung-ho rockin' attitude in the face of adversity, if a faintly surreal state of affairs.

And yes, I did indeed say death metal. That's not my thing at all, but it's certainly Severed Heaven's musical territory, and they've got all the right sonic missiles in their armoury. Check them off the list: those intricate, fiddly-widdly guitar parts which somehow combine to create a monolithic blast of noise; the singer who barks out the vocals as if she's got a Brillo pad lodged in her throat. Yep, all the essential stuff is here. Those Brillo pad vocals, in fact, tend to default to the same hoarse, staccato, four-rasps-to-the-bar sound in almost every song - a kind of percussive 'Quack-quack-quack-quaaaaack! Quack-quack-quack-quaaaaack!' noise which presumably is the way it's done in death metal circles.

It's all a bit of an endurance test for me, but I dare say the diehard denizens of the death metal swamplands are going to love this stuff. It's just a pity more of them haven't shown up tonight.

Savage MessiahSavage Messiah troop on stage, veritably bristling with the products of the BC Rich guitar factory. Here's a handy tip: if you see a BC Rich guitar on stage, you know you're in the metal zone. Savage Messiah feature both a BC Rich guitar and bass, which presumably means they're very metal indeed.

Sure enough, the Messiahs proceed to churn out a set of rampant, riff-heavy songs which thrash it up to eleven right from the start - and yet, amid the thrashorama, there's a hint or two that the band owes quite a bit to the classic days of the Maiden and the Priest. The Savage Messiah lads, I suspect, grew up listening to Tommy Vance on the Radio One Friday Rock Show, and absorbed every nuance.

Not that 'nuance' is the operative word here: the music is a full-force rampage, a maximum heaviosity headbanger's ball encapsulated in one band. As with Severed Heaven, this isn't my musical territory, so while I can appreciate Savage Messiah's musical prowess and their winning way with the old bludgeon riffola, my soul remains defiantly unstirred. I'm certainly not about to bang my head. But if you want a bit of quality thrash action, I'm sure you'll find it here. Mr BC Rich would be proud of 'em.

Nemhain come with fame attached. Drummer Adrian Erlandsson was previously in Cradle Of Filth, but don't let that put you off. Nemhain are a very different band, a world away from the cartooninsh screeching and gurning of Dani Filth's mob, and for that I am very thankful. Indeed, Nemhain's three-way mash-up of glam-punk-rock has so much natural crossover appeal it's hard to fathom why they're heading up tonight's decidedly metal-oriented gig, especially as the skimpy crowd drops a hint that the heavy metal hordes the band perhaps assume would be their natural audience are less than massively interested.

But Nemhain drop their rock bomb regardless, blatting their way through strut-and-swagger anthems like a cross between the Runaways and Hanoi Rocks. Singer Amber Erlandsson, all eyes and attitude, comes on like the head girl of the rock 'n' roll academy – approachable and friendly between ther songs, always with an arched-eyebrow smile for the fans at the front – but when the music kicks in nobody's left in any doubt that she Rules. On her left, Lisa Dickinson on bass pouts with frosty cool; on

Nemhain Nemhain

her right guitarist Lakis Kyriacou peels off the licks while touting his Les Paul in approved gunslinger mode. Amber introduces 'Speed Queen' with a short discourse on launderette equipment - as a touring band, Nemhain are probably on intimate terms with launderettes all over the world, and know that Speed Queen is a brand of laundry equipment. The fans, without this esoteric knowledge, exchange baffled glances. Fortunately, the song itself is another of Nemhain's trademark barrelling rockers, and everyone gives it up for the mosh. It's all a fine display of ragged-but-right punk rockism, and even the sudden death of the guitar amp doesn't stop that punk rockism from thundering forth.

All of which illustrates the point I'm driving towards. Somewhere in the rock/punk crossover zone, there's probably a large and appreciative audience for Nemhain's gritty, glammy groove. If the band went on tour with, say, Love and a .45 – a bunch of punkers who keep gigging relentlessly around their home scene, as it were, but are musically heading towards a very similar rock destination as Nemhain – they'd probably hit the crossover crowd on the nose. As it is, we've had a good gig, but tonight's sparse turnout suggests the metal scene isn't quite the right place for Nemhain to be.

Essential links:

Nemhain: Website | MySpace

Savage Messiah: MySpace

Severed Heaven: Website | MySpace

For more photos from this gig, find the bands by name here.

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  Page credits: Review, photos and construction by Michael Johnson.
Nemesis logo by Antony Johnston, Red N version by Mark Rimmell.