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.
London 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Savage Messiah: MySpace
For more photos from this gig, find the bands by name here.