Live (The Conflict Theory / Scapegoat / Elements Of Refusal / The Panic)
After a minor change to the running order, the opening act were confirmed as home-towners The Conflict Theory. It was also apparently a special gig for the youngsters as it was guitarist Rob Abbott’s last appearance with the band, and in fairness it looks like the time away to cope with the ensuing line up change may do them the world of good.
The band are young, all in their late teens, and predictably have their faults but also show a lot of promise at the same time. Their sound is reminiscent of current hot tickets Trivium and Killswitch Engage and musically they are remarkably tight and powerful with some good hooks. The faults however are minor should be ironed out in time, being such things as one of the guitarists is using a tone that stood out like a sore thumb, the bass sound crackling and the vocals coming across as bored on occasions between the songs.
Their final song on the night featured guest vocalist, Ryan Faulkner from Scripted Tragedies, which almost worked apart from the two voices clashing when it came to attempting harmonies. Keep an eye out though, as I think they’ll come back stronger once the new line up is finalised.
Scapegoat took the stage next and I was surprised to see that they looked even younger than the previous band and, as with TCT, there was a little bit of milling about before the set actually started. I was later informed that this is actually their first gig, so I’ll try to stay constructive in my criticism. Each song they played started well (their last track having one of the best intros I’ve heard in a while), but the body of the song writing needs some more work.
In Ben Crowley they have a vocalist with a very powerful guttural voice, but the guitars sounded weak next to this and the songs had no hook, just appearing to meander here and there before petering out at the end. There was barely any interaction with the crowd either and instead, most of the gaps between songs are filled by the drummer, who appears unable to leave his kit alone. However, its very early days for them and there were enough nice little ideas in there to suggest that things will get better quickly.
There was a longer than usual wait before The Panic stepped up, and this, added to a recent appearance in the rock press, led me to hope they would impress. And impress they certainly did, ripping immediately into their slightly off kilter alt-rock sound made up of the sort of stop/start riffages that bite at you with stunning hooks to boot.
Front man James Rose worked the crowd well and the band engaged in two part and three part harmonies that took the songs to another level entirely. The fact that they managed to keep the attention of the audience on a night crowded with more locally based bands showed they’ve got the chops to make waves. I’m certainly looking forward to keeping track of this lot.
Next up were local lads Element Of Refusal, who were coming to the end of their beginning of year tour – and it shows. From the get-go the music was like being hit with a sledgehammer and they were probably the most energetic band to take a stage. The amount of movement bordered on breaking various health and safety laws and it was clear they are having the time of their life, which is always joy to see.
Musically they play the type of progressive hardcore that can sound messy and incoherent if anything falls out of time, but thankfully this band have clicked and simply thundered through a set of brutal songs with the occasional delicate moment.
The tunes themselves appear to be built around the guitar work of Greg Niedzwiecki who managed to work some beautiful overlays into the songs without overstepping the mark and becoming self indulgent. My only gripe was when the vocals switched from powerful screaming to singing the songs lost something. All the right notes were being hit in the right places, but compared to the screaming it came across as fairly passionless – it would be nice to hear the singing hold the same conviction throughout the set, as the mix is shown to work well on epic set closer ‘Morning Star’.
Headlining act were Luton / Stevenage heroes Imicus, who started strong and kept up the pace throughout. While being primarily a metal band, these guys have a song writing style that harks back to the 80’s with a lot of focus on sing-along choruses and letting the vocals stand proud at the foreground. This is not to put down the music, as it was well played by a solid rhythm section with guitarist Alex Lewis showing his ability with some intricate work ‘behind the scenes’, before exploding into some breath-taking solos. And it is this love of the lost art of the guitar solo, mixed with the prominent vocals, that brought in the crowds to see them and make them commercial – a word that in some circles is considered ugly and to be avoided, but thankfully these boys embrace it.
Of course, I can’t gush continuously as the set wasn’t faultless. While new song ‘Demons’ showed that the band are still improving further as songwriters, it also highlighted a limitation to Miller’s voice as he appeared to shy from an ambitious note before the solo, and, on occasions, he resorted to screaming instead of singing – most notably on album stand out track ‘Demise Of An Angel’. However, these are minor problems which can be easily overcome. Besides, with an ever growing fan base that the band show a real connection to, its clear they’ve got a decent chance to really make an impression.
Guest article from Nik S.
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