Reporting from the London date of Centiment’s first UK tour, with support from Brutai and Subversion
Heading down to what was, effectively, Centiment‘s second ever gig, I was interested to see what type of crowd they would attract. Their debut album Streets Of Rage has been given a largely positive reaction, and has garnered interest from quarters usually unmoved by the output of InMe, the band in which three quarters of Centiment have made their name.
But before they take to the stage, we have two support bands, Subversion and Brutai. I admit I approached Subversion’s set with a certain degree of trepidation. My recent experience with their EP was less than satisfactory, but it did also mean that I was better acquainted with a number of their tracks than I had been when I’d seen them in the past.
Pleasingly, their set turned out to be the best performance I’ve seen from them to date. Better still, the newest tracks aired – including one so new that it hasn’t even been named yet – are the best of the bunch, which bodes well for the future.
But better is by no means perfect, and there are still some areas that need some pretty urgent attention. First and foremost is the overall tightness of the rhythm section. Drummer Ben Atkinson is still a relatively recent addition to the line-up, but his playing feels hesitant for much of the set. The backing tracks are much quieter tonight than they are on record, so perhaps he is struggling to hear them. Either way, given their pivotal nature to the band’s sound, it may be a good idea tofor him to invest in some high quality in-ears or headphones.
Much more needs to be done to lock Ben’s right foot in with bass player Rich Lawry-Johns’ right hand, which would make the overall sound much crisper and less muddy.
Vocalist Karl Harrigan is an imposing presence on stage, but seems nervous when addressing the crowd. He is also noticeably out of breath after just a few tracks. Again, as a recent addition, he may need some more time to work on his stagecraft and vocal technique, so there is more to it than simply pure force. However, its clear he is throwing his all into his performance, which is more than can be said for Rich, who is virtually immobile and seems to not even break a sweat.
But, nevertheless, it is encouraging to see the band moving in the right direction.
Local quartet Brutai are a more seasoned outfit, and singer Felix Lawrie does a good job of enticing the small but steadily growing crowd up closer to the stage.
The band are tight and the sound is clear enough to be able to pick out all the separate instruments. Brutai are carving out an interesting niche for themselves; their sound is too melodic to be purely described as metalcore and too crunchy to be prog or post-hardcore. There are also some tasty little tech-inspired guitar flourishes, not to mention some full-bore guitar solos, that spice up the mix even further.
With “Sleeper” being the strongest song of the set, it is possible that the band haven’t quite written the tunes that will take them to the next level, but they can’t be far off now. Drummer Emilio seems a little over-restricted with a cut-down kit that doesn’t include any rack toms, which does make some of the fills feel a little thin, even compared to the recorded versions of the tracks on their EP.
With a distinctive sound and strong stage presence (including a neat line in synchronised headbanging), and a coveted slot on the bill of this year’s Euroblast already secured, expect to hear plenty more from Brutai in the coming months.
By the time Centiment hit the stage for a relatively early headline slot, the crowd has comfortably filled out the venue. It’s not quite a sell-out, but a respectable showing for a new band, albeit one featuring some familiar faces.
With Greg McPherson swapping from his usual bass role in InMe to the guitar, his brother Dave ditching his guitar entirely, and a rhythm section that has never toured before, these guys are striding well outside their collective comfort zone – and all this is before you consider the fact that Centiment’s high-octane tech metal is rather more physically demanding than InMe’s usual territory.
But if there are any nerves in the Centiment camp, they are all but invisible as they take to the stage and the bleepy synth intro of “S.O.S.“, the first track on Streets of Rage starts to roll. When the band kicks in, it is clear they pack a serious punch. Whilst the recorded versions of these songs are already pleasingly weighty, they are beefed up still further by the full live sound.
A key factor here is drummer Mark, who is a bit of a revelation. It doesn’t take him long to prove he is something of a powerhouse, providing an absolutely rock-solid foundation for the rest of the band to play off. The hours the band have spent in rehearsal over the last year or so have clearly paid off.
Greg, too, looks comfortable in his new role and clearly revelling in bringing the band that was his baby to the stage. When not providing backing vocals, he moves around the relatively small Borderline stage, as if he is checking in with his bandmates.
When I spoke to Dave recently he expressed a certain amount of concern about precisely what he was going to do with his hands without a guitar to hold. It transpires that one thing he can now do is hold a drink. An open request for a pint of Guinness leads to a long line of pints appearing on the stage. This lends a certain ironic twist to “Bloodshot“, with its “I like to drink motherfucker” refrain – and the song seems to be given a bit of extra heft by the addition of a few bpm from the recorded version.
Dave jumps from falsetto to full throated roar and back again with a practised confidence, but its clearly a serious work out, so I’m sure he’ll be feeling it by the end of the run of dates.
The band run through pretty much all of Streets Of Rage, although with a different running order so its harder to keep track. Each song is met by enthusiasm from the crowd, with a small but determined group at the front of the stage bouncing around for the duration of the set.
In short, it was a cracking set. If anything, the songs work even better live than they do on record, and any potential issues a relatively new band could have faced are overcome by their collective experience.
After this tour is done, the band will be making an appearance at Southampton’s Takedown Festival next month, and I will certainly be keeping the slot free to catch their set. If the band can continue to deliver songs and performances of this calibre, there’s no reason why Centiment shouldn’t be seen as a separate entity in their own right, rather than an InMe side project.