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Huge five-band bill, topped by The Colour Line, in a small upstairs room. What could go wrong?!

The Colour Line Bear Immerse Lavonduss Stainded Saints The Black Heart poster

The Black Heart is fast becoming a favourite venue for The Monolith’s London-based writers. Slightly off the beaten back-streets, but so very close to the roomier and better known Camden venues, it’s cosy, authentic, and a great sounding board for smaller or younger bands, and proof that the “toilet” venue is not yet dead.

A couple of us headed down for a Destroy Everything-led five-band bill last week, and have collated our thoughts thusly:

I did have a few things to say about young openers Stained Saints, but soon after everyone got home, the band announced they were splitting up after just three shows together, rendering pretty much everything moot.

It would appear that pretty much every member of Stained Saints is in at least one other band, so I expect we’ll be seeing most of then again in some form or other before too long – so there’s not really much to say about them, other than that vocalist William Young clearly has potential as a frontman, with a range and stage presence that outshone his now ex-bandmates.

- Simon

For only the second band in a five-band bill, Lavondyss were quite a pleasant surprise. Having made the trek all the way down from Rugby in The Midlands, the quintet went about their set-up quietly and efficiently – and then launched into an accomplished set of fierce melodic hardcore to rumble the early punters.

Engaging vocalists are often the difference between just passable and better than average, and diminutive frontman Rob certainly makes a case for the band by spending much of their half hour halfway across the room. Often, the chasm of space between the stage and the front line of the crowd feels like a barrier of disinterest, but Rob prowls the semicircle that has formed constantly, moving his mic stand around often, and whilst he doesn’t get right up in anyone’s face per se, it’s certainly more interesting to watch.

Guitarist Sam adds clean vocals into the mix on occasion (more of the melody), popping up here and there but never becoming overbearing. He and the rest of the musical contingent are bang on, creating an engaging racket. This style of music is easy to do wrong, and hard to get right, and in their short set they made a good case for further investigation.

- Chris

Immerse seemed to bring in a good sized crowd to watch their tech-metal set, but it was disappointing to see that a noticeable proportion of them disappeared into the night even before Bear took the stage. Bad form.

Immerse gained a certain amount of notoriety by jumping onto the 2013 UK Tech-Metal Fest bill at the last minute without even having a drummer in their line-up – but it is now complete, and tonight is their second guitarist’s first show as a member of the band.

The band started life as a bedroom project and, sadly, that’s exactly what their music sounds like. The tracks quickly descend into fairly directionless, haphazard riff parades that lean heavily on tech-metal cliches and lack cohesive dynamics or meaningful hooks and grooves. With both guitarists often playing fussy, single-note runs, the overall sound is often distressingly thin.

Now that they have a full complement of musicians, its probably time for the band to go back to the drawing board and try to find their own voice.

Bear Live

Photo credit: Katie Croft

Some bands are tight. A select few are very tight indeed. But, operating in a realm beyond that are Belgian groove terrorists Bear. Operating without the seemingly ubiquitous safety net of a click track, Bear deliver one of the tightest performances I think I’ve ever seen. Often even dispensing with count-ins, and utilising the most subtle of cues, they function virtually as a single organism. Dropping extended pauses into the familiar opening riff of “Rain“, the lead single from second album Noumenon, in perfect unison is deeply impressive.

With guitarist Leander Tsjakalov and bassist Dries Verhaert literally bouncing off the walls and imposing frontman Maarten Albrechts looming over the front rows of the crowd, this isn’t a performance; it is a mauling. Drummer Serch Carriere provides a rock solid foundation for the band, smacking his kit with a breathtaking combination of power and precision.

The band rip through a selection of tracks from Noumenon, as well as debut album Doradus, and in the process deliver something of a masterclass in how to balance furious technicality and beefy, head-nodding groove. Younger bands would do well to watch and learn.

The set is enthralling to the point that it feels like it passes in moments, reaching a climax that sees Leander and Dries pelting cymbals with their guitars, before Leander literally jumps into Serch’s lap, forcing an abrupt end to the song as the kit collapses. They don’t so much leave the stage as abandon it, leaving drums, monitors and guitars still feeding back strewn across both the stage and the floor.

Obey the Bear? Quite frankly, you’d be a fool not to. This is how it should be done.

- Simon

Colour Line Live

Photo credit: Katie Croft

If ever the phrase “British Dillinger Escape Plan” was apt, then it is for now. The Colour Line have been growing steadily more notorious in the past year – slowly but surely, as survivors are discharged from hospital and tell their tales. That’s not even such an exaggeration, as at least one or two punters enthusiastically reported their own bloodshed once the band were finished for the evening.

It’s also not the only bodily fluid spilled; sweat pours from every member after a couple of songs, such is the intensity of their performance. All members, bar drummer of course, hurl themselves at these more willing members of the audience with abandon, who respond in kind.

This is not the kind of set for paying particular attention to all the notes and riffs and what-not, because you can’t; this sort of set is about energy and aggression and having a bit of fun. With their Destroy Everything debut on the horizon, the band banged through as much material as possible, with songs like “Thrash Bandicoot” and “Ewoks Don’t Play Nice” familiar to fans, but it’s sometimes hard to make out even what you know, so it’s better to just go with it.

Riotously good-natured, it’s hard not to enjoy The Colour Line’s set, or come away feeling like you saw something a bit special. Or that you were a bit violated in some way. Good show, boys.

- Chris

Simon Chris