Simon reports from a technically hampered show featuring Invocation, No Sin Evades His Gaze, Far From History and Arise
Despite the fact I have been to more shows in the Islington Academy’s main room than I can possibly remember, I’ve never seen one in the small-but-perfectly-formed upstairs venue. So tonight’s collection of four unsigned bands is a first for me.
It is also a first for the profoundly young members of Arise, who open up proceedings with their first ever London gig. As a six piece, the small stage is pretty crowded – and they have done a good job of getting their mates down to watch their early set.
But it quickly becomes apparent that Arise are more of a rite of passage than an outfit to be taken particularly seriously. They rely heavily on the standard -core cliches, with the basic format of pretty much every track being faster, punky sections bolted to half-time, open string chugging.
Most of the band look uncomfortable on stage, especially when they are left standing around waiting for a largely superfluous backing track to do its thing. Attempts at harmonies are only occasionally successful, and the riffs are far from memorable.
With barely two original ideas to rub together there’s little on display to be inspired by at this stage – but it is fair to say that pretty much every musician starts off in bands like this, playing to their mates at the bottom of bills. It may not be a particularly auspicious start for these guys, but it is a start nevertheless.
Second band Far From History are travelling the same path as Arise, but are substantially further along it. It is particularly refreshing to see a band of this stripe play without the safety net of a backing track. The band also feel the benefit of seemingly being the biggest draw of the evening, and there is a good sized crowd watching them play.
Far From History’s metalcore holds few surprises, but it noses ahead of the pack thanks to some imaginative right-hand action from the guitarists that give the songs some satisfyingly chunky moments. Not only that, but they are propelled by some particularly tasty drumming. Vocalist Tony switches between screaming and singing with relative ease, and the harmonies are also well-executed.
If Far From History have a problem, it is that there are so many bands plying this kind of material at this level, even the fact they are doing it better than most may be lost in a sea teeming with largely interchangeable groups. These guys definitely have the skills, so it would be good to see them experiment more with their sound in the future.
Any actively gigging band will have nights where anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Tonight is one of those nights for No Sin Evades His Gaze. In between arriving at the venue and their stage time, guitarist Kev is completely incapacitated by a sudden illness. With him laid up in an undisclosed location, the band are forced to play as a four piece.
If this wasn’t enough, drummer Theo is beleaguered with problems, first with borrowed kit all but collapsing under his feet, and then with the laptop holding the backing track. This leaves vocalist James with some uncomfortably long pauses in the music to fill in for, with varying degrees of success.
As the band play through a selection of cuts from their powerful debut album Age of Sedation, the absence of the second guitar is keenly felt. Their sound is unsurprisingly thinner for being a man down, but the quality of the tracks still shines through. Testament to this is the generation of an old-fashioned push mosh rather than the sporadic throwing down that had greeted the first two sets.
For a band with a relatively short gigging history, tonight is ultimately a learning experience. Most importantly, guitarists Dan and Kev would probably do well to learn the most critical sections of each other’s parts, so that they can cover should either of them be unexpectedly absent. In emergency situations, the band would be better served focussing on the brute force that underpins the tracks, even at the expense of some of the more technical flourishes. James possibly needs to work up a bank of onstage patter he can draw upon to cover any lulls in proceedings as well.
The set is brought to a close with a rendition of the album’s title track, which is pulverising even in its somewhat denuded state. While this may be one night the band would sooner forget, it certainly shows to me that a full-strength No Sin Evades His Gaze on a club stage will be a thoroughly fearsome proposition.
As Invocation launch into their headline slot, it is clear that we aren’t quite done with technical issues for the evening. For at least the duration of the first verse, only the drums and vocals are audible. However, as the guitars creep into the mix, the sound fills out in an agreeably groovy and chunky fashion.
Unfortunately though, their set time must be past the bedtimes of the majority of the young crowd, so the audience has thinned substantially – not that this visibly dampens their performance, nor the response of those that have stuck around to watch them.
The band kick out an admittedly potent sound, but I’m not sure they’ve quite figured out how to best deploy it yet. The songs quickly start to blend into one another a little. Invocation may also be guilty of wearing their influences a little too openly on their sleeves: a quick look at bass player Rob’s astonishingly threadbare Tech Fest mk 1 vest, and even the font of their logo shows without the band playing a note that they sit squarely on the axis of Tesser-ments. However, hailing from Milton Keynes does give them a stronger claim to this particular sound than most.
Pleasingly, the strongest songs of the set are a pair of brand new tracks, but to continue the theme of the evening, a temporarily borked laptop breaks the momentum. Perhaps it is the run of issues experienced by three of the four bands tonight with their backing, perhaps I am just old-fashioned, but I do wonder if sometimes the extra technology is more trouble than it is worth for many metal bands. The occasional synth line or sub drop just doesn’t bring enough to the party to justify running the risk of it failing.
Much like Far From History before them, there is much to be encouraged by in Invocation’s set. They are tight, energetic and confident as a unit, and the level of musicianship is high. The new tracks are laden with promise for the future, so providing they have a few more flashes of inspiration, and maybe take a risk or two to carve out a genuinely distinctive sound of their own, we could well see some great things from these guys before too long.