New project featuring Mikee Goodman impresses
As shoebox venues go, The Black Heart, tucked away down an alley behind The Worlds End in Camden, must rank as my favourite in London. It possesses a remarkably good PA for its size, and the atmosphere is always cosy and intimate. The fact the live room sits on top of a pleasant, unpretentious bar that is largely tourist and creepy weirdo-free doesn’t hurt either.
We are here tonight to witness the penultimate date of Outpatients‘ debut tour, with the main draw the presence in their line-up of Mikee Goodman, who made his name as a member of tech-metal godfathers SikTh.
But before we get to them, we have support band The One Hundred. Vocalist Jacob lets us know that this is only the second gig ever for this young London-based quartet, so landing a gig like this is something of a coup. It would probably be unfair to subject them to a full, unstinting review at this early stage in the band’s development, too, but their set was not without its charms.
The band kick out a hybrid sound in a similar vein to Enter Shikari, with a nod to Hacktivist and a metalcore breakdown or two for flavor. The band are certainly much tighter than many I’ve seen at this stage, but they do seem to be playing safe with the songwriting and there aren’t many surprises.
Watching their set, this grizzled old reviewer spotted a couple of things they could do to improve their sound and stageshow. The singer takes charge of the laptop containing the backing track, but it is attached to a keyboard that remains pretty much unused throughout the set, so it clutters up the stage and gets in the way. Giving the laptop to the drummer would give them a bit more room to breathe. I also think the bass player could do with losing his pick and developing his fingerstyle, which would fatten out his sound and give it a bit more natural groove. But I am a hopeless bass nerd.
So there’s still some work for The One Hundred to do, but it’s nothing more practice, more gigs and taking some more songwriting risks can’t potentially fix. They can be proud of what they’ve achieved so far.
Outpatients start filtering on to the stage one by one at about 9:15 to the sound of a sample repeatedly triggered by bass player Kieron. Mikee is last on, and the band promptly erupts into a riff so colossal that I physically take a step back.
Up to this point, all any of us have heard is from the video of “Throw Rocks” but the sound tonight, bolstered by the live drums barely evident in the recording, is much rawer and heavier, with the electronic elements of the sound sitting much lower in the mix.
The overall sound takes in the burly, punky grooves of British bands like Skindred or Pitchshifter, and bolts them to some unmistakably Japanese influences like Melt Banana, Mad Capsule Markets and maybe even a sprinkling of the bubblegum pop sensibilities of bands like Shonen Knife.
It is a commanding, brashly confident performance. It’s almost hard to believe the band have barely half a dozen gigs under their collective belt, but the previous experience of the members shines through.
Playing a set of songs completely unfamiliar to the majority of the crowd is an unenviable task, but the material is immediate and infectious, as are the obvious signs that the band are having a great time performing it. Along with Kieron, guitarist Charley and drummer Will lock in to provide a rock solid platform for Mikee and Yuuri‘s duelling vocals.
Whether taking lines or verses in turn, or layering their vocals on top of one another, there’s a tangible artistic chemistry between the pair of them. Mikee possesses one of the most distinctive voices in metal, and over the course of the set he delivers his lines in a variety of styles, from low muttering through quickfire rapping to all-out demented screaming.
Yuuri is more than capable of holding her own, making this pairing very much an equal partnership. She, in turn, also lurches between all-out screaming and a sing-song style that, in this context, carries a slightly sinister undertone.
The band play a short, punchy, energetic set with “Throw Rocks” coming as the finale barely 45 minutes later. The brief set coupled with the early stage times sees us filing out of the venue just after 10, clutching a £5 shirt that, bizarrely but splendidly, comes with a free CD and DVD of Brit metal supergroup This Is Menace. Bargain. But this early finish definitely caught out at least a couple of punters, arriving after it was all over, presumably expecting a 10pm headline slot.
All in all, it was a tremendously exciting experience, with the only slightly disappointing surprise being that the small venue isn’t completely packed out. Are there really not 100 Sikth fans in London open-minded enough to have given Outpatients a go?
Nevertheless, for those who did venture out, there was a palpable feeling of being in on the ground floor of something special. Outpatients have firmly wedged themselves near the top of my list of bands to watch in 2014, and if you like your music to be equal parts spiky, groovy and quirky, they should be high on yours, too.