Sunday, 23 March 2008

Operation Error/Liquid Sky @ The Rigger, Newcastle-under-Lyme. 22nd March.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

The Rigger is undoubtedly one of the great heavy rock pubs of the Potteries landscape, so where else better to sit oneself down to watch some great heavy rock, and this evening some great heavy rock is what I saw. Operation Error’s Myspace site describes their particular genre as ‘progressive epic’, and having watched their act and listened to their two EPs, ‘The Voice of Jor-El’ and the more recent ‘Written on the Mirror’, I can understand exactly what they mean. First of all, I want to say that vocalist Steve Ayers has a voice that is touching on world class. I can’t recall hearing a singer of such emotional earnestness since the great Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. On the band’s recordings, his gripping vocals have just the right hint of powerful melancholia and quiet despair to turn a merely great composition like ‘I am David’ into a near-masterpiece. ‘Epic’ really does seem to be the defining word as far as this band is concerned. With some strong harmonies and neat twin leadwork, practically every song on Operation Error’s two CDs has an almost majestic intensity; the robust drums and rock-solid 5-string bass anchored right on the bottom effortlessly supporting the powerful musical structures towering overhead, so to speak; and I love those grandiose endings – even more so live. The audience loved ‘em too. Once again the talent of Stoke-on-Trent leaves me stunned, and it just keeps on coming.

Six in number and hailing from Manchester, Liquid Sky are an unusually large metal band with an exceptionally powerful female singer. Although small of frame, vocalist Hecate Taglietti has a big, big voice; gutsy and clear as a bell, her soaring vocals slice through the seething metal mayhem behind her like a finely-honed silver blade. Like the previous outfit's vocalist, her melodic input seems to boost the overall sound up to the epic proportions both bands obviously strive to achieve; and achieve it they do. This isn’t to say that the other members lack in any way though, Rick Ogden plays his keyboards with fire and imagination, whilst the inspired and nicely tricky licks exchanged between guitarists Jonathan Craven and Andy Midgley put me in mind of the halcyon twin-lead days of Thin Lizzy. Drummer Anthony Marginson and Den Constable on bass provide a formidable and hard-working rhythm section to boot. ‘Chunky’ would be a good descriptive word as far as these are concerned and I particularly warmed to the dark descending chords in ‘Dreamstate’, a great showcase for Hecate’s voice; but then again, that could be said of all their numbers. I marvelled at the way ‘Beyond the Divide’ developed from but a punchy intro into a vast celebration of a song; whilst their closing number ‘Watch the Ocean’ has the most engagingly choppy riff. Very professional and not a little commercial, I should think Liquid Sky is a band with a considerably rosy future. A great night once again.

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