Thursday, 19 April 2012

Stray from the path / Rolo Tomassi / Architects @ The Underground 17th April 2012

Review by Liam Kerin

Taking my place at the back of an unusually long queue at the Underground in Stoke, the sense of excitement of those around me is all too apparent to see. 

Even the heavens opening can’t dampen the atmosphere as fans gear up to see one of the anticipated metal gigs of the year.

Brighton Tech metallers Architects, supported by Rolo Tomassi and Stray from the Path are here for the last date on their successful UK tour.

Surprisingly, even at ten to eight, at least half an hour before the openers are due to take to the stage the venue is already close to its capacity, with many more still queuing outside.

By twenty past eight, Stray from the path enter our view, and do so with immediate effect.

With little prior warning, vocalist Drew York bellows we should all ‘wake the **** up’ to kick off their set, to a still slightly perplexed audience.

The four piece, who have also played a number of headline shows on their days off on this tour waste little time in getting things moving, launching into a set full of aggressive hardcore songs which are in a similar vein to Gallows.

Although their songs lack any particularly memorable moments, they are well crafted and are perfect for tonight’s bill – with vocalist York even managing to perform a flip from the speakers into the crowd.

Next up is the much hyped Rolo Tomassi; playing a blend of music which is not to dissimilar to The Dillinger Escape Plan, albeit with less technicality, the quintet from Sheffield are quick to pick up from where Stray from the path left off.
Vocalist Eva Spence bounds around the stage, whilst never seeming to break into a sweat, managing to look both feminine and sexy whilst performing impressive screaming vocals which would be the envy of many her male metal counterparts.

The band also manage to debut two of the new songs off their album which is due out this year, which showcase a heavier side to the experimental band.

Their music however is clearly not everyone’s cup of tea and whilst the majority of the room are well into their set, many are also heading outside as their experimental hardcore throws the listener into a number of different genre’s in a short space of time. Going from ridiculously heavy one minute to unusual jazz complexities the next, it is certainly something you either love or hate.

 By now the venue is packed, and the anticipation for Architects, who have just announced that this will be guitarist Tim Hillier-Brook’s last UK show with the band, has reached boiling point.
Opening with the excellent Devil’s Island, a song with the line ‘You want a voice, but your voices sound like violence’ in clear reference to last year’s riots, the whole room explodes.

The next hour and a bit becomes a mass of flailing arms and limbs, with vocalist Sam Carter exuding his usual natural energy around the stage,  and easily controls what is a raucous crowd.
Drummer Dan Searle, despite the complexities of his rhythms, never misses a beat, and is just one component in making their performance seem effortless.

At one point, a young fan manages to get onto the stage – as many of the crowd have been doing all night with Carter’s encouragement, right at the end of a song. Instead of jumping back into the crowd straight away, the frontman gets him – who we now know to be called Scott, to stay on the stage with them until they start the next song, much to his clear excitement – and slight embarrassment.

The band, who have 4 studio albums to date, with a fifth – Daybreaker to be released on 28 May, only play material tonight from their 3 latest album, which is a disappointment to many of their older fans, as there are some genuine classics in their back catalogue which have been missed out. However, the awesome, delete:rewind, new track these colours don’t run and follow the water all get an airing.

We also get to see Rolo Tomassi’s synth player James Spence – brother of Eva, make an unexpected re-appearance during the song ‘We’re all alone’ as he dives into the crowd from one of the speakers – a popular theme for the night.

As the set nears its climax, Carter announces that instead of doing ‘the thing that most bands do where they go off stage for a bit then come back on, they’re going to play straight through’ much to the pleasure of the crowd, who are clearly eager for more – especially as he had previously said that this would be their last song.

Surprisingly slowing things down with the epic ‘Hollow Crown’ the title track of their third album, they have the audience in the palm of their hand, so by the time their final song, Early Grave kicks in, the whole room is moving, people are getting clattered into in the pit but nobody cares, they’re having a good time and that’s all that matters.

As the set ends and people begin to filter out, the realisation dawns that it may be some time until we see them back here, especially at such a small venue , this is a band who deserve to be playing at the top.

On tonight’s evidence, they are well on their way to getting there.

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