Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Dry the River / Camp Stag / Arcane Roots @ The Sugarmill 29th October 2012

Review by Andy Law

Outside of exceptionally talented guitarist/lead vocalist Andrew Groves' exceptional bad luck with snapping guitar strings (Halloween blues, maybe?), Arcane Roots sweep out any such technical cobwebs with a high octane, energetic stage show.
If tonight's evidence is anything to go by, progressive is the new cool in alternative rock these days; healthy, in the interests of continually re-energizing this vital and cutting edge genre (and of course, keeping Radio 1 happy). Vocally, Arcane Roots mix it up between falsetto, screams and lung piercing notes really rather well, while musically they particularly impress on the broken down, slower numbers, bringing so much more substance out of the band.
Mega melodies, beautiful tunage and beefier choruses are all the end product of this change in tempo. Call it standard melody, if you like, but it works - it always has and always will. Outside of this, and the impressive backing vocals, subtle virtuoso guitar breaks (note the Van Halen esque tapping on several tunes) and the Arcane Roots formula of aggression meets progression sadly doesn't really mark any new territory on a highly populated scene. Currently working on an album and sure to be stars on Radio 1 with single Resolve, success may already be guaranteed, but to these ears the bands greater strength has yet to be fully realized.     

Serving up luscious vocals with pretty, progressive rhythms and seismic bass grooves, Camp Stag open things up with a warming twist. 'Ultimate chilling music' volume 5 meets with enough dynamic shifts to get the foot tapping, while hammond organs are as at home as a candyfloss at a fare.
Walking With Broken Bones is a particularly inspiring effort, as painstakingly impressive as the title, and with a mouthwatering chorus hook, single Sirens is the one you simply can't ignore. To such a point, it prompted The Fortunas (on Sound cloud) to brand it 'the best track by a local band for months';  although a bit like the trademark red swimsuit without Yasmin Bleeth, it leaves you wanting more than the bare three minutes on offer... 
The e.p. title track When the lights come down throws an atmospheric guitar solo into the mix, the final flourish adding to a set where you can't help but admire the textures this band creates and the effortless vocals that lead the way.
For the fans out there the set list was Matilda Please / Walking With Broken Bones / Northern Dream / Call It The Flame Sirens / When The Light Comes Down

On route via an epically dodgy 80's intro theme music, pushing us to a close are the venue filling Dry The River. With no less than six band members - including a violinist, twin guitars and keys - Dry the River are one of the most strictly musical bands these ears have heard in years. Three part vocal harmonies are full of folk vibes, violins flow indulgently into delightful acoustic guitars and choruses are often memorable. This is, of course, coupled with keyboards to pad the whole thing out and electric guitars to add to the musical maelstrom.
Perfect for a relaxed Summers evening or a log fire on a cold winters night, the bands onstage chemistry doesn't go unnoticed either; with more guitar changes than Gangem style single's sales and a bassist Scott Miller who screams 'metal band side project' with his constant poses, its as entertaining as it is enchanting. 
In the way of height, hair and even voice, singer/guitarist Pete Little bears an uncanny resemblance to Justin Hawkins - and although individually 99% falsetto free vocals would admittedly be better, collectively it works with the harmonies.  Such vocals can either be considered dated or timeless; besides the point, really, as what really counts is the songs, and on this front Dry The River are a joy. Additionally, any band who can drift seamlessly into performing with only three lonely voices and an acoustic mike free cannot fail to win your admiration.
So, there you have it - a band of authentic musicians, with real singing and real atmosphere, performing well written songs. If that doesn't get us all singing from the same hymn-sheet, little else will - and that's why, irrespective of what is flavour of the day or what genre it is, we live and love great music.      
If you'd like to treat your ears, then Shallow Bed (Acoustic) is out through RCA Victor via Digital Download 17th December 2012.

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