Fresh on the release of their sophomore album Everything Ever, God Damn embark on the first of their two big support tours this autumn. Released less than two weeks ago, I’ve been playing the album non-stop and visualising these monumental new tracks live. Tonight’s the night, 2nd October, Birmingham, and I can’t think of a better way to start gig season. Speaking to Thomas Edward (guitar, vocals) just prior to the new album release, he told me how “pretty fuckin cool” it was to be billed on the same poster as Torche and Red Fang.
I arrived at the O2 Institute in plenty of time knowing that these guys were on first and wow! I’ve never seen a queue quite like this before. Red Fang and Torche appear to have a big fanbase in the Midlands; there are plenty of God Damn fans here too, unsurprisingly, this being their closest show to home. Slowly shuffling forward from right around the building and half way down the street, I start to panic I won’t get in in time, but half an hour should do it. How wrong I was! I literally manage to grab my pass, push through the doors and run downstairs just as “Fake Prisons” is being belted out and I’m completely knocked off my feet by the astronomical barrage of sound that greets me. I’ve seen this band live several times before, but the sound produced tonight was denser than ever! I head to the front, heart racing and with the hairs on the back of my neck up, I try and grab a good spot where a sizeable crowd is growing by the second.
With newest member James on keys, Ash Weaver annihilating drums and Thom’s brazen, tongue out guttural cries against a back drop of stacked amps, you cannot fail to be impressed by this mighty trio. The visceral sound they create hits you like a freight train, and it doesn’t just hit, it has you impaled. As Ash begins to pummel his kit into this side of next week, “When the Wind Blows” maintains the pace in this supercharged set. With a pedal board that would make some grown men cry, Thom’s distinct scuzz-fest of sound reverbrates around the venue and penetrates the soul. Thick with burly riffs, the crowd’s ears prick up and head banging and nodding ensues. Those that didn’t know God Damn before, certainly do now.
Before launching into “Ghosts”, Thom takes time to interact with the crowd and tells us how the other bands on tonight are some of the nicest guys they’ve played with. He introduces James as a full time member of the band now, saying that bands aren’t about gimmicks or being compared to other band’s, it’s about creativity. And I can’t explain just how much James’ presence brings to this show. I think my friend Dan summed it up perfectly: “He completes them”; he’s absolutely right. A whole new depth of sound is achieved tonight. With James now on guitar, Thom is free to get up close and personal with the crowd. “Let’s fuckin sing this” he shouts, with a roar of approval from the crowd as “Sing This”, their latest release is spewed out. With Thom hanging over the barriers wailing, the crowd dutifully oblige. Probably their catchiest song yet, many are singing along to the chorus, but don’t let this deceive you, some of their heaviest riffs underpin this track.
“Dead to Me” is slammed out full force, the room is quite full now and pretty much everyone’s nodding in approval, the front row’s really going for it. Ash’s smile says it all, he’s one of the happiest drummers I’ve ever seen, can’t say the same for his kit, that is now grovelling into submission. The commitment and power he discharges is compelling to watch.
Finishing with a savage performance of “Vultures”; the title track of their first album, the set is over far too quickly. A huge round of applause goes up, plenty of new fans gained tonight it seems by the buzz of comments I hear around me. God Damn deliver effortlessly again and again. Hard, grunge-fuelled rock that sits in no specific genre, executed flawlessly. They’re one of those bands you just have to experience live, every show I see goes from strength to strength. My internal organs still vibrating, the adrenaline oozing from every pore I try and catch the start of Torche’s set before I get the chance to have a quick catch up with the God Damn boys.
I’ll admit I’ve not come across Torche before, and I had no idea what to expect. Quite ambient and melodic rock, what I saw from the set was performed superbly. Sublime vocals from guitarist Steve Brooks, ample, beefy riffs and groove-laden bass lines, they deliver a fearless and energetic set. With the adrenaline still pumping from God Damn, it just didn’t quite excite me as much as I wanted it to. The room now almost full, the crowd were pretty amped up and the fans were responding with rapturous applause. After a few tracks I leave and make my way backstage.
Sat on mismatched sofas in a small office, the guys greet me like an old friend and introduce me to newbie James, who I immediately compliment on his choice of glam rock-esque eye make up. With Thom in his Bjork t-shirt and Ash in his trademark dungarees I love that they don’t feel the need to conform or fit any kind of rock band cliches.
I immediately congratulate the guys on tonight’s set, paying homage in particular to the incredible sound production.
Thanks, that’s down to our incredible sound guy Andy Roberts who’s with us tonight, says Thom. Ash and James join in in agreement.
So how’s the tour been so far?
Brilliant says Ash, loads of fun definitely. We’ve had some really good crowds, a good mix of people. Yeah, chirps in James, the crowd sizes have been great, we start off with quite a few and by the end people are just streaming in. We did a warm up show with Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes before the tour and there were a group of students stood around not really sure how to react, and you go from that to this. Red Fang and Torche are big bands, big enough to carry their own headline tour back home. I’ve read about fans in America going crazy because they’d love to see this tour happen in the States with them both on the same bill.
It must be nice to have a few familiar faces in the crowd too though, this must be your nearest to hometown show?
Yeah, says Thom, I keep spotting faces in the crowd who I suddenly recognise and wave to. That’s the thing about Birmingham, it has a great music scene, you’ll always see the same faces about, we all hang round the same places. James: yeah Birmingham has quite an indie/ rock scene, I like that.
And your album launch night went well, apart from the breakdown?
Yeah, our van broke down on the way, but it went really well! Thom comments. You never quite know what crowd you’re gonna get in London, but we had a great time. (We hear Red Fang strike up at this point, Thom is really keen for me to catch their set).
The last time I spoke to you (Thom), the new album was about to be released, how’s it being received?
Ash : Really well actually, I think the good reviews we’re getting so far, are far outweighing the bad.
When I listen to the new album it has such a different feel to Vultures, yet tonight the songs from both albums blended seamlessly within the set.
James: Obviously I came onboard after the album was recorded but I think that the way the band have developed their sound is incredible, I think this album is far heavier in places, I mean really fuckin’ heavy in places which is great to play.
I end by asking what’s coming up next for the band?
Thom: We finish this tour on the 5th in Southampton, then we go straight for the ferry to Paris to start our next tour with Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes on the 6th around Europe. He’s a great guy, we love touring with him.
I thank the guys for letting me catch up with them, Thom is champing at the bit for me to catch the Red Fang set and I’m led to side of stage to watch by the front row of a now completely packed out Venue.
I’d had a quick surf around the net prior to tonight and I’d really liked the Red Fang stuff I’d heard so far, in particular “Not for You” which is off their forthcoming album Only Ghosts. I was not however prepared to be quite so spectacularly blown away by tonight’s set as I was. It was heavy rock, executed impeccably but also incredibly entertaining and fun. Not afraid to be uncool or too poppy, I loved that the vocals were split between the abrasive, gravelly cries of bassist Aaron Beam’s and the robust, quirky tones of Bryan Giles.
Throw in with that John Sherman’s convulsive drumming and David Sullivan’s slick riffs, this band had me hook, line and sinker. A blistering set ensued, “Is it rad?” shouted Bryan, “Do you guys say raaaaad?” There’s a great rapport with the fans who are now stripping off their shirts, so sweaty has the pit become. They absolutely kill the set, “One more?” “Ten more!” Thom screams behind me along with the rest of the crowd who can’t get enough of this band. I for one can’t wait for the new album and will be chasing up their back catalogue, I cannot believe this awesome band have slipped under my radar for the last ten years!