With quite the hefty 4-band line-up, it was no surprise that there was a 6:30 doors opening time at the ABC. Unfortunately, nobody told the staff who left 100 people stood outside with their knees knocking in the cold until 7pm. Thanks for that.
Once in, we had a bit of a wait before openers Of One Blood kicked off in angry style. The last time I heard of them, they were due to appear on the Horrorfly stage at Wildfire last year, so they were bound to fit into the heavier category. With their blend of melodic metalcore – the bassist and guitarist provide clean vocals to accompany the screaming frontman’s… screams – they were energetic, loud and really encouraged the crowd to get going.
By the set’s end, said frontman (Ali) was in the middle of the dancefloor “gein’ it some”, as the locals would say. Credit also to Burning the Dream’s Ritchie who covered drums for regular sticksman Hoogz. The latter has, apparently, recently discovered that trying to arrest one’s fall from a wall with outstretched arms isn’t the best of moves. You can catch Burning the Dream at the 13th Note on March 4th, along with Necrosis and Triverse Massacre. There. He earned that plug.
Our second local support of the evening was The Colony, playing something more rocky compared to OOB’s metal. That’s not to say they weren’t heavy, because they really were. Definitely a little more practiced than our openers, they played to a slightly bigger crowd as the venue was maybe halfway full. The Colony’s singer, Peter, was out of the stage area and wandering the whole (admittedly not exactly large) venue by the second song.
With some big numbers, including a couple of new songs they’ve not played live before, they really put in a belting performance that was only let down a little by some slightly dodgy sound – not their fault.
The main touring support was Sithu Aye and his band who were more in tune with the headliners, playing an epic brand of instrumental space-bound prog metal. By the time they came on stage, the venue was pretty much full – a sign that there was something special to come. This was a hometown show for them which would have helped the atmosphere but it’s not like they needed the help.
First, honestly, Sithu Aye aren’t the kind of band I’d choose to see live. I prefer something I can get physically involved in – singing/shouting along, crowdsurfing, moshpitting… you know. This was very much not that style of music, even during its heavier breaks. What it was, though, was incredible. On that stage were four of the most talented musicians I’ve seen playing together in a long time.
Band leader Sithu is a wizard on the guitar and, I would assume, the composer of the tracks. He’s listed on the band’s facebook page as the only band member, but live he’s backed by one bassist, another guitarist and a drummer. He did introduce them at the end of the set, but I didn’t take their names – sorry guys! The bassist was as much a performer and lead as either of the other two guitarists, with the tunes giving him plenty of opportunity to pluck the strings at the forefront rather than purely as part of the rhythm.
Absolutely streets apart, though, was the other guitarist. He looked about twelve (to my aging eyes – he’s probably twenty or something) and bloody hell could he play. At points his left hand genuinely moved up and down the fretboard faster than my eye could see – honestly.
Together with the drummer at the back, they threw out some superb tunes which had images of atoms, molecules and starscapes whizzing through my head.
With the scene set, just around 10pm, Galactic Empire took to the stage. Dressed in costumes vaguely reminiscent of those which may seem familiar to fans of a certain now Disney-owned film franchise, they formed a formidable frontline with three guitarists and a bassist plus someone who definitely wasn’t a bounty hunter on drums.
Now let’s be honest, you can’t improve on John Williams’ original score. But what you can do is give it a fresh set of clothes and throw it to a new audience, and that’s what Galactic Empire have done. Most of the songs are about as heavy as the originals, but now and again there’s a bit of an increase in pace or a lowering of tone and the headbanging really commences.
If the ABC2 wasn’t sold out by the time the headliners started, it was close to it, and they packed close to the front as the Red Guard leaned forward to high five audience members. Bass Commander bounced around doing jumping jacks and Dark Vader led the flurry of notes backed also by Shadow Ranger. Three guitars are definitely needed to get over the intricacies of all the original numbers and they’re well used.
Despite some continued annoying rumble from the bass (a “feature” of the show all night) which muddied the sound at times, the performance was faultless. Throwing tongue firmly into cheek were a handful of between-song moments which had the crowd genuinely laughing out loud. Galactic Empire seem to like playing things fast and loose, and with a good dollop of humour.
Highlight of the evening was probably “Cantina Band”, partly due to the crowd reaction – a minute circle pit and a lot of bouncing about!
The brief set, maybe 45 minutes, was enough for an instrumental band who’ve only got one album (review here) out and you couldn’t complain about lack of value for money with the other three bands thrown in as well. The band also appeared right after their set to pose for pictures with the audience (I may have got some snaps *cough*), reminding me of seeing Tragedy at the same venue for the first time.
Long may the Force be with them!
Photos by Katie Frost Photography, taken at the London show