Gig Review: Novelists / The Word Alive / Elwood Stray / Ashen – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham (23rd February 2024)

After some confusion about the starting times, I made it to the venue to witness some new faces for myself and see one of the first bands I ever discovered in my early teens live for the first time. The Word Alive are on tour as the main support for Novelists (both bands promoting their newest/upcoming releases) and are supported by 2 more European bands on this extensive UK/EU tour.

The Parisian band, Ashen, are our opener today. The band have been together for a few years officially, and are actually signed to the same label as Novelists. Though no debut album yet, they are working on releasing that album within the next year. The band already has some attention to them, having a decent number of followers on instagram already. I love when bands put thought into their appearance, especially on stage (which they did, the look itself was giving drop dead kinda vibes).

Elwood Stray (c) Jayne Slater

The crowd didn’t seem up to get jumping today, which was a shame. The breakdowns of the songs along with harsh vocals were hitting for sure and had me constantly looking around to see who else was vibing. In fairness, it didn’t seem many people were here yet. Which could be because there seemed to be conflicting information about the doors tonight and the venue failed to put up any posts regarding the set times. It’s a shame some people would have missed this band, as I’d put them on a similar path of Static Dress. There’s definitely the potential for the band to explode and hopefully they will get that attention from the UK modern metal fans soon.

Elwood Stray are a 5-piece from Germany who have been in the scene for around 8 years. The band have steadily been building a fan base over the years and listening to them, it’s genuinely baffling to me they haven’t yet blown up. The band have a really great chemistry on stage, only furthered by their great instrumentals that had even the security guards bobbing their heads.

Though the crowd weren’t too energetic tonight, it was clear they had made some fans. People exclaiming “that was sick” after they wrapped and then even the security guard throwing compliments as they made their way off stage. In my eyes, if you can convert even the security guard, you’ve done something right. The band had great crowd interaction despite the fact the crowd weren’t too bouncy. The crowd would always call back and the band appreciated that.

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The Word Alive have been around for as long as I knew metal was a genre that existed and that I didn’t have to be an old man who had a bike to listen to it. They’ve steadily been growing a fan base over their time but never quite had that “blow up” effect. Which is surprising seeing as they’ve literally been forefronting a lot of metal blends since they began.

Novelists (c) Jayne Slater

The band members, with the space, have a great energy that keeps them on the move and interacting with the fans. The guitarists would constantly be changing places and approaching the edges of the stage and in some cases they would be fist bumping those with their fists reaching over the barrier. Something I could see was exciting the fans. The vocalist wasn’t shy with interaction either. He would be fist bumping those he could reach and even at one point was taking the phone from a fan and recording a video with the crowd before launching the phone back.

The band ended their set with “One of Us”. Probably the notorious song from their recent album release. At the run up to the chorus, the vocalist exclaimed “if you know it, don’t be shy.” I then looked to the pit as the chorus dropped and there in the middle of the pit a group were jumping like their life depended on it. The fact this song goes before “2012” in their setlist is almost poetic due to the fact “One of Us” is considered “2012”‘s sequel. The fry screams during the breakdown are just so intense, I think the vocalist needs a camera down his throat to see what’s actually going on there (this may not make sense to you if you don’t use youtube, so just open the app and search “will ramos throat camera”). It doesn’t seem physically possible to go from such high screams to singing softly, like that didn’t just happen.

Novelists are a 5-piece from Paris. The band have gone through some changes this past year, the most Notable being a vocalist change. The band is now fronted by female singer Camille. The band have such confidence and energy I would’ve probably believed there was no change whatsoever, if I hadn’t happened to read an article beforehand stating such.

The Word Alive (c) Jayne Slater

Novelists came on to the cheers from the pit. First the four instrumentalists came on. The “Woo”s slowly died out until the vocalist came on. This potentially being the first time some people have seen the band with the new singer. I don’t think I’ve seen so many phones being held so impatiently waiting for the appearance of a vocalist.

The guitars were something live. Every once in a while in the song the guitarist would start shredding some sick riffs, as the other guitarist watched on looking like a proud brother. Every song they played had these amazing drum beats going on that just made the songs that much more of a vibe. Whether that was something with the mix or if the drummer just has some insane knowledge of what beats go best live, damn, they made you want to start banging your head. The song “Heretic” especially goes hard in a live setting.

The band had great crowd interaction. The guitarist almost missed a fist outstretched until he circled back around to give a fist bump. It’s just always great to see bands interacting from the barrier. Since COVID, it feels like there’s been a gap between the bands on stage and the fans below. When that’s broken, it always puts a smile on the faces of those around the fan, even if they weren’t the ones receiving the attention.

We had an earlier finish than I expected tonight. All the sets wrapped for 9:30pm. What it allowed for though was time for the bands to mingle with fans. The tour continues with the same lineup all the way into Europe, where it ends at the start of March. Each band tonight leaves such a promising legacy for metalcore and the new wave of genre blending currently happening. I can’t wait to see where the bands progress to next.

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Photos by Jayne Slater

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