Grinch Fest – The Lomax, Liverpool 21/12/14

Grinch FestI was pleasantly surprised to see such a good crowd for Last Rites (7.5/10), the first band on the bill; however this was unsurprising as a friend later told me that this was a conglomeration of seasoned musicians and performers so their reputation preceded them. It was impressive to find the band had a well rehearsed and professional manner to their mastery of the songs they played and I appreciated the obviously good relationship the band members share allowing for a fun, comfortable and musically immersive atmosphere.

There wasn’t much to be criticised about this rather awesome set, but their singer seemed a little awkward onstage. It would have been good to see him more comfortably interacting with his audience as it would really round off his singing talent – it would engage the support of the audience to a greater level and really ramp up the performance overall.

Reaper (7/10) had a really fun, boyish charm about them, allowing a good rapport with the audience and confidence in their own ability to entertain en masse. Their performance of Children of the Grave (Sabbath) was a little clunky, possibly down to under-rehearsal, but when the musicians came together to perform their own songs the dynamic of slight awkwardness completely dissolved and a real sense of style emerged which really is the important thing.

Their classic late 70’s/early 80’s metal style worked well, and it was an enjoyable set because you could see they enjoyed it too. I can certainly see Reaper becoming a force to be reckoned with if they explore and experiment to personalise their sound in future, and their tribute to a fallen peer was very touching on a personal level, thus securing the band as a loveable bunch of rogues in my eyes.

Animus (8/10) by far garnered the strongest audience in terms of numbers on this night and their performance absolutely deserved it. The evolution in quality of this band has become very noticeable of late as they have begun to embrace what could be considered a mess of different styles and influences.

Something about them that has never ceased to be true is that they are very energetic and present a confident charisma that allows for an audience to really engage and feel included in the party going on onstage. I applaud their improvement and evolution as a collective as it is very easy to get to a level of quality and go ‘that’s good enough’ but they continuously strive to be better and more awesome, which is working because everyone is chipping in to create.

I hope to see Animus do bigger and better things in the coming future, open up more for individual member’s talents, mainly drummer Tom Davies because he is an exceptionally amazing musician with bags of creativity and ideas, and evolve into something very exciting, hopefully with a little less of the singer/ lead guitarist’s tongue on display for good measure.

I’m given to understand that The Torn Prince (7/10) have a large following on social media and I can appreciate that metalcore has its strong, passionate, diehard fans. I commend the band’s energy, enthusiasm and dedicated performance of their chosen genre and think that they certainly have the meaty, stubborn and ‘in yer face’ attitude that metalcore is epitomised by – Anyone that genuinely loves this genre and has a desire to see this kind of energetic, bolshy and rebellious style should definitely check them out.

Deified (6.5/10) promise hard ‘n’ heavy, no nonsense, honest metal which they absolutely deliver with the matter of fact talent and professionalism that can only come from a long, slow burning passion for this style of music. They know what they like and they know what they don’t, so are playing mostly for their own enjoyment.

I respect anyone with clearly defined boundaries about what they like and what they’ll do, but it was difficult to get on board with a band that doesn’t seem to have a willingness to evolve into something more unique to them, a more explored expression of the music that they love, and for someone that craves exploration in their music and adores reflecting on and looking forward to the evolutionary arc of a band throughout their career, it’s hard to enjoy what they’re doing. However, I would not begrudge the artist’s obvious enjoyment and dedication to recreating a genre they love so much, and the masterful command they have over the music they play cannot be understated.

Grinch Fest was the first gig for Exhumation and whilst the way the bill was arranged was to accommodate for a progressively heavier style from each band, usually when you see a show you associate the later billings with generally well known or popularised bands. Subsequently it pushed expectations higher than was appropriate for this band, and putting a new band at the later end of the bill meant that a lot of attendees trailed off after they’d seen the more established acts, leaving a lack lustre feeling hanging in the air at this point.

In fairness to the band, they mostly delivered a rip roaring set – it was an unstoppable barrage of death metal with musicians performing a genre they know and love well. I have added appreciation for the singer’s efforts to put on a show for us and remaining only one or two away from going full ‘Meshuggah face’ (Google it) at regular intervals.

Having said all of this, the band did seem under-rehearsed and felt a little unsure of what their unified identity as a band was. The sense of them still being a fledgling in terms of creative working relationships with each other and rapport on stage made the set feel disjointed and a little awkward to watch. Exhumation could definitely develop to present a cracking depiction of modern death metal if they devoted more time to connecting as a band and developing an identity, but for now they should stick to being lower down the bill until they’ve had time to do themselves justice by improving the quality of their performance style.

Kryocell (6/10) was the final band gracing the stage and as the people in the headline spot, I was expecting a truly rip roaring, confident and energetic presentation of their work. Musically they can’t be faulted; the musicians played their parts and did what they were supposed to do, but regarding the band’s charisma and energetic enthusiasm for their performance, it just wasn’t hyped up enough. It felt more like a chilled out jam session where there was no judgement or consequence if it wasn’t perfect, it was okay to make mistakes and it didn’t have to be awesome.

Unfortunately this was a headline spot at a gig, so it did have to be awesome – in fact every time you step on stage wherever you are on the bill it has to be awesome. A paying audience, even if it’s a very small fee, expects something consistent with a performance and those people’s opinions and experiences will be passed onto others and determine how many more fans you get in the future.

My advice for KryoCell for the future is rehearse more, develop banter to use while still actually playing your songs, learn your songs and be confident that you know them before you go on, if you don’t know it don’t play it because crapping out on a song half way through and promising to know it next time is really awkward for everyone.

When the band put their minds to it and treated it like a proper gig, which did happen sometimes, they got the crowd head banging and having fun. This leads me to believe that these guys can be great and I would love to see them push themselves harder to put on more of a show through rigorous practice so that next time they headline they’re up to the standards of their fellow bands on the line up.

Overall each band’s performance was enjoyable, but in future gigs like this should perhaps be split into separate events to cater for more sub genres and more diversity. It would achieve consistency in terms of how the line ups progress, as this event jumped from rock with metal tendencies to the heavier end of death metal, and the bands would get more solid support from audiences if a theme could be established to attract a crowd dedicated to the sub genre.

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