Primal State + Opus Nex + Murders In Memphis
The Varsity, Wolverhampton, April 16th 2008
By Philip Whitehouse
As UK residents will probably know, The Varsity is a chain of student-orientated pubs. Wolverhampton's Varsity pub puts gigs on quite regularly, but I've never been entirely convinced that the management really have their heart in it. The gigs are typically poorly advertised (if at all), the venue itself is tucked away upstairs without any kind of signposting in the downstairs area, and the in-house sound engineer doesn't really seem to have much of a clue judging by the acoustic quality of most of the shows I've attended there.
No doubt it's some combination of the absence of advertising and the fact that it's a Wednesday night (the only night I seem to go to gigs on, just lately) that means that all three bands tonight play pretty much to a crowd consisting of members of the other two bands, and their friends/family. Which, considering the poor hand dealt to all three by the sound engineer, is probably a good thing in some respects.
Murders In Memphis
are up first, playing only their second live show. Their dual-vocal take on turn-on-a-dime deathcore is the poorest served by the sound engineer's ham-fistedness, with the screamed vocals about three times as loud as the guttural roars, which themselves struggle to be heard over the guitars, which in turn run roughshod over the bass and drums. Still, the band's energy can't be faulted, with screamer James Tivendale spending most of the set throwing himself about gymnastically in front of the stage and guitarists Jack Wasley and Dan Griffith throwing rock-star shapes for all they're worth. Despite the sound reducing the more frantic, techy parts of their songs to impenetrable mush, the more melodic sections and the bludgeoning breakdowns manage to take hold with the scattered few who attended.
Shrewsbury based Opus Nex
take the stage next, peddling a blend of classic thrash (think Rust In Peace
and Ride The Lightning
), the epic tendencies of prog and the all-out shredding of Children Of Bodom
. Once again, the sound engineer seems intent on sabotaging the proceedings, apparently choosing to only turn the snare drum microphone on about halfway through the set, and deeming Reese Fullwood's guitar contribution to be far more important than fellow axeman Dave's. To be fair though, Reese's blindingly fast sweep-picking and frankly jaw-dropping nimbleness on the fretboard ensured that most of the audience were watching him throughout anyway. Vocalist Ant cut an imposing, somewhat Derrick Green-esque figure on stage, and the band's material skillfully walked the line between memorable riffage and outright guitar pyrotechnics, even managing to keep the audience's attention with an extended instrumental track that seemingly allows the band's progressive tendencies to run loose and rounding out the set with a spot-on cover of 'Hangar 18'.
Finally Primal State
arrived to finish off the night. A quick glance at their MySpace profile reveals some of their influences to include One Minute Silence
, Skunk Anansie
, Rage Against The Machine
, so that should give you a pretty good idea of what they sound like - female-fronted, aggressive rap-metal with generous helpings of groove and a side order of funky bass. It initially appears strange that such a young band should be playing a style of metal that seemingly sunk into oblivion some years ago (and one that never particularly captured this reviewer's imagination, truth be told), but the passion this group brings to the table serves to at least partially dispel such ponderings. While the rap-metal genre may not be to everyone's tastes, there's no denying that when performed with conviction in a live setting, it can be a provide an energising and infectious experience. The sound engineer finally seems to have woken up by this point, too (although the fact that drummer/vocalist Jay uses an electronic kit may have been some aid to the aural clarity of the performance), and Primal State
have the most energetic and professional-looking stage presence of the night. While I suspect that their recorded output may not have quite the same effect on me (I picked up a copy of their debut EP while at the gig to see for myself, so look out for a review here soon), tonight they provide a head-noddingly pleasing end to largely underwhelming evening.
Murders In Memphis' MySpace Page
Opus Nex's MySpace Page
Primal State's MySpace Page