AVATAR // VEIL OF MAYA // MASTIFF // Live Review // The SWX // Bristol


Five-piece outfit MASTIFF from Kingston-upon-Hull, bring an aggressive Doom-laden beginning to proceedings, greeting the city with an “Alright, let’s party!” and kicking in with some powerfully Sludgy Hardcore.  Somewhat shunted to the front of the stage owing to the vast array of kit hidden by the curtain behind, guitars and vocals line up neatly with the drummer sitting only inches behind.  They have an aura of confidence and singer Jim Hodge gets straight to business asking who has heard of them before.

The first three songs are torn through and only by the fourth do things begin to slow but the band is in a full stride with a dazzling orange light show glowing in time. There’s a cheerful raise of a beer can inbetween songs and a few small rants (mainly about stoner bands, check out their song ‘Beige Sabbath’.) There’s an incredibly busy atmosphere in the venue tonight, and it’s filled with every Alternative style imaginable. There’s a ‘scary’ sort of sway to the music and fairly quirky introductions of songs, for example: “You might’ve seen someone get disembowelled to this track.”   Nevertheless, the crowd are constantly encouraged to make noise (positive or negative!) and to join in on chants such as “F*ck the Tories.”  The songs are short but sweet which sees the band rip through around nine of them and deliver a set that just keeps getting heavier.


Mastiff is:

Jim Hodge – Vocals

James Andrew Lee – Guitar

Phil Johnson – Guitar

Daniel Dolby – Bass

Michael Shepherd – Drums




Veil-Of-Maya are a Metalcore band from Chicago who enjoy interacting with their crowd, though more in a way of a cat toying with its prey.  There’s a forceful mixture of vocal styles and the band seem less confrontational than the previous stage dwellers with requests rather than orders for “Hand’s up” and a lot of playful tongue poking out and general bouncing about, especially from singer Lukas Magyar. The third song begins fairly melodically and there’s even some happy clapping along but wait just a moment and the crowd is soon directed to “Raise those horns!” whilst the song breaks into a much filthier riff, it’s short-lived but the crowd are on the side. Clean vocals and dirty music seem to be the order for this one.

Further, into the set, there are some decent bass drops and the music takes on a much dancier edge which is reflected in the crowd moving, but the drums punch and pummel through.  There’s a backing track that sounds like whispering and puts you in mind one of those scenes in horror films where a limp-limbed young ghost is quickly dragged backwards.  The circle pit has been summoned and the dancefloor is packed with movement.   There are more delicious bass drops with many gruffer and growlier vocals it’s all so tunefully clear again.  Fists are raised, punching vertically and the ensuing wall of death is full of smiles.  The newest single ‘Godhead’ is well received by the crowd of which Bristol is said to be “the best of the tour yet” (but then isn’t it everywhere?) There’s a strange commercial club-like element to a couple of songs in the latter part of the set but the danceable beats and choir-like synths are paired with enough growls and shrieks to keep things relevant.  The guitarist defies the laws of physics with the speed of strumming for the last song ‘Mikasa’ and the pit responds with some speedy circling.  The band leave a charged energy in their wake.

Veil of Maya is:

Marc Okubo – Guitars and Programming

Sam Applebaum – Drums

Danny Hauser – Bass

Lukas Magyar – Vocals


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The hour is upon us and the bell begins to chime along with flashes of light.  A rhythmic clap breaks out in the audience as mechanical-esque drummer John Alfredson appears prompting huge cheers as he strikes a beat in time.  Smoke fills the stage and BOOM! the remaining four members Swedish band Avatar appear. An almighty beginning invites the crowd to step into the dark with ‘Dance Devil Dance’ the red and black bedecked ringmaster-vocalist that is Johannes Eckerström parades the boards theatrically, belting those clipped words and operatic high-notes out in all of his tongue lolling and pyrotechnic-charged glory. The ritual has begun and the room is wild for more.   The act evolves not only via the songs but also through costumes.   The choreography that has gone into this stage show is impressive, each ‘scene’ moves seamlessly to the next with all band members maintaining character. One moment the guitarists are perching upon the drummer’s elevated stage plinth, the next, Johannes has replaced them, bending forwards to expel every last drop of note from his lungs, his coat-tails billowing out behind him but blink and you might find he’s now sat coyly swinging his legs; dare to break your gaze again and you could find him straddling the stage somewhere else like a giant red and black zippered grasshopper; best you keep those eyes open for fear of missing the action.  This act moves fast and it isn’t for the fainthearted as the crowd discover when the spotlight swings up to the balcony to reveal the madcap singer hanging over the edge.  He performs a short spell of balloon modelling and then produces a trombone out of thin air to add the extra touches to the song ‘Puppet Show’ before dashing back downstairs to the stage.  This isn’t the only time that balloons feature in the set but let’s not give too many spoilers!

The energy of all players is intense and makes you wonder if it’s the perpetual windmill head-banging that’s fuelling them, or in Johannes’s case, whatever he’s swigging from the nozzle of that petrol can?  Whatever it is, every ounce of their personal expression is invested in circus mode and their audience is mesmerized too, catching every imaginary punch that the band throws their way.  The playful side of these musicians does not detract from the astounding quality of the music they are providing it’s all excellent. It’s a relay of characters on and off stage with no dead airspace and the respective parts that each member plays, really does build a first-class production.

There’s a special moment when hat-adorned Johannes performs his solo song ‘Tower’ upstairs on the balcony (apparently they ran out of space to fit the piano onstage!) and the entire crowd not only turn to face him but also sings the last line back with him acapella, as he leans over the railings towards them.  Meanwhile, the crew have been busy adding a second drum kit to the front of the stage so that the drummer can perform his clockwork-like actions upright for a while before ‘Let it Burn’ has all members back in their allocated zones.  ‘A Statue of the King’ sees bassist Jonas Jarlsby don his robes and crown for a centre stage role once the flags have been unveiled via confetti shot, after which its stage blackout whilst the crowd cheers for more.  It isn’t long before guitarists Henrik Sandelin and Tim Öhrström begin the easily recognisable plinks of ‘The Dirt I’m Buried In’ which pulls the atmosphere back into dance mode, further boosted by a short story from Johannes that culminates in a sniff of his armpit to launch ‘Smells Like a Freakshow’ and another blast of sparks.  It’s now seventeen songs into the set with time for just one more and the band choose the warped chords of ‘Hail The Apocalypse’ as their parting gift to Bristol along with words of gratitude and promises to return.  They return sooner than expected, to a backing track of Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and well-deserved applause as they take a bow.


Review:  Suzi Bootz

Photography: Emma Painter

Pacific Curd Photography




Dance Devil Dance

The Eagle Has Landed

Valley of Disease

Chimp Mosh Pit

Scream Until You Wake

Bloody Angel

For the Swarm

Puppet Show

When the Snow Lies Red

Do You Feel In Control

Black Waltz



Let It Burn

A Statue of the King

The Dirt I’m Buried In

Smells Like a Freakshow

Hail The Apocalypse


Johannes Eckerström – Vocals

Jonas Jarlsby – Bass

Tim Öhrström – Guitar

Henrik Sandelin – Guitar

John Alfredsson – Drums


The almighty Avatar will also return to the road this spring on a headline tour that kicks off April 28 in Omaha and runs through May 28 in Pittsburgh. Veil of Maya and Orbit Culture will support. All dates are below, including key spring festival appearances. Get tickets here.


4/28 — Omaha, NE — The Admiral
4/29 — Denver, CO — Ogden
4/30 — Salt Lake City, UT — The Depot
5/1 — Boise, ID — Revolution
5/3 — San Diego. CA — Observatory
5/4 — Los Angeles, CA — Belasco
5/5 — San Francisco, CA — The Fillmore
5/6 — Las Vegas, NV — House of Blues
5/7 — Phoenix, AZ — Van Buren
5/9 — Austin, TX — Emo’s
5/10 — Dallas, TX — The Echo Lounge & Music Hall
5/12 — Minneapolis, MN — Skyway Theater
5/13 — Green Bay, WI — Epic Events Center
5/14 — Moline, IL — The Rust Belt
5/15 — Chicago, IL — House of Blues
5/16 — Detroit, MI — Royal Oak Theatre
5/18 — Daytona Beach, FL — Welcome to Rockville+
5/19 — St. Petersburg, FL — Jannus Live
5/20 — Atlanta, GA — Buckhead Theater
5/21 — Lexington, KY — Manchester Music Hall
5/23 — New York, NY — Webster Hall
5/24 — Boston, MA — Paradise
5/25 — Silver Springs, MD — The Fillmore
5/26 — Philadelphia, PA — TLA
5/27 — Columbus, OH — Sonic Temple+
5/28 — Pittsburgh, PA — Roxian Theater
+Festival date

Dance Devil Dance
“Chimp Mosh Pit”
Valley of Disease
“On The Beach”
“Do You Feel In Control”
“Gotta Wanna Riot”
The Dirt I’m Buried In
“Clouds Dipped In Chrome”
“Hazmat Suit”
Violence No Matter What” (Duet w/ Lzzy Hale)