There are sirens coupled with a solemn drum beat and a speech about the general state of the government can be heard over the speakers. 5 band members arrive on stage and the music begins. This first track ‘Creator of Poverty’ from the bands upcoming album Damnation (currently being mastered) has a distinctive chunky thudding beat provided by drummer Zak Skane and screaming vocals interspersed with political rantings which grab your attention. Checking in with the crowd before the next song, Vocalist Steve Jenkins announces that the band are from Cardiff and are absolutely honoured to be supporting Light the Torch. The formidable looking character dressed all in black is wearing chains, a studded belt and has leather cuffs wrapped around both forearms, yet describes how he has been bouncing around like an excited puppy dog all day; he is a true long-time fan of Howard Jones and cannot wait to watch him perform in Light The Torch again tonight having only recently been in the crowd watching him earlier this month.
The title track of the new album, Damnation is a snarling yet melodic wonderpiece with back-up growls provided from bassist Stu Rake, it has the entire crowd punching their fists in the air. The venue may still be filling at this point but everyone has headed to the front to see this band perform. The stage is suitably bathed in blood red light for the next song ‘BTK’ also from the Damnation album which begins with the chiming of atmospheric guitar chords from Guitarists Kerrin Beckwith and Joey Watkins as SJ tells the rapt audience how this one is all about a serial killer called Dennis Rader. It is a brutally heavy song as you might expect, with BTK being the killers assumed acronym for Bind Torture Kill, this explains the rope noose that is flailed around by SJ with a sequence of mock strangulation of his fellow band members and finally himself. Throughout the bands set there is a lot of helicopter headbanging in the crowd as well as on stage, actively encouraged by the band. ‘Divided We Fall’ again from the Damnation album sees a lot of air guitar and chanted audience participation. This continues into the final song of the set ‘Life for a Life’ from theStarting Again EP which demands a shout-back on the lyrics “is this what you call democracy” and has a solid riff, fast drumming and absolutely no pause for breath. The band are genuinely enjoying themselves and their efforts are rewarded with big crowd cheers and applause. Find out more at: https://www.facebook.com/democratusband
“Ok Bristol, let’s get intimate here” orders Vocalist Simon Roach as he firmly plants one foot on a monitor and the crowd shuffle further forward. There are 4 band members on stage this evening and they have hailed the gig as a ‘celebration night’ for 2 reasons; the first being the release just yesterday of their debut album‘I’, the second being that it is the singer’s birthday. “The only thing I want for my birthday is stage divers, so get your f***kin arses up here” he jokes after receiving a round of “Happy Birthday” from the crowd, encouraged by the other band members. Their music is an energetic blend of strong but smooth melodies, gutsy growls, powerful drumming, ever-changing tempos and incredibly catchy grooves. Something to both open your ears wide and tug at your heart strings simultaneously and heavy as hell. Every song is somewhat tangible with the words being delivered both moodily, compellingly and reinforced with equally emotive yet thrashed out guitar playing from Harley Watson and Ian Chadderton and impressive drum pounding from Matt Capper. The crowd is immersed in the atmosphere and swathed in dry ice which steadily pumps and helps to talc-down the perspiration from the now sweltering and rapidly filling boat. The Bristol-based band have been together for around a year – but you would think longer – fans are happily singing and dancing alongside them and there is a general head-nodding appreciation throughout the audience. A dramatic finale with IC first falling to his knees whilst playing, followed by SR still holding onto his notes, a spent MC landing his head on his drum kit and HW slumped over a monitor, grinding his guitar strings to squeeze out every last sound to the cheers of the crowd. Find out more at: https://rxptrs.com/
LIGHT THE TORCH
Fresh from touring as support for Inflames, Light The Torch are more than ready to entertain their core fanbase tonight at Bristol Thekla. Drummer Mike Sciulara is first to appear on stage and toys with the happy audience from behind his kit, getting them to cheer, then quiet, repeatedly. Bassist Ryan Wombacher takes to stage next, followed by guitarist Francesco Artusato and finally, sporting a baseball cap and a huge grin, vocalist Howard Jones arrives to greet Bristol. The crowd go wild and HJ wastes no time in getting them going, the audience are up for it and so is the band as they crash into their first song ‘The Bitter end’ from the Revival album. It’s straight into the giant thundering riff of ‘Embracing the torture’ from The Beauty of Destruction album with FA slamming out the guitar melodies on a 7-string and 5-string Bassist RW offering extra vocals.
There is a “welcome back” heckle from the crowd, “Yeah, it feels like we’ve just been over here” replies HJ and continues to chat with the fans, he’s pouring with sweat as they play ‘Calm before the storm’ from the Revival album but there’s a brief chance to catch his breath at the end of this one during an impressive solo from FA, backed up by RW. “I can’t explain how this feels but I’ll just say woooh it feels good” says HJ. ‘Lost in the fire’ also from the Revival album begins with a suitably hot as hell intro with crunching guitars and a proper chance for drummer MS to show what he’s made of. This song slows in pace slightly for HJ and then he’s soon back to a full-throttle scream as they continue straight into the next song ‘Virus’ again from the Revival album. There is no let-up in power, Howard’s voice just seems to miraculously go from strength to strength leaping from growls to clean melodies and the whole of the Thekla boat is rocking hard.
A brief stand-up-and-stretch moment from MS and it soon becomes apparent why. ‘Consume the damned’ from the They Bleed Red album begins with rapid machine-like fire from all instruments and is perhaps the heaviest song yet. A well-timed “Play something heavy” heckle from the crowd after this one, makes the band laugh as they mop their brows. The next 3 songs are from the Revival album ‘The safety of disbelief’ (dedicated mockingly as “one for the girls”), ‘The sound of violence’ with its wind-whistling intro, enough drums to beat you to a pulp and super heavy vocals should you need a further scare, then ‘The God I deserve’ – simply introduced by HJ saying that he’s “having way too much fun up here.” with its chunky riff and vocals that convey the desperation of someone needing to be saved over a chilling guitar solo from FA.
The final 2 songs of the set are drum-fuelled ‘The way we die’ from the They Bleed Red album which has MS smiling throughout and clearly in his element and ‘Die Alone’ from the Revivalalbum with yet more hair-raising and body shaking bass. Howard must use as much energy singing as he does jumping around in his stage show, a fantastic front man clearly with a love and zest for what he is doing, the fans are as pleased to see the band on their own headline tour as the band are to see all the smiling faces looking back at them. There are huge cheers from the crowd and the band exit the stage from what has been an outstanding gig. Find out more at: https://www.facebook.com/LighttheTorchOfficial/
Review by Suzi Bootz
Photography by Emma Painter