Having a week off is a fantastic feeling, especially because it blessed me with the fact that I was going to see every band on the most solid line-up of 2016! First up were German heavy hitters Wolf Down. Since last seeing them play live at 2014’s Outbreak Fest, Wolf Down has traded in their original female vocalist Larissa for a new male vocalist called Dave. With this line-up change seems to have come an overall sonic change; Wolf Down are now a much heavier, much more angry, much more violence-inducing band than ever before. The pit being given a wide berth by many people to accommodate the few penny-pickers and spin-kickers going in hard. It is a heavy, uncompromising set of socially minded, politically motivated Hardcore; outspoken views backed up by thick, rumbling basslines, smashed drums and crunchy guitars, with plenty of two-step sections throughout. Live, as well as on the new record ‘Incite & Conspire’ they remind me of a combination of Hatebreed, Desolated and Kublai Khan - a definite juggernaut of sound. However, maybe it was familiarity, but I genuinely thought the two highlights of the set came from older tracks ‘Loving Embrace’, and riotous set closer ‘Stray From The Path’…
Now it is no secret that Counterparts are well loved by the Creep family, we named their latest offering ‘Tragedy Will Find Us’ our favourite album of 2015. However, I was wondering how they would go down on this bill, being sandwiched between two ‘heavier’ bands. Well it didn’t take long for us to find out. Starting with the marching drums of ‘Stillborn’, the Canadians promptly launched into a breakneck onslaught of Hardcore Punk, and then just over a minute in, we get our answer. Seemingly, Counterparts solution to being on a heavier bill was to make their breakdowns immensely heavy. Not unrecogniseable, but definitely heavier. Adapting in such a way just elevated my opinion of them even more, and while perhaps not musically as good as their headline set in October, it was a great display from one of the forerunners of Melodic Hardcore. ‘Stranger’ was another highlight, and another exercise in a fantastic breakdown, slowing it down and dragging it out so that the guttural guitar growls and bends hit even harder, duelling for prominence with Murphy’s scorched throat vocals. Fan favourite ‘The Disconnect’ causes utter chaos, as everyone in the front half of the room scrambles toward the microphone to join in unison screaming “I fucking hate the world, I fucking hate myself!” The band choose to finish on a heavy note with the rumbling crescendo of drum fills and breakdowns that is ‘Burn’. Fantastic as always!
Another band that we have seen live only recently, but one that we never miss when they roll through the UK, Stray From The Path never disappoint live. Also adapting their set-list for the setting, we are mostly played cuts from their latest album ‘Subliminal Criminals’. Kicking off with the screeching, siren like guitar tone of ‘The New Gods’ it’s a swaggering performance from the start and doesn’t let up once. In October we took a trip down to Leeds to see Stray From The Path, and although they were awesome, the crowd was a bit thin on the ground and relatively passive. Well on this night, that was definitely not the case as tracks like ‘Outbreak’ and ’Snap’ saw the room ignite into action, bodies hurling everywhere. The tirade of a track that is ‘D.I.E.P.I.G’ was another set highlight, the crowd actually being heard over the top of vocalist Drew York several times throughout the track. Always a band to make an actual performance of any set, the vocalist climbed up into the rafters and hung upside down to sing part of ‘Badge & A Bullet’ (pt.1), letting himself fall to be caught by the faithful fans below. Closing the set with the bouncing rhythm and guitar licks of ‘First World Problem Child’ was fantastic, the whole venue seemingly shouting along with the vocals, primarily the line “Shut the fuck up!”.
Stick To Your Guns are another band that always put on a good show whether they headline or not, and tonight was no exception. Using the ‘It Starts With Me’ intro, before kicking things off properly with that head-nodding riff and hi-hat combo of ‘Against Them All’, it’s an epic and anthemic way to start your set, and it remains that way throughout as Stick To Your Guns almost turn in a ‘festival’ playlist of hit after hit after hit. We are treated to the pummelling drum barrage of ‘Empty Heads’ and the fist pumping hooks of ‘Bringing You Down’ before anyone in the room even gets chance to catch their breath. STYG play a pretty relentless set, for the most part sticking with material from ‘Diamond’ and the heavier sides of ’Disobedient’. A mid set highlight is a heavy hitting version of ‘I Choose Nothing’ with its furious guitar work and riot inducing drumbeat. Dave from Wolf Down returns to the stage, grabbing the mic for a guttural rendition of the guest vocal (handled by Terror’s Scott Vogel on the album) to finish of the track in anarchic style.
It was genuinely hard to pick out the finer moments because the lads turned in a great show, but selfishly my highlights were one of my personal favourites ‘The Bond’, that intro of rolling drums and stabbing guitars gets me every time, and the crowd reacts similarly, going absolutely crazy in the pit, and keeping up that energy for the insanely catchy ‘What Choice Did You Give Us’, the chorus ringing loud throughout the venue. As a recorded work, ‘Disobedient’ is still growing on me, but in a live setting the material slays just as hard as everything else in Stick To Your Guns' arsenal, and you can sense it is a work that the band are proud of, because the energy they seem to get from playing these songs is phenomenal. ‘Such Pain’ also rang true throughout the venue, the crowd audibly relating to the lyric “My only enemy is me!”. Ever the generous band, Stick To Your Guns come back for an encore, treating the faithful to ‘Diamond’ and older track ‘Amber’ which seems to be met with giddy enthusiasm before Stick To Your Guns bow out for the end of the night.
I’m pretty confident in saying this was one of the best tour packages I have seen in quite a while, every band played hard and gave it their all. The key to this seems to be; have a band that are a bit heavier than everyone else play first (Wolf Down) as a means of throwing down the gauntlet, and all the other bands up their heaviness and energy levels, and we all win in the process!
Author: Tim Bridges