For The Fallen Dreams

support Confession + Azriel + Heart In Hand + The Valiant
author AP date 15/03/10 venue Joiners, Southampton, UK

Day three of my all-weekender at the Joiners was more focused on catching Azriel and Heart In Hand live, with Aussie band Confession and Michigan-born For The Fallen Dreams also on the bill. Despite having quite looked forward to the former two, the evening was the realisation of a reviewer's worst nightmare: a flat graph of mediocrity. One simply cannot come up with enough interesting words about performances that are neither good nor bad and neither memorable nor entirely forgettable, but here's my attempt:

The Valiant

Local lads The Valiant are already well into their set as we arrive at the venue, and instead of grabbing pints to grease the machinery for this long evening, BL and I are drawn into the stage room by the soaring clean vocals of Si Phillips. Like Jason Cameron from likewise local lads Bury Tomorrow, he opts for simple, prolonged cries that showcase his range above everything else, but beyond the initial oohs and aahs there is very little else in the music to differentiate The Valiant from scores of other bands, not least Bury Tomorrow. Then again, The Valiant do not claim to be anything they are not: they play straightforward, unapologetic metalcore with melody and breakdowns aplenty and admit to it whole-heartedly. The riffs sound decent and in fact in terms of competence it is difficult to find anything to criticise. The band also resonates a reasonable amount of confidence on stage and performs with a rigor seldom attached to a band less than one year old, however, for some reason we are not convinced. The potential is there, but the band needs to create an identity of its own to survive in these circles.

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Heart In Hand

Heart In Hand are one of the main attractions for us tonight, and most unexpectedly they launch into a performance that would score in the high 7's and 8's with us were it not for the problems plaguing their set. Just a few seconds into the second song, Ollie wrenches the strings from his guitar and the band is forced to perform that song with one guitar - something that vocalist Charlie points out does not work with music as delicate as theirs. Ed does his best to make two songs work with just rhythm guitar, but after the third song Charlie is forced to call for a break while Ollie re-strings his instrument (how can there not be someone in one of the other bands willing to lend him a guitar when he makes a plea for one?), resulting in an uncomfortable silence pierced only by Charlie's vague and awkward attempts at making jokes. When Ollie is good to go, the band only has time for a couple more songs, which they nonetheless perform with extreme energy, hellbent on compensating for the axe issues with an explosive show. Then, lo and behold, the other guitar disappears from the mix due to amp failure and once again the final song is performed mostly with one guitar. Such a fucking shame considering the quality of the performance when it is not terrorised by technical problems. This is definitely a band worth checking out again, and hopefully next time luck will not turn against them.

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Azriel

Azriel are the other band we are specifically here to see (or at least I am), their music being hardcore of the dark, melodic kind, in the vein of such bands as Defeater and Dead Swans. After Heart In Hand their performance also ranks as the best tonight, and thankfully it is devoid of obstructions. Still there is something painfully ordinary, generic even, about the band as they tick off all the stereotypes associated with hardcore acts, from coordinated (clearly planned) jumps to a vocalist who trots from side to side without ever really making things interesting enough to warrant clear recollections of their antics from me. When you listen to the Azriel's music on record, it carries this brooding intensity that bands of this kind are renowned for, but it does not manifest itself in the performance. Instead, it feels like Azriel are taking an off day, giving half of what they are capable of - which is still impressive, do not be mistaken. Perhaps it is my unfair expectations that influence my opinion of this band, but the performance does not strike me as particularly memorable. I am entertained throughout, but not given the incentive to see these guys again.

Confession

Confession, for those unfamiliar with the name, is Michael Crafter's (one former vocalist of I Killed The Prom Queen) new band, and if you ask me, it's a step down even if IKTPQ's music inspired a disturbing amount of disinterest from me even in my younger years of metalcore mongering. It should come as no surprise then, that Confession's performance takes a step down from Azriel in terms of memorability as well, what with the music being but a constant barrage of heavily downtuned chugga-chugga riffing and Crafter's assertive machoness. There are brief glimpses of melody in the mix, with guitarist Adam (or is it bassist Dan?) providing the occasional clean vocals, but by and large this is exactly the kind of music that I cannot stand listening to, nevermind watching live. Granted, like every other band tonight, Confession are not newbies, nor are they unused to entertaining crowds. Lots of movement on stage attempts to draw our attention away from the band's complete lack of ideas musically, but such distractions are not enough to hold me in line.

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For The Fallen Dreams

For most people For The Fallen Dreams are the main attraction tonight, and it shows from crowd density as we near their set. Please do not be offended when I admit that I am honestly running out of words to describe their set. It might as well be an exact replica of my thoughts on Confession, because looking back at this gig, both bands struck me as the same uninteresting tough guy hardcore. Again, it would be unfair to judge the performance purely on the music on offer, but this performance is not captivating either, and let's face it, we do come to shows to hear as well as see. Admittedly the riffs are as swish as they are lavish, but as the set drags on for eleven songs it starts to get incredibly repetative, especially with screaming and yelling as Dylan Richter's. At this point I am eerily reminded of the War From A Harlots Mouth gig I watched at this same venue earlier this year, when the local band also outshone the arguably heavyweight international bands who have the skill and the experience, but lack the necessary charisma to entertain a crowd. Everyone can jump up and down during breakdowns - why not put some more effort into conveying emotion?

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Photos courtesy of Erin Samson.

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