Enforcer

support Cauldron + Invasion
author GR date 27/05/10 venue Old Blue Last, London, UK

Living in London sure has its advantages, I can tell you. The crime rate may be higher, everything more expensive and idiot yoofs might try to impress chavvy girls by revving their crappy mopeds outside your bedroom window (take a guess at what's happening as I type this) - but the amount and quality of gigs that roll through town can't be beaten. This is something that's easy to take for granted once you've been here for a while, so writing up a review like this helps me appreciate just how good it can get. For not only were a couple of international bands currently leading the trad-metal charge playing at a venue within walking distance of my workplace, but the night before had borne witness to German titans Accept just up the road in Islington. Needless to say it was with the last echos of a hangover that I made my way to the Old Blue Last - a pub owned by Vice magazine in trendy Shoreditch - pushed past people trying to look cool, before finding an upstairs door emblazoned with a poster declaring entry was only for the 'true'. Yep, this was the right place.

Invasion

Invasion were a band I had previously not heard of, which is slightly unusual for a London-based metal outfit, but one which I'm not going to forget any time soon. A friend had said they played metal with female soul vocals and told of a previous gig where the drummer set her cymbals alight - which sounded pretty interesting to say the least. Finally hitting the stage just after 9pm, the band were clearly not going to be 'typical' in any way, the most striking sign of this being singer Chan clad in a fluorescent stripy robe, hood pulled mysteriously over her face. The trio - vocals, guitar and drums only - proceeded to show off a riff-centric, stripped down sound that mixed doom metal, punk/thrash and general freak-rock influences, ultimately characterised by the soaring soulful tones of Chan's voice. With this somewhat unusual combination I found myself unsure of exactly what I thought of Invasion - on the one hand it was good to hear something a bit 'out there', on the other their performance didn't elicit much reaction from the crowd or create much of an atmosphere. Still, I get the feeling they could potentially be quite mesmerising under the right circumstances.

6

Cauldron

This was to be my second time of seeing Canadian old-schoolers Cauldron as main support on a small UK tour headlined by a Swedish band (last time it was Wolf). That experience, along with their debut album, had led me to view Cauldron as an alright band, but one that was a bit boring. Their workman-like set didn't entirely dispel that opinion but definitely improved on it as time wore on. By this point the small venue had filled up significantly (and more than I was expecting) with people hungry for heavy metal and Cauldron successfully delivered on what some members of the crowd were clearly excited about. Blasting out tunes from "Chained To The Nite" showed their knack of writing catchy riffs and melodies whilst lacking any kind of polish - this was undeniably for those that like it rough and ready. With an old-school aesthetic that evens extends to sporting bad 80s fringes, the band's dedication to the cause can't be faulted and their performance was more lively and involving than on the previous occasion I caught them - headbanging, machine-gun guitaring...you know the score.

However they were still lacking that edge to really push them up in my estimation, something I think has to do with an issue I picked up on before - the fact they look somewhat sullen on stage. With music like this you should be grinning like a madman, getting aggressive or at least showing some kind of connection to the music you're playing but Cauldron seem slightly detached thanks to their inexpressive faces. Luckily this didn't stop their set being enjoyable and somehow neither did the fact Jason Decay can't really sing. His vocals have been a point of contention for many on their recorded output and tonight there are times when he sounds flat and a bit out-of-tune. This doesn't seem to matter to the crowd, who react enthusiastically throughout the set and when everyone is having such a good time it's hard not to smile and headbang regardless.

7

Enforcer

The night's headliners are currently promoting their second full-length, the most excellent "Diamonds" (review coming soon) which has seen them get a little less speed metal and more NWOBHM - but still as old-school as ever. The room had emptied slightly since Cauldron's set but Enforcer were the band I was most looking forward to and they didn't disappoint. The small stage barely contained the fivesome and from the word go every member was a blur of motion and joyful energy in the most traditional of metal performances. Ripping into cuts such as "Midnight Vice" and "Walk With Me" from the new album, the sound mix may not have been perfect but didn't dampen the atmosphere or the obvious quality of such songs. On the only occasion I had seen the band before, back in 2008 at an even smaller venue, the vocals of frontman Olof Wikstrand were near enough inaudible so it was great simply to be able to hear his glorious wail.

The finer details of their set are lost in a haze of beer and headbanging but it's fair to say Enforcer are a band that would always leave a positive impression in the live environment. Led from the front by leather-clad Wikstrand, their enthusiasm and connection with the audience never waned and it was clear they loved every moment on stage. Never seeming contrived or clichéd despite the overwhelming 80s vibe thanks to the passion on display, Enforcer tore through select numbers from debut "Into The Night" while concentrating mainly on new material, As the hour got later the crowd thinned as people were forced to leave the band's grasp in search of the last train home. The late finishing of gigs is an annoying issue for those that live outside the city (I used to be one of them) but luckily I was able to stick around for the duration and see the evening topped off with the very first Enforcer song I ever heard thanks to the "Speed Kills...Again" compilation. "Evil Attacker" provided the crowd one last chance to chant along to a catchy chorus and rock out like it was the weekend and also sealed Enforcer's place on my Bloodstock schedule - assuming a major clash doesn't materialise. Here's hoping, because these guys are a good-time festival band if there ever was one.

8

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