Opening up what was shaping up to be an epic night of music were the Vancouver badasses, Wolfborne. It was a heavy set indeed; the fans were filtering in slowly to have their heads snap towards the stage in wonder as to who the hell was playing this brutal set of riffs that punctuated the room with grizzly chugs and venomous bass lines. The songs had that catchiness that demanded attention with a vibrant dynamic disposition that really caught you off guard.
Wolfborne caught the very essence of old school punk rock and ska an brought it into the 21st century with heavy beats that had clear influences from the likes of Metallica and Pantera of old. This was powerful stuff; Chris Witoski’s voice carried on the hot air currents that lifted the mood with his gruff vocals. Founder Lanning Kann’s riffs really permeated the atmosphere with tight lines and raging catchy chorus power chords that kept your head moving to the rhythm. Bret Nussbaum’s distinctive look and Mohawk really came to life as his aggressive bass lines and thunderous chords created the back bone and depth to the sound that Wolfborne were clearly emphasising, coupled with the drumming quality of Robbie Sheldrick, the sound was borne to capture and entice and it did that superbly. They are clearly in the same realm of sound as Breaking Benjamin, Hinder and Adelitas Way; Wolfborne were trying to put Vancouver back on the map and the Canadians were doing their country justice. This was a stunning and promising start for the quartet; the Manchester crowd lapped it up and gave them an ovation to be proud of.
With the venue full to bursting it was time for the mighty and eccentric (hed) P.E. to grace us with their eclectic sound of reggae, rap and heavy metal fusion. Fully clad head to foot in camouflage gear, including face, Jahred looked the imposing figure as the crowd went nuts to the slamming track list; the Jamaican styled vocals sent the crowd into a frenzy. The atmosphere was electrifying as the iconic tracks and sound bust out with blistering pace.
The interaction with the crowd was spellbinding and their years of experience were clearly on show as they controlled the bodies frothing at the bit to bounce to that infectious beat. The room was bleeding sweat as the heat intensified with the slamming bodies throwing themselves at one another with abandon. Jaxon’s guitar work was sublime and though this was of no surprise, it was also refreshing to hear as well as Jaxon, used every opportunity to pull out some improv riffs and chords. Their revolutionary sound that has its roots in Jamaican music and Thrash metal, with similar ties to Rage Against the Machine and Pitchshifter, with the obvious reggae fusion as the unique difference really powered through as the crowd absolutely destroyed themselves with pits opening every time the massive raw punk riffs tore out.
Whatever was in Trauma’s coffee it turned him into a demon behind those skins with blistering pace and overwhelming depth to his performance. Mawk’s bass lines punched through the tracks as the iconic ‘Killing Time’, ‘Bartender’ and ‘Blackout’ brought down the roof. It was the perfect blend of reggae and screams that created a warmth of nostalgia that could be felt by all.
Now considering the size of the venue, having six members on a small stage, is something of a crowded atmosphere but American Head Charge had managed it and still managed to move around the stage like the professionals they are. This was going to be something special, it has been a small time since their reunion back in 2011, during which they had played some major festivals as well as a new EP, Shoot in 2013. The was a return of a band that sparked a huge roar of approval from a large chunk of the metal community, as well as myself, this was going to be something very special, much like their reception at Download. Indeed their reception was overwhelming on the senses, Club Academy was heaving, the floor slick with sweat and spilt beer and the electrifying atmosphere was infectious beyond words; this was unprecedented beyond belief, it was utter carnage.
The intensity of the crowd was incredible, crushing and pulling as they poured their bodies and souls into the music. Cameron Heacock’s unique bite to his vocals still resonated that sound that is American Headcharge, as if time had stood still; it’s a sound that can’t be quantified into words, it has to be heard. Throughout the set the monstrous crush of the crowd pushing and shoving, no matter where you were, you just couldn’t avoid the huge pits that erupted with every iconic track as well as the new material inbetween the giant songs. They had charged up the already pounding mood, this was Nu Metal at its finest, the true essence of the genre, the industrial sound mixed with hard rock connotations just created the most sublime sound, American Head Charge were not the gimmick of many bands of their time, they were the real deal and the crowd lapped it all up with the gluttony of an army of starved rabid dogs; it was pure joy.
It was time for the big finale, the crescendo of the night, it was time for the bombastic Soil to grace the stage with their stunning set, which, though only an hour long set, meant it was going to be packed non-stop full of hits and of course showing off their new material from their latest album, Whole. Straight from the off, the American quartet smashed out the opening of Whole, ‘Loaded Gun’ with its blistering pace and thunderous heavy riffs, it was the perfect opening for this pack of animals.
The crowd ate it up, powering through the track that lent so wonderfully to the live show; Ryan McComb’s energy and presence was felt immediately, his growling voice rained down on the throng as they accepted it with open arms and bruised bodies. The tempo was quick, slamming through the set list just as expected; the energy from the crowd continued to intensify as the set continued to thrive and grow. Pits were opening as the more aggressive and heavily ladened riffed songs caused the crowd to go into a frenzy. This was such an intense gig, it was something unbelievably special; it was an experience that I had only felt a few times, such was its raw energy and impossibly high octane joy ride.
Tim King was on fire as the bass lines burst out with incredible clarity, such was the SOiL sound, Tim’s majestic lines poured out as he dominated the stage with his tall frame and huge grin, loving every moment that passed as every song was sung back with gusto.
When ‘The One’ kicked in, the pack went wild, the pits intensified and grew, bodies being flung at one another with passion and pleasure, the aggression was coupled with the typical compassion you expect; when someone fell, they were picked back up, in fact the pit even stopped when someone lost his phone and the lights of other phones shone down so he could find it. Where else would you find such nobility and humanity?
Tim’s stunning bass solo cutting into the introduction of ‘Redefine’ brought the house down as the bass lines thundered out with Adam Zadel’s guitar riffs smashing through with demonic power. Adam’s skills were on show as he hit every note with perfection, touring drummer Adrian Ost smashed it as well, with ‘Breaking Me Down’ and of course the iconic ‘Halo’ needing him to make no mistake due to the presence of the skins and percussion throughout them. Once again Ryan took to the crowd through ‘Halo’ to sing it, vanishing into the throng only to see his mic appear every so often, he was like a magnet for the fans, and yet when you saw him, the most spectacular sight appeared before your eyes, several fans locked armed protecting him from the crush of the fanatics as he risked going through the pit with the words “I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die” on his lips, yet as he moved closer to the stage and through the pit, they parted like the red sea before their Moses. It was a sight to see. Though it was meant to end with ‘Halo’, the noise from the crowd for more brought out the quartet for on last song and what better way to send us home with than ‘Shine On’, a song dedicated to their loyal die-hard fans.
This was a gig to remember, a night of passion and pleasure as the iconic (hed) P.E., American Head Charge and of course SOiL; this was not to forget Wolfborne, a name that is likely to be on the lips of many in the metal community in the near future, drenched in sweat, the hundreds of fans ascended the stairs with a sparkle in their eyes and a smile on their faces.
Review: Aaron Emerson
Photos: Craig Hutton
American Head Charge Setlist:
1) All Wrapped Up
8) Just So You Know
1) Loaded Gun
2) Two Skins
3) The Hate Song
4) Deny Me
5) Need to Feel
6) The One
7) Way Gone
8) Tim King Bass Solo Intro into…
11) Breaking Me Down
13) Shine On