The Woodlands Youth Centre is a strange venue to some; upon entering the venue a sign saying ‘enter the mosh pit at your own risk’ was stuck to the door. Yet due to the nature as a youth centre, no alcohol was served on the premises. The diversity of the line-up was strange too with Alternative Metal/Hard Rock (Five Days Time), Sleaze Rock, (Spyder Byte), Melodic Hardcore (Silence Remains), Industrial Metal (Near Ruin) and Electronic Hardcore (Avokan) all represented. The t-shirts in the crowd were also diverse: for every Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath t-shirt there was a Chelsea Grin and Suicide Silence t-shirt. Gamma Ray, Helloween and Epica t-shirts were spotted, yet I still felt out of place in my 3 Inches of Blood shirt. Nevertheless it was time for some music.
After a comeback that had been expected since last year, Five Days Time’s set was simply a let-down. Especially coming from a band that could once command entire rooms to sing their material for them, they were now a shadow of their former glory. The long awaited comeback needed much improvement and when members of the band yelled out their frustration on stage, it didn’t help the atmosphere. But when the classic track ‘Prototype’ was played, the ending breakdown still sent shivers down my spine. Despite being a long awaited reunion, it still felt rushed and for the sake of it. But there was potential hidden in today’s set that needed time to be discovered. It was easy to feel sorry for Five Days Time too as they had to endure ‘the curse of the opener,’ which usually suffers the worst sound and attendance, but it was also understandable why there was little movement from the crowd.
Luckily Spyder Byte was on hand to cheer things despite a still murky sound. Bassist Nathan Hammond during their song ‘Spyder Byte’ started squirting whipped cream into the mouths of fans below and the first mosh pit of the night started with ‘Love Hungry Woman.’ Their frontman Dan Lawrence was a charismatic one who did his best to motivate a crowd that partially seemed bored and unenthusiastic to join in with the fist pumps. It’s a shame that the audience couldn’t be bothered with Spyder Byte as they played some catchy riffs and choruses. During the finale of ‘Love Bomb Ticking,’ their bassist and guitarists even jumped off stage and started playing into the crowd, before parting the audience so they could run back up onto the stage. It was certainly an entertaining setlist which could have only been made better if it weren’t for the sound and laziness of the audience.
The show had truly started now that Silence Remains were on stage. Launching into ‘The Forgetting,’ the attendees ears pricked up as a mosh pit broke out within a few notes of the opening song. From then on a flurry of hardcore dancers dominated the front rows with frontman Theo Halpern spending the entire show once again in the audience with his congregation. High on Fire’s Matt Pike is famous for never wearing a shirt live, soon Theo Halpern will be known for not being confined to the stage. Many fans were also expressing themselves through other means such as headbanging, air guitar playing and crab walking (the influence of Dismanibus was spreading beyond Colchester perhaps). The band played their Milestones EP in full except for ‘Aureum’ but everyone was enjoying themselves too much to care. It’s the weakest track on Milestones so personally it wasn’t as great a loss. Silence Remains were simply on fire and the merchandise sales confirmed it.
The main reason many were in attendance tonight was for the return of Near Ruin. A comeback that was long overdue and a year and a half in the making, but unlike Five Days Time they had come prepared. Armed with strobe lights and the musicianship that made them so liked before, it was certainly worth the wait. It was a bold move opening with new song ‘No End’ but it paid off, much to the relief of some who thought the band had come up with no new material during their hiatus, the new material had not even be heard by the band members’ families until tonight. ‘Relinquish’ was next, a song that had gone through many changes since 2011 but now seemed to have a finalised version which packed the energetic punch of the earlier incarnations. But the audience truly seemed glad to see Near Ruin when they launched into their classic track ‘Voice of Reason,’ where the voice of the faithful was truly heard.
After a brilliant ‘Voice of Reason,’ the band played fan favourite ‘The Masterpiece,’ resulting in the first wall of death of the night. It was an unforgettable moment and a relief that the quartet from Maidstone could still cause chaos. After another new track, ‘Shadows of Perception,’ the intro track ‘Rebirth,’ used as the prelude to ‘Dying Unborn,’ was used. The intro to local anthem ‘Dying Unborn’ was a welcome sound as the sweeping solo filling the Youth Centre and the surrounding streets, before the keyboards kicked in and a battlefield reminiscent of a Roman gladiatorial battle erupted, minus the animals and chariots. Despite the new material being as solid as Snake from the Metal Gear Solid series, I felt sorry for Near Ruin as despite displaying some impressive new material, a lot of attendees just wanted to hear the ‘classics’ again such as ‘Specimen 58’ and ‘New World Order,’ instead of the new material. One attendee even yelled “Play 58 so we can go home!” This was of course understandable after a painfully long absence. When the set finished and the bodies were being picked off the floor from the pit, a wave of relief swept across the audience – they were back and meant business!
Avokan’s set started off with a fan jumping up onto the stage and into the crowd, setting the scene for a truly mad set. Despite trance-hardcore not being my taste, they sounded much better live than on their debut EP and were better than expected. Chris Risby’s synths sounded more natural live rather than on their debut self-titled EP, where they came across as rather forced. Unlike some bands where the synth player simply pressed play on a mac, Risby’s live playing actually increased the enjoyment factor.
Their set was hyperactive and chaotic with the fans constantly being entertained throughout their set. Frontman Sam Moore was fantastic at his job in stirring the hordes and he never gave them a chance for a breather. His stage banter with bassist Ash Sullivan was often entertaining too. The band are already starting to be an influential act on the live scene, when Moore asked for the audience to sit down, 95% sat down before jumping up and down like lunatics. “Do whatever makes yourself happy, just enjoy yourself” commanded the ever likeable frontman. At the end of the gig Sam Moore stated “this is our fourth gig and best one yet.” From only their fourth gig, they were showing a lot of hope, don’t judge them by the quality of the EP, it is best to see them live.
Ultimately this gig was worth the £3 admission fee and there were a few unexpected surprises, but it took a while for the night to get started.