This was my first time in the O2 Institute 2. I was super impressed with the venue! Good size, awesome layout, staff were all really cool and helpful. If you are going there for the first time, there are some car parks nearby that lock up at 10:00pm, so double check your car park closing times before leaving your car. (...Just in case you wonder, no I didn’t get my car locked up! Haha)
‘Swamp Donkey’, were the opening act, a local Rock/Metal band. They stormed out with some hard solid tunes. Catchy songs that were engaging with the audience. I had a bit of a laugh with the bassist, when he clocked me taking photos… He went to give me the devil horns… but realised he needed his hand to play bass… but it still resulted in a cool picture! Haha.
‘The Black Hounds’ were the following act, a Heavy Metal band from Wolverhampton. For me, these guys stole the show! They rocked so hard with some technical twists which kept the songs interesting. Mark their drummer was solid as a rock, flawless powerful playing! However, there was something up with the sound… I could barely hear the 2nd guitar, whether it was due to where I was standing I'm unsure, but the solos were not cutting through, which was a little disappointing. The vocals were on point, some absolute belters, reminding me of Judas Priest. As I am typing this review, I am listening to their EP ‘Gallows’, well worth a listen! Really enjoyed their set and this EP!
‘Left for Red’ another midlands band from Stourbridge, I think their description of ‘Groove Metal’ is spot on. They brought a good energy to the room, their vocalist is quite a character! They had some cool hooks in their music, but other than that, it does exactly what it says on the tin… Just nod your head along to riffs. …also checking out their album ‘All Things Known And Buried’ while I am typing. I must say, it is a lot more polished than I was expecting. Whether it was the sound issue, but there are some cool harmonies on the album, which didn’t come across in their live performance.
‘Fire Red Empress’ are friends of mine, but this is the first chance I have had to see them!
Quite simply, Balls to the wall Rock! It was not that long ago they were joined by a new vocalist ‘Jen Diehl’… and a great asset to the band she is! Bringing huge energy to the front of the stage and man she has a set of lungs on her! The band lit up the stage and opened with some high tempo songs… Basically letting the audience know to buckle up, because they are going to get their socks rocked! About mid-way through their set, they invited their previous frontman ‘Nick’ to join them on stage to sing one of their older songs ‘Left Unspoken’. One thing I learnt… Nick is a menace! Haha. If you are having a party, he is that one guy you don’t want to get hold of a sharpie marker or a razer while you are sleeping! A little more rehearsing was required though, I assume Luke (Drummer) was playing to a click when Nick tried to stop the song. Woops… Haha.
There were a few songs in the middle of the set that were a bit mediocre for a band who can clearly write some great tunes… but that was all forgotten when Benny (Bassist) brought out his 5 String and the band tuned to Drop A! My friend and I gave the nod of approval when the opening riff kicked in!
I believe F.R.E are a band that thrive on audience feedback/engagement. Unfortunately, the numbers were not there to bring out the best of the band, but they still gave a great performance.
Overall it was a very enjoyable night, but the one thing that really let it down for me was the sound quality! Everything sounded very ‘muddy’, instruments were not cutting through properly, there was no clarity to the vocals which especially stood out on the slower songs, mixes were awful between instruments or additional microphones. I believe the sound desk was to the side of the stage (Apologies if this is not the case) but could be why things were not mixed properly. This is something I hope they address in the future.
Fire Red Empress - https://www.facebook.com/fireredempress/
Left For Red - https://www.facebook.com/leftforreduk/
The Black Hounds - https://www.facebook.com/TheBlackHounds/
Swamp Donkey - https://www.facebook.com/SwampDonkeyOfficial/
Review & Photos - Matt Jones Design And Photography