When one thinks of music /musical activities around Christmas time, the common man would probably not think about an assortment of metal/hardcore bands to go and watch, but that is just what we had on the 19th of December, when Underground introduced it's new series : Underground Heavy. A move that I think is a smart one. There have been many times that I have been at an Underground and when the heavier then most acts come on, it is clear that there is always a fraction of the room who are either confused/bemused or downright unhappy. This is a shame, because although yes, these bands can be painfully loud and or aggressive to those not used to such genres, they are still quite skillful, even more so then some of our favourite rock'n'roll acts. There's thrashing about and making noise, but then theres the art to harnessing the brutal energy into structured interesting and most importantly tight songs. The first UG Heavy, no doubt offered such examples. On the bill were In Love & Pain, Protoss, Mensheng, Maniac and, lets not lie, the reason why most of the crowd had showed up (band members included) King Ly Chee.
In Love & Pain:
So this is my attempt to write a none biased review about In Love & Pain. These guys are my boys, and I love their work, every time I watch them (which I'm sure I can count on two hands now). This Screamo/Punk group, are in my opinion, the hardest working act in town. If you have these guys on your Facebook, you see basically a post a week from them promoting their latest gig. IL&P are a four piece act that interestingly all share the vocal duties. The best thing about them, is their ability to perform a high energy show and spread this onto those who come out to see them. On this particular evening, IL&P struggled a tad with their general sound. Whether this was out of their hands or not I am not sure, but they will probably agree that they didn't sound as powerful as they usually do. Most bands, would probably be dejected by this, and thus merely 'go through the motions' for the rest of the set. Not an industrious band like IL&P though. They powered through and still rocked out as if they were playing at Wembley. Their six song set contained many great sing-a-long anthems, that all get the blood rising. They go in and out of melodic and heavy moments. All their songs with have just the right balance of both. Check these guys out.
The next beast to take to the Rock School stage was the 5 piece Metal crew known as Protoss. Which of course is a race in the popular video game: “Starcraft”. Not the broom broom kind, but the people-identefier-er-thingy. You know what I'm talking about. The Protoss, are known for their advanced technology and their strict religious code of conduct. I'm guessing what the band took from the name, was the 'take no prisoners' in war time policy. And thus play some pretty brutal music. Good 'fuck you' screams were bellowed by their front man. They work best during their real sludgy cut tempo breakdowns. Recommended for those who are after an ideal head banging opportunity and those with an interest in badass riffing. The guys are very tight and also started the evenings first Circle Pit, which means they do their job in getting the crowd going. Kudos! The Protoss legion (referring to the band here) have interesting song structures and go places sometimes one would not expect. Dare I say , advanced, Protoss? See what I did there?
Another 5 man strong group who are making their Underground debut appearance. I bet they were over the moon when they found out who else was going to be on the bill for their first UG outing. They took to the stage like seasoned veterans, well they have after all been going since 2004. They play a fairly straight forward mix of metal core, complete with all the expected tastes and trimmings. Good guitarists in this band who trade off quirky lead parts which is exciting to watch and hear. These guys have a good front man who is constantly bouncing round the stage and hyping up the crowd. Their songs are long in length and also move around in an interesting fashion. Everyone is completely engaged the whole time, and look to be having a real good time. During the outro stages of their finale, the singer switches from screaming to Thom Yorke trademarked soprano wailing. Which of course was a surprise, a pleasant one, which worked very well and rounded off a good set.
So it's looking like the average players for a metalcore bands is 5, as confirmed by the 5 men of Maniac who are next to continue XmasMetalFest09. The start of their set had caught everybody by surprise. They kick off with an electronic song being blasted through the house sound system. For a moment, we could very well be at a hidden rave party! Just when you're about to run to the closest 7-11 to get your value pack of glow sticks however, the distorted axes and beatings of the double kick riot through and we're back to moshing and slam dancing. Well not me of course, I'm naturally at the back of the room tucking into Chris B's Cajun French Fries. Which are amazing by the way. I'm constantly in fact waiting for Chris to go on another Cosmopolitan run so that I may jam a fistful down me. But no one wants to hear me go on about my barbaric feeding rituals. Speaking of barbaric however, Maniac are the first band of the evening to get the famous 'wall of death' going. If you are unfamiliar with such a feat, I highly recommend that you youtube it immediately. Not much to say about the music though. It is of course played very well, and you can tell the band have done a lot of work to get it tight, but it's pretty much everything you expect. No real surprises. Maniac perform a good show, and I've realised that if you are to play real heavy music, you need to sell it, and each band tonight has done just that.
King Ly Chee:
From the very start of the night, their was a buzz about the room and I have a feeling it was largely due to the fact KLC were at some point going to unleash hell amongst the Rockschool sanctuary. All the other bands would mention King Ly Chee's name at least thrice during their set and everyone would applaud with great enthusiasm. When the hour finally arrives, there is even a crew who take to the stage to help the guys set up and suddenly the room is quite packed. We are all informed that it is the bands 10 year anniversary, which is an amazing accomplishment for a band from this neck of the woods. The players, and roles within have changed, but the ideals and music have stayed pretty constant. To play heavy as possible, and have people captivated by it. KLC have a strong following, and its their fans which make it a complete package to watch, It is just as interesting to watch the musicians as it is watching some guy nearly breaking the lighting fixtures due to his crowd surfing participation. The guys must be the only band in HK who refer to their audience constantly as mother fuckers, and they lap it up. Riz is constantly running round the stage making sure everyone in the crowd is going nuts. True story here, I once had a guinea pig called Riz, and when the KLC singer is running round the stage, it would remind me of my once furry pet running round his cage. Pretty random I know, but that's what was going through my head. The music follows a simple pattern of, head banging beats, then a freak out section, then repeating, with an occasional breakdown thrown in. It's nothing special but KLC do it well. Very well. They also sound good, which is amazing. It's no secret that the sound system at Rock School isn't currently the greatest, but for some reason KLC sound real crisp and clear, whilst still being heavy as hell. Everyone is singing along to the songs and getting well and truly involved. For me it's an awesome sight to see a band in HK have such a dedicated following. It's like we're watching an international headliner. During the last song, Kevin from Hardpack who has been drumming in this town for ages takes to the stage, and rips out the ending with the band, while a massive circle pit is taking place. What a set, hail to the King!
Looking back on this night, I remember it being actually a lot more fun then I anticipated. The musicianship of all the bands was much more then I expected. Although not my main cup of tea, I truly had a good time. I may even be at the next Underground Heavy.