So, it’s Eurovision night and my Facebook and Twitter feeds are clogged with nothing but crap about the various entries, and it’s also the day of SlamDunk Festival in Leeds, which means the city’s teaming with teenage emos and pop-metallers who’ve come to get down to You Me At Six, Lower than Atlantis and shameful dance act PVRIS. Me, I’m after something with more oomph and without any of the corny pop carnival trappings.
Henry Blacker deliver on all levels. With a brace of stonking albums under their belts, the Hey Colossus offshoots come on all guns blazing. From a drawl to a howl, they crash in with their brand of hard-hitting, heavy grunge, a sound that’s gritty and roaring with rage and angst. The power trio setup was made for this, and they’ve got no weak spots. Small wonder people have travelled to Leeds specifically to see them. When they slow it down, they grind toward stoner / sludge and pummel the crowd hard. With this much killer riffage, delivered with this much power, they won’t be bottom of bills for long.
Having replaced Part Chimp on the lineup, Kings arrived in a squall of feedback and promised so much that they simply failed to deliver. They may be a Leeds act on the cusp on going big, but their twin-guitar attack was lacking something. The neatly-trimmed beards, plaid shirts, the guitarist’s moustache and slick hair, not to mention the regulation tattoos and aggressive posturing didn’t compensate the fact they’ve only got one really killer song in the set. With metal hipster style taking precedent over musical content, I’d have rather have seen a longer set from Henry Blacker.
While 2012’s ‘Harmonicraft’ saw Torche explore a more accessible sound, latest offering ‘Restarter’ marks a return to their heavy roots, and this is the sound that defines tonight’s blistering set.
‘Alright! What’s up, you cunts?’ asks Steve Brooks jovially before the band kick off their set with a piledriving ‘Piraña’. Unlike so many ‘heavy’ bands, Torche combine strong melodies with the strong riffs without lessening their force, and incorporate spacious, proggy breaks and venture into a diverse range of sonic territories without any of it sounding forced. They attack every track full-throttle, bassist Jonathan Nuñez playing with his guitar resting on his knee and kicking out bowel-shuddering bassline with relish.
They don’t pause between songs to banter or bask in the applause, and it’s exhilarating to watch a band working so hard, and clearly enjoying themselves, too. For all the hard-edged fury of the music and the intense focus playing them evidently requires, Brooks looks truly happy up there. He has every reason to be, as the band are sounding phenomenal and thunder from the PA at the volume they deserve to be heard at and the crowd show their appreciation.
It’s seriously strong stuff, and it’s seriously good. Passing on a day at Slam Dunk or a night on the sofa watching Eurovision was definitely the right call. Who did win, anyway?