With the onset of February we are getting a little busier. 2nd, Protest The Hero, 6th Del Amitri, 9th Molly Hatchet, 14th Monster Magnet, 15th Dream Theater, 19th, Sons Of Icarus, 20th Skyclad, 25th Soulfly, 26th Cadillac Three

And maybe a couple more to be added.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

SKINDRED, Soil, Viza @Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

When Los Angeles six piece Viza shamble out onto the stage, you initially wonder how on earth they know each other. This eclectic nature is reflected in their music. Singer K'noup Tomopoulos takes control of half an hour that by turns is a metal take on Greek music - you almost expect plates to smash at one point - and a metal take on the Middle Easten sound. Always interesting no matter what style they adopt,"Trans Siberian Stand-off" is perhaps the most immediate track here. 

It comes as something of a surprise that they have been releasing music since 2001, but there is no shock at all in finding out they are signed to Serj Tankian's record label. His fingerprints had to be on metal this left field. Worth checking out immediately. 

It doesn't matter how many times you see Soil, you end up just waiting for them to sing "Halo". Right at the start of RTM we saw the band play on their first tour back reunited with original singer Ryan McCoombs. It was a tetchy affair, and we speculated that the return wouldn't last long. We were - as on so many other things - wrong. 

They have toured here a few times since and McCoombs is still in situ. Where we are spot on, though (for our money), is the merits of the bands set. Soil are a group with a load of good songs ...and one phenomenal one. 

It seems as though their entire 50 minutes is building up to the glorious explosion of a conclusion, when they again want to "stone you, stone you, wrap my arms around you". That is not to say that the rest had been bad at all. The singer is in much better form - and mood - than he had been the last time, cracking jokes and looking like he was pleased with his lot. 

Since that night in 2011, Soil have released the "Whole" album from which they play "Shine On" and "The Hate Song" - the latter not quite as crass as it might be - they even chuck in a ramped up cover of "Black Betty" before the obvious conclusion. McCoombs sings it from the floor amongst the adoring fans. Having a song that is a copper bottomed classic, one of the finest of the early 2000s no less, is a problem most bands would love, Soil, rightly are going to milk it for all it's worth.

After a selection of some of the best songs ever put on wax between bands (seriously "Welcome to the Jungle" is followed by "From Out Of Nowhere" before "I'm Broken" at one point) it's time for the finest Welsh band there is.

RTM bumped bumped into a mate at the Lamb of God concert last week. Asking him whether he was coming tonight, he replied that rock and dance music should not mix. Really, we had assumed that metallers were past this. Right from the moment in 1986 when Run DMC and Aerosmith gave "Walk This Way" a fresh sheen, before Kerry King supplied riffs for the Beastie Boys, to the time when Anthrax and Public Enemy brought the noise, such collaborations have met with opposition, blimey we are old enough to recall the furore that accompanied The Prodigy's first appearance in Kerrang. 

It's these attitudes that Benjii Webbe has been battling for neary two decades. From the ashes of ragga metal pioneers Dub War, the singer formed  Skindred, who did the same type of thing, but chucked even more of the kitchen sink at it. Luckily for them most people understand there are just two sorts of music: good and bad, and the sold-out signs have been up at the Wulfrun for a while. 

This is possibly because although Skindred are good on record, they are supposed to be fantastic live. This is our first time with them and happily the stories are true.

After AC/DCs "Thunderstruck" gives way to something or other from Star Wars (not a film buff, think yourselves lucky I knew it was Star Wars...), all holy hell breaks lose. From the off this is like one of those concerts that often get filmed on DVD and you think, nothing I go to is like that. This is. And then some.

"Rat Race" kicks us off and the second thing you notice, after the near hysteria in the crowd, is how monumentally heavy the band are, the riffs that are on show courtesy of lead man Mikey Demus are huge. 

After an early selection including "Doom Riff" from previous album "Union Black" (the record that provided our entry into the world of Skindred) the first new one of the evening is played. This tour is to coincide with the release of the "Kill The Power" album, which is out on Monday. Playing unfamiliar material can kill the vibe at a gig, not this one though. "Ninja" is a good first choice, because a) it's been available on YouTube for a while and b) its ace.

Evidence that we are a different type of rock show comes around halfway through when drummer Ayra Goggin and DJ Dan Sturgess take centre stage and rattle off a solo cum DJ set which includes snippets of House of Pain and Queen.

Normal service soon resumes and other highlights include the title track of the new album and "Saturday" which is an ode to having fun that could have come straight off the Grand Theft Audio album that RTM loved so much about 10 years ago. 

For the encore the band plays another new track "We Live" a ballad dedicated to unity, which is their current single and "Warning" wherein Webbe succeeds in getting hundreds of people to wave their shirts around their heads, while his joined on vocals by Ryan McCoombs.

It is a suitably joyous conclusion to a joyful evening, and one which is made possible by Webbe himself, a strutting showman, he is a quite brilliant, sparkly suited, hat wearing, focal point, by turns funny, aggressive and always full of energy, and able to turn his voice to singing in more different styles in one song than most need to in a career.

The stories you have heard and read are true, Skindred live are not just a band, they are a veritable force of nature. Go and see them, they are quite, quite stunning.

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