Last November I had the pleasure of stumbling across Absalom during their set for ‘We Are Listening’ – an event set up to raise money for mental health issues within the music industry, for the charity organisation, ‘Music Minds Matter’. Back then, the five-piece had no official music releases or even social media, they simply caught my ear. Seven months later and the band have since released their self-titled debut EP and a music video for their single, ‘Zenith’. The band happened to appreciate my short review of their slot last year and invited me along for their headline set at Gullivers, Manchester. Flattered and thirsty for hard riffs and tinnitus, I couldn’t refuse.
Here’s what went down…
‘Viking Metal’ – a phrase I had neither ever heard or expected to hear until coming to this already pretty niche event. According to their Facebook, their music “is based off the Viking culture and the mighty tales they have left us with”. They also tell their own stories based around similar ideas. There, to school me in my first lesson on the genre – Manchester’s own, Vika Fenryka. The lead singer, who loomed over the stage with such a presence he could be mistaken for a Norse god. ‘Iron Will’, while described as one of the band’s “lighter” songs, is still a heavy track – sung with an almost operatic vibrato that really pinned the Viking element to the chaotic cacophony. Whereas on meaner tracks, the singer seemed to effortlessly churn out growls and screams while the nimble band rocked out rhythms and riffs you could imagine fighting an Angelo-Saxon or rowing a large boat to. Their sound is a fun and creative engine for song-writing but also more approachable from the modern underground scene than you might anticipate. They have a true grittiness that all metal fans can appreciate. No matter how you enjoy it, they’re certainly memorable!
Upon immediate inspection, Avarus are clearly on the pulse with the modern metalcore scene. They place death metal singing and instrumentation aside pop-ballad sections. This band clearly have a large pool of modern influences in metal. Personally, I would place them somewhere in between Bullet for my Valentine and early Bring me the Horizon. Their performances were tight and the scream to sing transitions were expertly executed by both, the bassist and the front-man guitarist. They have a sound that is very accessible and will no doubt sit pretty alongside a wide range of genres within metal. Their recent single, ‘Empire’ is excellent and I wish I could have caught the name of the first song from their set. I suspect that soon there will be answers as they have more material coming out very soon. No doubt, this will result in more development in the band. For now, the band have a YouTube, and Spotify.
Metalcore band, Ventures had a wild nature about them. The lead singer, Ollie May – who may just be the spirit animal of Danny Worsnop – literally threw himself into the mix, pretty much performing the entire show from off the stage and motivating the audience, hands on. When their single ‘Solitude’ was played, the guitarist, Richard Taylor joined in on the crowd’s level to get the mosh pits going. Sometimes, if you want a job done, you’ve got to do it yourself. They definitely do this for fun and it’s great when that’s so easily read by the band you’re watching. Taylor, grinning would sing along to all the lyrics despite not being the backing singer or even having a microphone. The music would contrast between lighter themes and melodies against harsh vocals and dramatic breakdowns. ‘Turn the Page’, falls on a tasty breakdown during the intro of the song. ‘Happy Hour’, the band’s feel good track – is not even titled ironically as it breaches the realms of groove metal and sings of “having a good time”. Their single, ‘Paradise Lost’ utilises serious tones – the lyrics about loving “to watch you walk away, and the you sway”.
Unfortunately, the first 15 minutes of the band’s set was spent dealing with the mix as they trouble preventing the click track from playing out from the speakers. “Who’s ready for click track?”, the bassist, called out. the crowd laughed chanted out a high pitched
“Bleep, bloop bloop bloop. Bleep, bloop bloop bloop…”.
“Well, don’t get excited because if it goes tits up, it’s on me”, Alex Papaioannou replied. In an attempt to kill time, He also told a strange story about a woman in Adsa asking if he was foreign. But the crowd were patient and the band eventually prevailed and powered through the rest of their set. And power through, they did. Absolutely bringing it with tracks such as my favourite, the unrelenting ‘Solstice’ and the methodical ‘Eclipse’. Stephen Brown’s lead guitar work is still something of a spectacle. Adam Ost, still full of empowering energy and angst, curdling out growls, screams and pitch-perfect melodies as he body-popped and rocked out that set through with the band. These guys know what it’s about. This event was a really big accomplishment for the band – with it being their first headline set and off the back of their newly released EP, ‘Absalom’. The members also spoke out on their personal struggles with the journey they’ve had getting to this point. Papaioannou spoke of the passing away of his parents over the past 18 months. He said
“I don’t know what I would’ve done without this” – he said as he reached out to the room, which suggested all of it – the band, the community, the event and encouragement towards them. “Thank you all for being here, seriously”. Ost said the night of the performance was the birthday of his grandad who sadly passed away a few months ago.
“Putting on this show has really been a ball ache”. Technical difficulties – to say the least. But this band prevailed in more ways than one, and they show no sign of stopping. This band are so distinct in nature and sound, they have a professional outlook and apply nothing but love and skill into their trade. I have complete confidence that the only way is up from here for Absalom. May they continue to bring people together in such a brutal but beautiful way.
Words Simon Harwood