So this was my second-ever trip to Manchester (details of the first found here), and disappointingly it still wasn’t the early nineties when I got there. Get it together, Manchester! I did manage to get in some tourist sights this time around, including the pretty cool Museum of Science and Industry and the Brew Dog bar on Quay Street.
Sound Control is a nice venue just beside Oxford Road train station. I arrived a little early, and took my place in the queue with the expected assortment of aged metalheads and younger, hipper fans – Red Fang being a band with a sizable following among fans who aren’t otherwise interested in metal (their last album was described, a little uncharitably, by Terrorizer as a “my first stoner metal album”).
A couple of amateur musicologists behind me in the line kept me entertained with their analyses of… something, I didn’t quite catch what:
Pretty much every song has semitones, but like, the dissonant kind?
Again there was some ticket mixup – the venue didn’t have the list of Ticketmaster bookings, so the manager just let me in. I’m a little tempted to start lying my way into gigs.
Sound Control inside has a pub area downstairs, with merch tables and access to the smoking area, and upstairs is the actual stage itself and another bar. Being nice and early, I was able to get up right to the front – and unlike last year’s Red Fang gig in Whelan’s, the stage was waist-high and behind an actual barrier so fans wouldn’t get their knees utterly destroyed off the edge.
Opening act Lord Dying share Red Fang’s hometown of Portland, Oregon. Somehow seeing a big fat guy as a frontman instantly made me think “Oh they’re a doom metal band”. Sure enough, Lord Dying delivered a nice doom/thrash mixture, with an abrasive, raspy vocal style rather than the overblown operatics that most doom bands suffer from, or the typical shouty delivery of most recent thrash bands. Heavy riffs and nasty sounds warmed the crowd up as well as any opening band I’ve seen.
I lost my place right at the front for the second act The Shrine, a power trio who live somewhere between classic heavy metal and thrash. They hail from Venice Beach, California, and upheld the reputation for eccentricity that town seems to have by introducing songs like:
This is a song about Little Richard’s gay orgies and it’s called WARSHIP!
The Shrine did a great job of fusing punky thrash mentality with 70’s style arrangements, and really showed off the strength of the power trio as an ensemble with some excellent bass and guitar interplay, but ultimately didn’t seem to excite the crowd the way Lord Dying did.
I reclaimed a spot on the barrier for Red Fang, and it’s at this point that I stopped taking notes and instead had my face rocked clean off. Despite taking a few songs to really warm into the set, Red Fang are serious musicians and by a wide margin were the tightest act on offer. Some points almost seemed choreographed – such as synchronized headbanging at specific sections – but never overly theatrical or cheesy. They delivered a great mix of material across all three albums, and if they only interacted with the crowd a small amount, it’s because they prefer to get on with the business of riffing the house down. The little crowd banter that they did provide was charming however, my favourite moment being when Aaron Beam asked “Do you guys prefer ‘Mancs’ or ‘Mancunians’?” and the huge bald bearded man beside me – you can picture exactly what he looks like – roared “I don’t care, I’m from Yorkshire!”.
Despite my slight distance from the stage, I managed to get sweated on again by Beam. I ended up roughly in front of him and definitely got flecked with perspiration when he stepped up between his monitors to headbang a particularly groovy section. So that’s 2/2 Red Fang gigs where this has happened. I’m not sure what to make of this.
They of course ended with breakthrough hit Prehistoric Dog, sending the crowd wild for the end of an excellent gig. On the way out I picked up the Whales and Leeches Cd and tour t-shirt – unfortunately the guy at the merch stand gave me second album Murder the Mountains by accident, which I didn’t realize until I was already on the train home. The point of buying the CD at the show was really to support the band as directly as possible though, and since all their releases are on Spotify it wasn’t a total disaster.
Check out these bands! And Red Fang – please come back to Dublin!