LIVE: GroundCulture / Black Coast / Starved / Cut Short @ Satan’s Hollow, Manchester

By Gem Rogers

Manchester, like most major cities, has its fair share of venues scattered across the city, with many doubling as pubs, clubs, cafes, and student unions. None, though, have quite the same impact as Satan’s Hollow; there’s a reason so many bands make reference to it on later tours, helped by the fact that this distinctive room is often the first introduction many touring metal bands have to the city (and to be fair, what more accurate representation of this damp, dark city is there than a giant Satan grinning down from the corner?).

The downside of this particular venue, with its popular club nights, is a fairly early start to proceedings – and getting anyone out in the rain at 6pm on a Saturday is, as could probably be expected, a bit of an impossibility. Liverpool’s Cut Short do their best to engage the room, though, and despite poor sound meaning the first part of their set lacks some punch and a few later technical difficulties resulting in a song being – ironically – cut short, there are still plenty of big melodic hooks to enjoy in amongst grinding riffs. It’s a short but promising introduction in front of a tricky early crowd, and with new music out this year it seems unlikely to be the last we’ll see of these four.

Newcastle’s Starved bring an altogether different level of fire into Satan’s as they step into the ring – quite literally, since the stage takes over the circular dancefloor in the middle of the room – and from the off, vocalist James Freeman isn’t remotely interested in letting anyone stand shirking in the corners. They exude the same kind of energy in this small room as they would to a crowd of thousands, and that energy is soon bounced right back by enthusiastic fans at the front in an impressively tight display. Previously known as Starve To Survive, in this new identity, Starved carry their experience with them into something altogether new, with a captivating strength in their snarling, groove-laden metalcore that sets them up clearly as a band to watch – and watch closely.

Taking to the stage as the first of tonight’s co-headliners, Black Coast are another band who know exactly how to bring life into a room, and for the next half hour there’s no letting up in the pace. There’s a hint of nu-metal about this prowling, riff-heavy aural assault that compliments the band’s melodic side, setting them apart from the crowd and sounding downright dirty – in the best possible way – in this live setting. There’s also, fortunately, none of the occasional sound issues experienced during the previous two sets, every pummelling chug now hitting with perfect heart-stopping clarity; Black Coast are a band who’ve put in the work to get to where they are now, developing their sound and skill over four years, and the results are plain to see in this formidable live performance. With three EPs now to their name, it seems only a matter of time before a full length comes our way – and with it, the bigger crowds they very much deserve.

If it’s a party anyone’s after tonight (and hey, it is Saturday), they’ve come to the right place, as second headliners GroundCulture ramp the atmosphere up a notch or fifty within seconds. Infectious grooves? Check. Massive, face melting riffs? Double check. Tonight has been all about outstanding, up and coming heavy music, but there’s something about GroundCulture that feels especially next level – and on top of all this are some of the most expressive vocals in the game from front man Roy Watson, his gritty roars full of life and passion that’s nothing short of show-stealing.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the first night of a tour without a couple of hitches along the way, and between a broken strap and string, guitarist Lewi Shoulder seems to be bearing the brunt of tonight’s curse. The brief lulls in the set are handled with good humour and it barely feels like a hiccup – though Shoulder might disagree if it turns out the occasional threats of getting sacked weren’t jokes (they were jokes, right? Guys?). It’s all part of an atmosphere that’s full of positive vibes and gleeful energy, summing up what GroundCulture are all about as they pack as much into this short set as possible. For a band with just one EP to their name so far, the Geordie five have a confidence and certainty in their sound that is phenomenally exciting, and the new tracks aired tonight – especially latest single ‘REALEYES’ – are a sign of a band ready to explode onto the scene.

Playing Satan’s Hollow is almost a rite of passage for metal bands at this point, with plenty going onto bigger and better things – and this show has undoubtedly been a display of the strength of British heavy music right now, with not only an impressive set of big name bands carving the way in the scene, but a thriving core of rising bands ready to carry it into the future. If you aren’t listening to these bands yet, you absolutely should be – they’re about to take over, and boy, are we ready to see it.