LIVE: Never Say Die Tour at Electric Ballroom, London [18/10/12]

By Lais

There is a formulaic pattern embedded in tonight’s proceedings; each band delivering minimal variation on sporadic moments of high-tempo metal spliced with some sort of genre-bending composition – be it trance-infused breakdowns or clean vocal harmonies. As expected with a roster made up of up-and-coming metalcore bands from across the pond (not exclusively the United States, but definitely in the majority), breakdowns are the name of the game. Audiences are hard pushed to walk further than ten yards across the venue’s wooden clad dance floor without being subjected to thunderous beats directed from the cramped stage.

Six hours made up of a relentless barrage of metalcore style mixing and juddering breakdowns is reserved for only the most dedicated fan, perhaps a reason for the comparatively small numbers occupying Camden’s Electric Ballroom. Remaining at half capacity throughout the show, the sound regularly bounces off the stark extremities of the venue resulting in an echo effect which serves to muffle any distinctive audio levels. Obey the Brave in particular struggle against the sound issues, despite their display of an individuality which separates them from fellow bands on the bill.

Before that, The Browning implement trance moments to break up the uninspiring metalcore projected from the PA. At The Skyline opt for a melodic approach which sees the crowd raise their hands into the air attempting to ignore the frontman’s odd vocal mannerisms which resemble American R&B divas (leading Punktastic’s guest to coin the phrase ‘Bieber-core’).

For the Fallen Dreams battle with continuing sound problems and an increasingly lacklustre audience; failing in their attempts to rouse a substantial reaction. The force of their performance is interrupted by regular clean moments which feel unpolished next to their heavier elements.

Like a wrecking ball breaking through a brick wall, Stick to Your Guns arrive on stage with enough ferocity to break through audience apathy. Despite the inclusion of melody they veer closer to modern hardcore than metal, showing twinges of punk on the side. Their performance contains enough double bass drumming and breakdowns to keep the gathering masses satisfied, yet they manage to provide some much needed relief from the stylistically similar bands of before.

Blessthefall (opting for the overplayed ‘Gangnam Style’ as their warm-up number – the less said about that the better) revert proceedings back to the formulaic approach, but deliver it well. Their dual vocalists switch between melody and screams, but increase levels of engagement by mixing up timing signatures and providing short bursts of each. These complement rather than conflict with the overall sound, while the surrounding band members ensure a musically tight performance.

Headliners We Came As Romans do not offer much in terms of a respite from breakdowns and straightforward metalcore. As the slowly emerging theme reaches its climax, the band continues with a swift delivery of dual vocals accompanied by wavering metal and catchy choruses. Frustratingly the band does not do anything significantly wrong, yet by this stage in the night they could be any of their contemporaries. Credit is due for the pure energy emitted from the stage, and there are certainly audience members who have been waiting for this moment since the doors opened.

Tonight isn’t about credibility; those looking for critically acclaimed music deemed serious or sensible will not have bought tickets, nor will they be reading this review. The show is predictable and straightforward and repetitive – each band follows the same simple structure as the band before, and each band is lost in a half empty venue that fails to match the performances.

Music does not have to be credible to be engaging but it definitely needs to be engaging to be enjoyable. It is impossible to shake the notion that variety is indeed the spice of life, and thus how much the line-up could have benefited from at least one more curveball – a British band for example would have perhaps pulled in the punters at least on this leg of the tour. Each band may do well in their environment, but placing them end on end only exaggerates the unoriginality.