LIVE: Off With Their Heads @ Rebellion, Manchester

By Tom Walsh

Off With Their Heads aren’t an uplifting band. They are not the kind of band you’re going to invite to play at your wedding. A lot of their songs can be exceptionally hard listens as vocalist Ryan Young lays out all the cards of his crippling anxiety, depression, and always being close to a nervous breakdown.

Young recently admitted that he hated making the majority of OWTH’s records up until ‘Be Good’, which was released in mid-August this year. The band’s latest record is mainly Young reflecting on how he has to cope with the conditions that cause him problems. It is as you would expect from OWTH – fast, angry, intense and downright heartbreaking.

While they are never going to be the band you listen to when you want to feel good about yourself, Manchester’s premier dive bar is packed to the rafters to welcome the Minnesota natives. What lies ahead is a breathless 40 minutes with minimal stoppages and a deluge of blood, sweat and tears emanating from the stage.

Young rarely glances away from the microphone, but when he does, he proclaims the immortal line of “fuck tomorrow, it’s all about tonight.”

His growling voice echoes through the venue throughout as OWTH thrash through a frantic rendition of new tracks ‘Disappear’ and ‘Be Good’. Every word is forced, spewing out of his mouth as they dive in and out of their back catalogue. There is absolutely no let up, no time to catch breath – just wall-to-wall double-time drum beats and furious bar chords.

Young does take a cursory moment to issue a warning that “if you have a Leftover Crack t-shirt on, don’t get on the stage”, before taking aim at frontman Stza – “honestly, fuck that guy”. There isn’t even time for drummer Kyle Manning to re-fit a hi-hat as Young hurriedly motions for the next song to start.

Among the chaos, there are piercing, heartfelt lyrics in ‘Tear Me Apart’ as Young screams “start cutting me up, it’s what you wanted, and erase any good that’s ever come from me.” All the emotions seem to be juxtaposed with a man crowdsurfing while holding a pair of crutches.

A highly-charged closer of ‘Clear The Air’, an open letter to Young’s depression, see the front man hurl himself into the waiting crowd. He clambers back onto stage and, almost with a quiver in his voice, softly says “thank you, I can’t believe this shit means anything to anyone.”

It is an unexpectedly tender end to a furious show, and what has seemed to be a cathartic experience for everyone in attendance.