Sectioned are something of an acquired taste I guess. If you like the taste of your own blood in your mouth because your body is been forced to spontaneously bleed by how heavy and unrelentingly aggressive their music is then they’re probably  to your tastes.

Presumably then Sectioned will reach their commercial peak once they’re exposed to those of a gothic persuasion who like indulge vampiric tendencies. That being the case, the band should probably in invested in some branded baggy trousers with dangly bits on them.

I’m pretty certain that this gig was originally meant to be the expansive and sprawling surroundings of the the ABC. It turned out to be in the much, much smaller ABC2. Presumably that happened because of sales. A packed ABC2 is the same as a half empty ABC. Not hard to see why the atmosphere of one wins out over the other.

Though a downgrade looks like a pretty poor result on paper it turned out to be a blessing. How often do you get to see a band the size of Karnivool play to such an intimate crowd? Even without the intimacy bonus, how often do you get to see a band as good as Karnivool?

It isn’t essential to look cool on stage if you’re in a band. But it certainly helps. Unfortunately a LOT of people in bands…not so blessed with a natural talent for looking cool.

Some of them are even less well designed for that than photographers.

Transcension // photograph by Calum McMillan
Transcension // photograph by Calum McMillan

Luckily enough, there are bands like Transcension, who have studied their book of rock star poses and are able to bring you a master class in rock poses 1-24. Though there are at least 54, 24 is more than enough to be getting on with.

The band took the time to practice the aforementioned poses last night in Ivory Blacks for the second round of The Bloodstock Metal to the Masses competition. Though there’s no harm in entering a competition with such a potentially huge payoff, I’m still pretty sceptical of Battle of the Bands competitions. I’ve a suspicion they’re ultimately pretty corrupt and not judged on “musical merit” but instead a weird combination of social media likes, ticket sales and who knows who. I hope they aren’t. Regardless there’s no harm in playing a show, especially when it offers the opportunities to make some new contacts and a few new fans. Nothing ventured and all that.

I still maintain these battle of the bands things would better if bands just had to fight. Gladiator style. Let them keep their instruments as weapons though. I’m not a monster.

Transcension // photograph by Calum McMillan
Transcension // photograph by Calum McMillan

Transcension continue to prove themselves to be a top class live act. They’re incredible tight and their stage shows are becoming remarkably aggressive and further enhanced by their ability to throw shapes. The songs are still pretty lengthy, but there’s enough ferocity in their performances to stop the tracks outstaying their welcome.

It’d be nice to see some of the band’s material start to bleed its way into the set, the first songs written collaboratively with this incarnation are a huge step forward, but there’s denying the passion and accuracy with which they bring to life the tracks from their “Metallurgy” debut which you can get in a the form of a super old school CD as well as all those up to date digital things like iTunes and Spotify. For youngsters among you, the CD is a thing you can own and listen to music on without advertisements. It’s pretty cool but it lacks the street cred of vinyl.

To sum up, a stellar performance will cover for all sins. And the key to a stellar performance? Rock poses 1-24. See below for key examples.

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The quality of the musicianship in this band is pretty astounding. Their last album, “Guiding Lights”, was utterly flawless and totally beautiful. This show wasn’t quite that, but in retrospect that still makes it pretty special.

Skyharbor is a labour of love. They’re a band composed of members from three separate continents, they compose via the internet, their rehearsal time is presumably incredibly limited and frequently they don’t actually get to tour with all the members involved (this tour sees them sans their usual drummer). When you take all that into account, it’s astonishing that this band have ever taken to the stage.

It speaks volumes about the dedication to the music from the musicians involved, and the fans who want to hear these songs.

Skyharbor // photograph by Calum McMillan
Skyharbor // photograph by Calum McMillan

For all this amazing passion, this show isn’t quite as magic as the record from which the majority of the material is taken. Something feels missing, there’s a disconnect between the band’s more introspective moments and the heavier moments that robs both of their impact.

Possibly this feeling is partially due to unfair expectation. The band’s recorded material is stunning and the internet hype machine has been rolling strong in hyperbolic support of this band since the release of lead single “Evolution”. It would be difficult for any artist to live up to those expectations, especially when faced with Skyharbor’s geographical and logistical challenges.

Skyharbor // photograph by Calum McMillan
Skyharbor // photograph by Calum McMillan

That being said, it would be impossible to deny just how much so many of tonight’s audience get out of this show. Each track encourages impassioned sing alongs and the band’s playing is incredibly impressive. Guitar necks fly across the stage, shapes and thrown and beaming smiles are common place. Vocalist Daniel Tompkins displays a calm and gentle persona between songs which is pretty endearing and avoids every rock star cliché during his sublime and acrobatic vocal performances ( we even got a little scream here and there in “Celestial” which appealed to my less sophisticated nature)  which helps to set the band apart from the progressive metal scene that they’ve all but left behind.

The proof of this is “Patience”. A truly beautiful song, that legitimately brought a tear to my eye during the show, which transcends the obvious trappings of both progressive music and metal music. It’s a track that feels like it would work as well stripped of all its instrumentation, or drowning beneath additional contributions,  and that is no small feat. For a band so disconnected from the typical band scenario, it’s amazing that their music is so lush and well developed.

It wasn’t the perfect show, but it was a labour of love that puts the efforts of a lot of other bands to shame. And the tunes are naw half bad either.

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Where on earth did Sleepmakeswaves come from?

The answer is Australia, and it’s been incredibly selfish of them to keep them to themselves for so long because their set at The Cathouse last night was absolutely stunning.

sleepmakeswaves // photograph by Calum McMillan
sleepmakeswaves // photograph by Calum McMillan

Normally, instrumental post-rock is a phrase that turns me off more than the idea of Bruce Forsyth dressed in fascist regalia with his arm around the waist a woman who feels distinctly uncomfortable at his lecherous touch. Sleepmakeswaves on the other hand, they turned me on let.

The appeal of the band lies in the fact they play music that sounds like post-rock but they look like a hardcore band when they play that music. A hardcore band that is much better than most other hardcore bands because they understand the importance of subtlety.

A note to the young ones who like the hardcore these days: subtlety is not removing the misogynistic slogans from your shirts and leaving them in your lyrics. That still makes you a knuckle dragging idiot.

sleepmakeswaves // photograph by Calum McMillan
sleepmakeswaves // photograph by Calum McMillan

Possibly the best about sleepsmakeswaves is that their dynamics sound organic and less like the forced genre constraints of their post-rock peers. Also, they sound legitimately heavy. None of this tinny, scratchy distorted nonsense hear. When this band go noisy they bring the groove and the weight in a way that shudders the room.

It kind of reminds you what heavy really means. And it isn’t low tunings and additional strings. It’s about creating music that moves you, from their intricate and delicate musings to those sweeping and crushing crescendos.

Put it this way, this band made more of a statement when they ended on a whisper than any amount of post-show feedback and glum posturing ever has.

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I’m an asshole at gigs. Occasionally I fall into the trap of believing I know what I’m talking about, so I asked a friend at this show before this band took to the stage “Are they shite?”. He told me they weren’t and that the singer was really good. I took it with a bit of a pinch of salt.

Which turned out to be a totally unnecessary use of condiments because Ursa Mae were not shite. They were really good and in fact had 3 really strong voices in the band. Which is an average of 3 more good voices than the average band. It’s almost greedy when you think about it.

Ursa Mae // photograph by Calum McMillan
Ursa Mae // photograph by Calum McMillan

Distinct voices being utilised in music sounds better than a single voice and it adds a lot of depth to Ursa Mae’s post-hardcore racket. It’s a sound that’s heavier on the melody than it is on….the heavy. Their melodic moments are rich and lush and a lot more mature than many of their peers. But fans of terrible pit dancing need not fear, there’s still more than a few moments of muscular riffing and guttural vocals.

The piano lead ballad “Monsters” was an interesting diversion from the up-tempo nature of the rest of their set. It seems like an experiment that probably pays off more on record than it does live if I’m honest. Losing your good natured, but confrontational, front man to the back of the stage to play the keys does kill the dynamic somewhat.

That being said, the number of lighters in the air was pretty cool. It sounds kinda lame, but it wasn’t.

Ursa Mae don’t come across as the finished deal quite yet, they never seem to sure if they’re invested in being brutal or accessible, but a little fine tuning could see some seriously good song-writing from a group of musicians as talented as this.

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Shows are possibly the best part of being in a band. The logistics of show is possibly the worst part of being a band. Swallows were due to start an 8 day tour last week. Following a disastrous series of events, that will probably happen to every band at some pint that cut to 5, then 3 and then ultimately 2. That being the case, how much could the band expect of a Glasgow show on a rainy and freezing weekday night in March?

As it happened though, it might just have been the best show the band have ever played. So swings and roundabouts and all that. Though, disappointingly they never did follow through on that Busted cover they kept announcing before every song. I feel betrayed.

Swallows // photograph by Calum McMillan
Swallows // photograph by Calum McMillan

Possibly the band’s frenetic live show in Nice ‘n’ Sleazys was fuelled by the frustraion of their continually collapsing plans, or possibly it was just the happiest of accidents. I’m not sure it really matters. For an intense half hour to 40 mins Swallows turned a small basement in the city centre of Glasgow into one of those shows we’re all told exist in the sacred halls of underground alternative music, but that don’t actually come around all that often.

Swallows // photograph by Calum McMillan
Swallows // photograph by Calum McMillan

The harsh reality of most shows is thus: most people there are genuinely really into the music, but beyond the heartfelt cheers at the end of songs, they’re unlikely to get more involved. It’s unimaginable difficult to break that uncertain and self-concious wall between crowd and artist when you’re still this deep underground. Which is why you’re probably just as well just throwing yourself over it and into the crowd.

Crowd surfing in a venue as tight as this isn’t easy. It says a lot about the commitment of this band, and of this crowd, that it happened more than once on Thursday night.

Swallows // photograph by Calum McMillan
Swallows // photograph by Calum McMillan

If all small shows by underground band’s were like this then bands would always be playing to packed sweat boxes instead of their significant others, the sound guy and the bar staff. On the other hand, if every gig was like this then we wouldn’t really understand just how good this gig was.

The underground, particularly in Scotland, is full of incredibly talented artists playing shows, releasing records and haphazardly touring every night of the week. Most of those shows are great and a handful are like this. You should try and go to more of them.

Because if you keep missing shows like this you’re absolutely missing out. And if you missed this show because you were at the money grabbing, choreographed and totally banal bullshit of McBusted you should just feel ashamed. Charlie Simpson isn’t even in that band, and he had the best hair anyway.

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Is it even worth reviewing a Cancer Bats record? I mean, when was the last time this band didn’t release an LP that was packed to the brim with raging tunes? You’re right. It is a trick question. They’ve never released an album that wasn’t a cracker.

“Searching for Zero” is noteworthy though, not just because of the abundance of puns around searching available to lazy and uninspired reviewers, but it sees the band temper their trademark aggression and groove with some tasteful left field influences. Maybe this is the sign of Cancer Bats pushing their own creative boundaries or maybe its the sonic stamp of producer Ross Robinson. It doesn’t really matter, the results are all that matters.

A lot of technical music has a habit of falling the wrong side of exciting. Impressive and thrilling aren’t interchangeable adjectives. I’m sure there are plenty of musos who find incredible levels of instrumental dexterity mouth-watering and borderline erotic. But I can’t say I’m part of that particular members only club. (They continually reject my application of the grounds that I’m a terrible musician.) Somehow though, The Colour Pink is Gay manage to take both those aforementioned adjectives and shove them down your throat before they spit in your eye.

It’s well good man.