Europe does it right. In Europe bands like Shining (not to be confused with the really rubbish Swedish band of the same name) play massive stages at festivals and are able to do some really unique things and expose it to a large, and receptive, audience.

In Scotland, they’re playing a tiny venue that isn’t even full because they don’t have the right hair cuts and don’t write songs about pizza.But that’s cool as well. You gain more internet points for going to incredible shows that everyone isn’t at.

DIY is cool. I’ll always be cool. Not cool like hair cuts are cool, DIY ethics are resistant to trends, but malleable to the changing times. If you do DIY right it can be a hugely rewarding thing, and potentially even be successful, while sticking it to the man.

Which was well all know is the ultimate victory of rock ‘n’ roll. Or was. It’s currently vying for pole position with a real sweet haircut.

The music business is only insincere if you buy into the idea that business side of it is an after thought to its artistic motivations. If you look at it is a business, just one that by and large has a pretty creative output, it’s as sincere as any kind of business can be.

The fact that sales matter, downloading is stealing, image does count for a lot and that perception is just as important as a great record doesn’t detract from the quality of the best music. It’s just how time has forced us to consume it.

There’ a school of thought that it’s not about how well you can play, it’s about what you play. I’m pretty much on board with that.  Song-writing over virtuosity FTW.

That being said…if you can really, really play it’s pretty sick. Combine that with interesting song-writing and you’re laughing. Colours To Shame are laughing all the way to the bank vault where they presumably safely store and insure all those sweet riffs of theirs.

Pop music is awesome. I was going to write it always has been…but that isn’t true recently. Because pop is now a genre when once it just meant music that was popular. Music that was in some way accessible to a lot of people.

I’d love to say I miss the days when chart music was simply a measurement of what artists sold the most records that week and not of who had the largest team at the major label, but I don’t. I’m told by people with even more grey in their beards than I have that it was the case once upon a time.

A gig should be an event. Every show should be something to write home about. Or tweet about. Whatever it is the kids do these days. I don’t know…

Anyway, a every gig should be something else. That’s pretty a romantic approach to music, but I maintain it. Largely because I’m an idealist idiot. That and because there are bands like Arcane Roots.

I’ve seen shows cancelled for the worst reasons imaginable. Too lazy, mum wouldn’t let them stay out too late, the gear broke you name it and it’s probably happened. A lot of musicians are total flakes. They don’t mean it the way you’re idealistically lead to believe that artists mean it.

Sectioned mean it though. They sound like the mean it. They sound really fucking mean. And when their singer tears the ligaments in his foot two songs in what do they do? They keep playing.

And then go on tour the next day.

No Consequnce "Vimana" / Basick Records 2015
No Consequnce “Vimana” / Basick Records 2015

No Consequence have a habit of upping the game from one album to the next. I’ve no time for their first record, it was a bit convoluted and bursting with too many ideas. Not all of them good. Their second album, “I/O” was much better. They shed a vocalist, developed their ideas a bit and fine tuned their compositions a lot.

Popularity contests are terrible things. Internet popularity contests are the among the most terrible of things. Bloodstock’s Metal to the Masses competition is a cheap and overly complex piece of brand promotion that ultimately comes time to arbitrary decisions, who knows who and a whole lot of bullshit. That’s before you even get to the internet stage of the contest.

Whether Transcension would agree with me on all of that I’m not so sure. That band though recently slugged their way through seemingly endless heats to the final leg of the Glasgow edition of this year’s Metal to the Masses to lose out at the final hurdle. From what I understand of the reviews of the show, Transcesnion fairly owned the stage that night. A tight and aggressive performance full of instrumental dexterity combined with a vocally enthusiastic audience seemingly doesn’t cut it for the standards of Bloodstock.

Possibly some songs about either dragons or extreme violence would do the trick. Or something Satanic. Satan rules.

David McGeehan // photograph by Calum McMillan
David McGeehan // photograph by Calum McMillan

Rapid ascension towards a potential slot at a festival as prestigious in metal circles as Bloodstock which stops with such a violent jerk could prove to considerable dent on the momentum of any band. But Transcension seem to have withstood the knock pretty well. I recently spent an evening with them in the rehearsal room shortly after losing and they seemed in a strong creative form.

The detail with which they pick out details of their compositions and sounds is almost exhausting. I’ve seen this band a thousand times and they made “mistakes” in their practices of these songs that I would never have noticed. It’s an impressive dedication to the intricacies of their music which has surely contributed to making them such a devastatingly tight live act.

Dave Fulton // photograph by Calum McMillan
Dave Fulton // photograph by Calum McMillan

Pleasingly however, despite being a band who clearly take their music incredibly seriously they don’t seem to take themselves so seriously. Even during the most aggressive and punishing moments of their music there are grins and friendly jibes a plenty. The well earned of perception of Metal music for being overly po-faced, intense and posturing has somehow passed Transcenion by, though their music is unapologetically metal.

Though make no mistake, this is band well aware of the importance of practising the essential rock poses. But thankfully, tongues are planted firmly in cheek as opposed to behind forced grimaces and macho nonsense.

Bob McBride // photograph by Calum McMillan
Bob McBride // photograph by Calum McMillan

The reality is that bands like this won’t win popularity contests. They aren’t slick enough. Not in terms of performance, but in terms of hitting all the “beats” that marketing campaigns and poorly disguised PR stunts are looking for. This is a band who spend as much time as they can working on their songs. Not their photo shoots or their social media presence.  The song’s are there, but the numbers probably aren’t.

Luckily, the reality also is that in artistic terms numbers count for nothing.

If you’re going to play metal, and play it like this band do, then you’re not doing it because of any kind of motivation beyond loving it. Artists should never be ashamed about being astute about turning their talents into a career, but they should be ashamed to contrive to pass off calculated, unnatural, career focused moves as integrity.

Popularity contests suck and prove absolutely nothing about the quality of a band. Dedication, integrity and a sense of self-awareness say something.

Maybe not as much as some sweet hair cuts, but they say something.

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