@ Roundhouse, London
17th November 2014
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
Photos by Michelle Murphy
The guy beside me is meerkating. Bouncing up on the tips of his toes, straining his neck, bending this way and that, clutching his phone. Looking for his friends. I can understand. A good gig with good friends is something very lovely indeed. But I want to tell him it doesn’t matter, if only to stop him from keep invading my eye line. Also he’s missing all the songs. The band are just a few feet away and the music is really flying – if you can’t just enjoy that then there’s something a bit wrong. After all we’re all friends here tonight.
And now a girl bursts into tears. Jesus. Let’s assume it’s because of the music, although that would imply levels of hysteria beyond anything expected. Volbeat have never felt big enough to cause such emotion. Not in the UK. Back home, sure, platinum all the way, Europe and the US are on board, but here they’ve always seemed to struggle to impact. People say they like them, but rarely do you meet someone foaming at the mouth, raging about just how good they are. And yet tonight they’ve sold out the show, sold out the impressive Roundhouse no less.
It’s not for us to speculate how or why, but when Hatebreed roll on stage and you can only loosely use the term “full” to describe the place, well it suggests something. It suggests the coins have been coughed up for Volbeat. It suggests the tide is turning.
The choice of the Rocky theme as entry music (not ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ dummy) is apt because Hatebreed (3.5/5) have got a fight on their hands tonight. For the first time in what is probably a long time they’re really having to work for it. The crowd are a long way from lively. Ever further from the kind of tear-this-place-apart intensity Hatebreed usually conjure.
It’s not lost on frontman Jamey Jasta. He’s acutely aware that they’re not a clear choice of support for as band like Volbeat using the old “it’s all heavy shit, we need to stick together” line. He’s also up for the challenge, a man determined to incite a reaction, who can still stir the pot when needed.
Still people look confused. The bar areas outside are heaving with folks preferring to stay out of the firing line until the salvo of hardcore punk/metal has subsided. More fool them because Hatebreed are sounding mighty fine, although so much of it falls into the same patterns, same groove, same sort of structure. Bang your head here. Even this crowd has some juice though for the essential Hatebreed neck-fuckers ‘This Is Now’, ‘Live For This’, ‘Destroy Everything’ and ‘I Will Be Heard’, some of which have been
As the band themselves say, it’s not a Hatebreed gig without a circle pit. They ask for two and they get them, but only just. Even Jasta’s reassuring call “you may have been told not to mosh but I believe most rules are made to be broken,” doesn’t loosen many people up.
“All I want for Christmas is to come back next year and play Download” interjects Jasta. “Can you do that for me? Get on the socials?” Not sure these guys are going to be much help there.
In contrast tonight Volbeat (4.5/5) feel like a real live headliner. And we discover that some kids today don’t know ‘Ring Of Fire’ as the band play a touch of the Cash classic going into Johnny-borrowing ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’.
Everything is more heightened than on the record as though someone turned up not just the volume, because this sure is louder, but the band as well. Perhaps it’s the addition of ex-Anthrax axe Rob Caggiano, perhaps it’s an example of what squeezing songs onto CD does. Overhead the lights blaze, and even just a few songs in we’re getting extended endings that could be show closing flourishes.
If Volbeat had something to prove I don’t think they knew it. Tonight seems driven purely by the desire to put on the best goddamn show possible, and as the chug of ‘Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood’ rings out everything looks promising.
Standing in a Hatebreed shirt with his pompadour already mussed, frontman Michael Poulsen kicks off a furious 123 of ‘Heaven Nor Hell’, the rallying ‘A Warrior’s Call’ and rockabilly-jam ‘16 Dollars’. Good time faces all round.
The band have a real knack at rousing riff-driven rock verses into more melodic choruses as on ‘The Mirror And The Ripper’ and ‘Lola Montez’, which ties you right up in a web all its own. Or giving people something to sing and throw themselves around to in other words.
Their cover of the Dusty Springfield classic ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ is right on the money as well. In the midst of all this Poulsen crowdsurfs just to hand a fan a beer. Because he’s that kind of frontman. One you actually really like.
The introduction of Barney from Napalm Death can only mean one song, ‘Evelyn’, and here Volbeat lose the seated crowd, many of whom were on their feet. It’s just too heavy for most, in particular Barney’s growls which sound like a man worrying the mike. If this was Rome it would be thumbs down and to the lions with you at this point. But that’s something to love of Volbeat.
They make the music they want to, music that confuses genres, not only the music that comfortably sells. And if that means tearing it up with Napalm Death and King Diamond then that’s what they do. There just aren’t that many bands happy to upset the apple cart so easily. It’s still all about the music in these parts man.
There’s just a snippet of new stuff that sounds lovely as it is, all brash guitars, as Volbeat return to finish what they started. What they started a good many years ago. As if they know all three tracks that follow are from the early days from the chunky riffs of ‘Pool Of Booze, Booze, Booza’ to ‘Still Counting’. Even then Volbeat use up every last drop of the time allotted as the lights keep going to the beat of a thunderous backing track as they throw out their goodbyes.
They said it best already though. In the closing lines of ‘Still Counting’: “And a gangster keeps on telling that he got a song that matters, So I flip a coin towards him, thank you very much for listening.”
Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood
Maybellene I Hofteholder
Sad Man’s Tongue
Heaven Nor Hell
A Warrior’s Call
Dead But Rising
I Only Want To Be With You (Dusty Springfield cover)
The Lonesome Rider
The Mirror And The Ripper
The Hangman’s Body Count
Evelyn (with Mark “Barney” Greenway)
Pool Of Booze, Booze, Booza