Mushroomhead + Skarlett Riot + Sickret
Islington Academy, London
24th June, 2022
Photos and review by Graham Hilling
Arriving in Islington this evening there is already a queue snaking its way around the venue. This is the the first gig Mushroomhead (MRH) have played in the UK for quite some time (for obvious reasons) and there is definitely an air of expectation in the atmosphere.
First up though is Swiss band Sickret. Blending rap style vocals and nu metal to give an incendiary sound, they burst onto the stage full of energy.
So much energy in fact that there is a feel that the reduced stage real estate (taken up by the Mushroomhead drumkit and water drums) is way inadequate. It’s their first time in London and you can see that they intend to enjoy this evening!
They blast through a short set of songs, including “Raise Your Fist” and “Greetings from Babylon”, pretty much all of songs are raw and ferocious. Furious drumming and the guitar of Sandro Büchler punctuates the sound nicely. By the end of the set he looks like he has just taken a shower!
While I’m not super keep on rap style vocals per se, Timmy Michels delivers a strong performance and doesn’t stop moving throughout the set. There is just enough variation in the song writing to keep me interested to the end although the band could do with expanding their song writing repertoire a little to offset the in your face stuff with some breakdowns.
As it is, it is an enjoyable set from a band that has no shortage of energy and a great way to kick off the evening.
Next up is Skarlett Riot, who have matured massively over the last few years. If the Sickret set sounded a little like a bludgeoning weapon, Skarlett Riot are definitely more in the sharp blade area.
Driven along by the very impressive drumming of Luke Oglesby, this really is a band that sounds like they are ready to break into the big time. There is a stand in bass player for the tour while Tim Chambers takes some time off for sickness, I’ve been unable to find the guys name but he also does a fine job of providing a solid foundation for the guitar of Dan Oglesby to layer on along with the vocals of Chloe “Skarlett” Drinkwater.
The set is almost exclusively carved from the current album, “Invicta”, starting with “Breaking the Habit” which sets the direction of travel nicely with its relentless bass drum work, and treading the line between being accessible and heavy at the same time.
The whole band, especially Chloe, look elated to be on a stage again after the enforced hiatus of Covid and the crowd welcomes them in typical metal style. “The Storm” from 2017s “Regenerate” album hits the mark nicely.
All of the songs tread that fine line between pop sensibility and catchiness while remaining heavy enough to keep heads banging. It’s a tough line to tread and many bands have fallen down in this respect, Skarlett Riot actually make it work very well.
“Warrior” is another crowd pleaser and keeps the pace up and closer “Human” showcases once again the fantastic drumming of Luke Oglesby along with some impressive songwriting and the vocal range of Chloe. Skarlett Riot leave the stage having certainly made some new friends and left an impression. While you would not naturally put Skarlett Riot alongside MRH it certainly makes for a varied evening of metal and that can only be good.
Breaking the Habit
To The Flames
And to to the main course for the evening – Mushroomhead. The venue is certainly not heaving which is a surprise really given that this is the first time Mushroomhead have visited the UK for a few years and certainly the first time since the last album was released – by the way “A Wonderful Life” shows a wonderful maturity in their sound and is the best thing they have done for many years (imho).
Dogged by technical issues from the get-go, the arrival of the band is delayed. The sound guy and stage crew run about madly trying to get things settled. Eventually, the band take to the stage and launch into “A Requiem for Tomorrow” followed by “Seen It All”, both from the latest album.
There is a massive MRH “FUCK” backdrop and, as ever, the whole band are adorned with fantastic masks, lending a surreal feeling to the performance. Mushroomhead is a band that has been through a lot of lineup changes and the masks mean it is very difficult to ascertain who is actually in the band at the moment! There are two singers, one clean, one harsh, Steve Rauckhorst & Scott Beck (sitting in for Jason “J Mann” Popson) respectively and they trade vocal lines with one another throughout the set.
Beck wastes no time getting into the crowd, surfing over the punters several times, much to the concern of the security staff. And while everything appears to be in order I still have a feeling that there is something missing from the performance. At a MRH gig, I kind of expect the unexpected (if that makes sense!) and for the first half of the set, that just isn’t there.
It’s only for the second half of the set that Mushroomhead really find their feet and crank up into top gear. I guess this is to be expected, this is the first date on the European tour and most probably the first gig they have done in quite some time and add into the mix the technical troubles and this is what you get.
Not that the punters are unhappy, “Sun Doesn’t Rise” hits the mark full on and “Solitaire/Unraveling” is greeted by familiar cheers and both take us way back in time. J Mann is still spending more time in the crowd than on the stage and we now have the water drummers going ballistic too. The front rows are drenched in the water from the drums and energy level goes up a notch. When Mushroomhead are on point they really do hit home hard!
The sound throughout, despite techie troubles, is actually pretty good with the guitar of new guy Joe “Jenkins” Gaal cutting through the mix like a razor. Dr Fs bass, ever present, laying down the low end. As usual, the drums and percussion is what really propels MRH along at a pace, especially live. And we cannot forget the spectacle of the show itself….
No Jackie LaPonza on the tour (and I’m not sure if she is actually in the band now), which also means some of the best songs (imho) from “A Wonderful Life” are not in the set which is a shame. The set does, however, mean there is space for a ton of songs from the archive and the energy levels are maintained right to the end of the set.
No encore tonight, what you see is what you get, I’m not sure if this is planned or just a result of the late start. Anyways, as we are making our way out of the venue, assorted members of MRH are scattered around the merch area, allowing selfies to be had by all. A real nice touch and emphasizing the connection between the band and the crowd. So, a slightly shaky start but a great recovery, stamping MRHs position in the metal masses hearts. Shame the gig was not better attended, it was a good ‘un.
A Requiem for Tomorrow
Seen It All
Sun Doesn’t Rise
Destroy the World Around Me
Before I Die
The Dream Is Over
Born of Desire