Frog on the Front

To Every End + Olmec Diagram + Tinnitus - November 2005
by Armchair Anarchist

It’s all guitars all the way tonight at the Frog On the Front. First in line is the live début of To Every End. Despite being without their usual bass-player (a rather bored-looking friend is helping out), they make a good go of it. A trippy tappy intro suddenly mutates into full-on screeching hardcore evilness. Simple and savage tune-free riffs and walls of discordant guitar. This is a tricky style to get right. Hopefully over time they will adjust the guitar sound so it isn’t quite so harsh on the ear. But the timing is quite good, the drummer particularly so, and the songs are ambitious. Definitely not easy listening though – no melody, all bludgeon. More practice and polish is required for them to reach the potential of what they are trying to create. And what they might achieve is something like Olmec Diagram, who aim for the same target and hit with accuracy. They are the 2nd of tonight's acts and very tight. They show this off with lots of precision stops and drop-outs in the solid, crunchy barrage. There are sparse, linear main riffs interspersed with spacious and quiet, spidery bits. Whispered vocals sometimes sing and sometimes howl when it all comes crashing back in. All the while the singer is running round in between his band-mates like a caged animal on stimulants. It’s a discordant display of disciplined brutality with the ugly fascination of building demolition footage. This theme of angular, driving guitar work is taken up by the third act, Cry Debris, but with a splash of tune thrown in. It’s very intricate work; lots of tension/release structures. The rhythm section is firing on all four cylinders. The lead guitar lines are detailed but unobtrusive, embellishing without screaming for attention. The intensity of the music is mirrored by the band’s actions. They all leap and thrash about like lunatics and the singer seems to be wrestling an invisible man between vocal lines. The bass player has to migrate from off the front of the stage so he has space to swing his plank around without hurting anyone. It’s an astonishing set of widescreen heavy guitar music; the audience is clearly impressed. During the hiatus before the headliners, the numbers are swelled by disappointed punters from the cancelled Bloodhound Gang show upstairs. This means Tinnitus get to play to a fairly full room. Of all the bands tonight, their sound is by far the most approachable. It’s informed by the less extreme forms of rock and metal – still heavy, but much more tuneful. The riffs are bright and punchy, if a trifle samey and short on killer hooks. Likewise, the vocals are very strong and confident but vary little from song to song. This means they have a very definite sound of their own, indeed a very British sound. But they need to add the finishing touches that make a great song stick in your head all the way home. The show ends with a Killswitch Engage cover and, in typical Portsmouth tradition, guest backing vocals are provided by two members of other local bands among the audience. It’s great fun for the band and the local gig-going bloc, but confuses some of the passing trade and lends a weak end to an otherwise strong set.