Devil's Roadshow

Conspiro + Seven Days At Knifepoint + the NeverSayDies - The Wedge - January 2006

By Armchair Anarchist

Conspiro take the stage and it’s visually a mixed message; young kids with “I’m-growing-it-out” hairstyles and fairly standard alternative outfitting. So when they start playing, it’s the last thing you’d expect... a cod-metal intro based on Beethoven’s 5th. At this point they could go either of two ways. Fortunately, they take the correct path. They sound like a blended cocktail of the last thirty years of rock and metal, processed to a paste and flavoured with a healthy dose of irony. If they were poor musicians, it wouldn’t work. But they are a skilful bunch with talent to spare and quite aware of their own pastiche. Their set sees them cover rock, metal, thrash, death, prog, screaming and warbling, frequently within the space of one song. The singer’s voice is excellent, veering from gruff roars to note-perfect falsettos. The guitarists (two full-time, with extras from the vocalist between lyrics) are also very virtuoso – at a few points there are harmonised lead lines and solos that would make Europe blush. The drummer is unbelievable for his age, tight and technical, and the bassist is right on top with his six-string. It’s outrageously over-the-top and hence wins over a fair portion of the crowd who find themselves smiling or clapping, or both. Cheese is always best when served mature; it will be interesting to see how time affects this outfit’s output. Seven Days At Knifepoint bring a unique sound to the evening. Very hard to put in a convenient box – it’s big and spacious, not too heavy but somehow savagely intense at the same time. Walls and washes of effected guitar combine with haunting, plucked passages of clean tones. The drummer is playing the kit like a solo instrument – no simple patterns here but lots of variations that link up with and emphasize the angular, progressive riffs. The vocalist is in charge of a few effects from a little mixer in front of him. Far from overusing them, they are deployed with subtlety and panache on his vocals and other parts of the mix. This lends atmosphere and space to an already roomy landscape. Their sense of humour is also evident; almost every song in the set is introduced with the title ‘Erratic’. Highly original, by the standards of the current climate of by-the-numbers music. The Never-Say-Dies follow on with a fierce and feisty set of in-your-face rock action. It’s British, it’s punk and it’s rock. But it isn’t (God forbid) Brit-punk-rock. There’s anger but no screaming. There’s power and edge but tunes and melody too. And there’s bags of energy on stage – so much so that the set is slightly marred by numerous kit breakages (one bass string, one guitar strap and one cymbal stand). This is a band who attack their instruments as much as play them, lending a compelling visual element to their performance. Nonetheless, they present a strong set of work that focuses on something sorely lacking in British rock at the moment. And that is actual songs. Songs with catchy hooks and vocal lines that follow you down the road on the journey home. Definitely an act to watch out for in the future – with an older crowd, they’ll score big points indeed.