Kerrang! XXV Tour
Aiden + Still Remains + Hawthorne Heights + Bullet For My Valentine
Images: ©2006 Stuart Leech - www.music.stuartleechphotos.co.uk
Kerrang’s 25th anniversary tour rolls into Southampton and, having seeded the surrounding area with empty bottles of cheap alcohol and crumpled packets of Pro-Plus, the region’s scene-teens are out in force to attend. Top marks to Kerrang for pulling out the stops for this event's production. Tonight’s PA is not only fairly crisp and clear, it is shockingly loud. The light show is a retina-burning spectacular, especially during the headline set. There are also little video screens with K!-related adverts and logos of the acts performing. A lot of this is probably lost on the frenzied audience, however. First band of the evening are Aiden. They’ll never win any prizes for originality in musical approach. If there were awards for energy in performance, however, they might well be short-listed. Clad in black-and-white outfits and creating a vampiric vibe, they launch straight into a pacey set of heavy but accessible punk rock. The vocals are shouty without veering into screaming and the choruses have an anthemic feel. The band members swing their instruments and microphones around like weapons of war, often coming within inches of injuring one another. The simple song structures are performed with precision - the overall feel is brisk and punchy. They go down well but the kids are saving their energy for later. Next up are the visually nondescript Still Remains, the heaviest act of the night. They have a more metallic sound. Big, chugging rhythms of chords and kick-drum. The singing is gruff but tuneful and there is plenty of twiddly guitar action. Added atmosphere comes from a keyboard player who likes to run around onstage and pogo between his band mates when his instrument is given a break. It’s a brutal sound that breathes with genuine grooves. The choruses especially possess the epic motorway vibes of the better end of stoner-rock. Somehow they straddle the disparate camps of heaviness and poppy hooks. There's harmonised vocals, complex song dynamics and a sense of majesty that all combine into a hair-raising set. They are followed by Hawthorne Heights, who are best described as an insufferably whiny, generic MySpace band. All the clichés are in full effect. The outfits (tight jeans, varsity-style hoodies). The bright but grating guitar sound. The whinging ‘emotional’ vocal style and the ‘posing-but-only-in-an-ironic-way’ stage postures. I couldn’t work out how they made it onto the bill in the first place - at least until the end of their set, when about half of the female audience members departed. They could have been replaced by any of the hundreds of bands like them, with little effect. Nonetheless, the audience are by this point thrashing around like piranhas in a blood-filled swimming pool. Headliners are Welsh pop-metallers Bullet For My Valentine, who also won’t be winning any innovation awards. That having been said, they play a strong set of approachable thrash-influenced music. Reminiscent of another Welsh band who made it big by broadening the appeal of more exclusive genres, they are all about peddling teenage angst in a very contemporary package. They look very metal, all-black sleeveless shirts and pointy guitars. They play riff-and-solo styles, lots of harmonic squeals and fiddly guitar lines. Despite the heavy shreddage the choruses are almost sing-along and the audience seem to know all the words already. The band are confident and deliver the music with buckets of passion. The audience soaks it up like a sponge. It’s a carefully constructed product that pushes all the right buttons in the market – this is the metal zeitgeist. Hundreds of bedroom axe-men will go home tonight, with ringing ears, and practice until 4am. And that is an achievement in itself.