Messclean - Frog On The Front - 20th of January 2006

Enochian Theory + Arrowshy + 16Bronsons

A band’s name, if chosen correctly, can give important yet subtle clues as to what you’re going to get out of them. Enochian Theory are an example. They sound... complicated. However, even those not keen on 10 minute epics of sprawling, metallic musical architecture would find it hard to deny that this band have ideas by the bucketful. And, more importantly, they have the skills and energy to get them across. Frontman Ben plays piano tones and haunting washes from a keyboard. He emotes with his powerful vocals in a way that a lot of haircut bands can only dream of. Add to this his fine line in gurning and impenetrable between-song banter. The drummer plays jazz-influenced beats in kinky time-signatures, while the bass-man lays down solid, clean tones on top of these meanderings. The guitarist is up to all sorts of FX trickery but is somewhat hampered by a thin sound. A similar lack of definition haunts any band that plays this venue simply due to the awful acoustic properties of the room. Enochian Theory have the music and the moves sorted. Next step is living up to the ‘big-venue experience’ their tunes seem to promise. Next, the youthful Arrowshy take to the stage with an epic-feeling intro. They are fronted by Beni, a skinny and shirtless Welsh lad with an impressive vocal range and bags of hyperactivity. They take the energy of current emo, punk and hardcore styles and marry it to a refreshingly bright guitar tone and the quiet/loud/quiet dynamics of classic grunge. They veer from haunting clear-and-quiet moments to full-on, raging crunch. The result is an experience that seems to flow off the stage and into the crowd, propelled by the singer’s confident delivery and the enthusiastic clatter of the band. The timing is sloppy at a few points, especially earlier in the set. But the overall impression is that of something running along at a rapid pace, always just short of falling over into catastrophe. Their lack of a distinct ‘signature’ style may work against them to some extent but it’s balanced by an ability to connect to a wide audience. Last set of the night is the overdue return of Pompey punk rock stalwarts 16 Bronsons, after a lengthy hiatus. Scene veterans of over ten years experience, they are longer in the tooth and a mite thicker about the waist than when they started out. But this doesn’t hamper them from belting out a high-speed barrage of modern punk at its most British. The riffs are simple and solid – no frills or gimmicks required. There are clear points of reference going all the way back to early mod, through the sound of ’77 and into the 90s Britrock era. The vocal delivery is aggressive but clear, every word audible and sung with commitment. The chorus harmonies are bang on the money and don't veer into cheesiness; the rhythm section is tightly tuned to a sharp focus. The venue acoustics muddy the guitars a little but the lack of ornamentation ensures the songs remain coherent. They display the merits of musical simplicity, performing their guts out despite the dwindling audience numbers. If any local band could be said to encompass what Portsmouth might sound like, they may well be it.