It’s the hottest, or second-hottest, night of the year so far, with temperatures teetering at the top of the twenties. I managed to knock off work early to get the train over from York to Leeds in order to conduct an interview before the show, and having managed to chill with a pint in the North Bar for half an hour before the gig, I’m now back underground in the small, dark, box venue that is The Key Club, trying hard to make my £4.20 330ml bottle of Punk IPA last more than five minutes while I sweat my tits off and wait for the first of tonight’s three bands, By Any Means.
Sporting beards, vests, tattoos, and knee-length shorts, the Belfast band crash in hard. Their front man may strongly resemble Brian Blessed, but I suspect he’d be more likely to crush Flash’s oesophagus with his bare hands than proudly declare him to be alive. They crank out a set of intense, dense, throbbing metal and these no shortage of chug ‘n’ grind(core) in their meaty riff-driven tracks.
By Any Means
Next up, Stoneghost, sporting beards, vests, tattoos, and knee-length shorts take to the stage with a holler of “Leeeeeds! How the fuck is everyone?” Everyone is fucking melting, as it happens, and the relatively restrained response is by no means an indication of a lack of appreciation. In comparison to By Any Means, Stoneghost are sonically denser, the guitar lines more technical, the drums more frenetic, the sound more brutal, and the front man more bullish. He’s got a mean look, and I certainly wouldn’t mess with him. But for all the thunder and aggression, they’ve got some monster choruses, and they earn themselves a one-man slam-dancing moshpit for their efforts.
Raging Speedhorn may be purveyors of gnarly sludge metal, but they’re certainly not uncivilised: drummer Gordon Morrison pours beer from bottles into (perspex) glasses before they play. After an inter-band playlist that featured, amongst others, Fudge Tunnel, they walk on to ‘The Heat is On’ by Glen Frey, and yes, the compact basement venue is fucking boiling. With the stage drenched in feedback, vocalists John Loughlin and Frank Regan stand, silent, at the front of the stage, simply leaning out toward the crowd, looking menacing, they hold it for a full minute. This is showmanship, and it’s the band’s commitment to the performance element of the show is integral to the live experience. That said, they’re not posers, by any means: in fact, they’re just a bunch of middle-aged guys with beards and tattoos, wearing vests / T-shirts and long shorts, but they give one hundred percent to the music, and the aggression, the brute force with which the songs are played is so genuine it’s scary. Their contrasting styles work well: Loughlin screams maniacally and looks deranged as he charges he stage, while Regan is almost nonchalant and looks like he’s relishing goading the crowd with ‘come on’ hand gestures before he spits and snarls into the mic.
They pile in with ‘The Hate Song’ from second album We Will Be Dead Tomorrow, although much of the set focuses on the new album Lost Ritual, which is fair play, and no bad thing given that it’s a riff-led stonker. ‘Bring Out Your Dead’ and ‘Motorhead’ are slammed down early. Delving back to their debut for ‘Redweed’ elicits a strong reaction, and before long there’s a tornado of bodies frothing in front of the stage.
One guy who’s filming the set on his mobile has his phone confiscated and starts whinging like a kid about how he wants to show his friends the show. No doubt he’ll be gutted that his footage won’t include the ball-busting climax: they close the set with a pulverising rendition of ‘Thumper’, and still have it in them to return for an encore of ‘Ten of Swords’.
The full set – twelve tracks – may have lasted just under an hour, but no-one’s feeling short-changed. In the blistering heat, they’ve delivered a relentless set that shows Raging Speedhorn are as vital now as ever.