Venue: Dingwalls, Middle Yard, London NW1 8AB
Date: 16th August 2017
Promoter: The Monolith
Last year, fellow music website The Monolith successfully curated a stellar all-dayer in London, which included bands such as Zoax, Brutai, Press To Meco and Agent Fresco. This year sees the event slightly scaled back to a midweek evening, but nonetheless brought four top quality bands displaying riveting progressiveness and technicality in equal measures.
Opening the bill were London-based Novena. Bearing in mind that their debut EP Secondary Genesis contains only three tracks but registers over 30 minutes, there was an awful lot to take in. Despite some initial issues with Dan Thornton’s guitar, the band wowed the audience with exquisite vocal harmonies, deft guitar interplay and searing levels of aggression from harsh vocalist Gareth Mason. Meanwhile, supremely talented and grinning multi-instrumentalist Harrison White bore an uncanny resemblance to Killswitch Engage’s Adam Dutkiewicz – he was busy delivering finger-blurred guitar solos and softly playing delicate piano melodies, all while aiding with backing vocals.
Bristol tech troupe Valis Ablaze were next to take the stage. After recruiting new vocalist Phil Owen and having a slight bass/guitar shuffle, the band have veered away from their previously ‘madcap’ material into technical metal territory that more vaguely resembles bands such as Exist Immortal and Tesseract. And on this performance they are far better for the change in direction. Owen’s vocal performance was absolutely stellar and effortlessly streamlined with a fantastic rhythm section from Kieran Hogarty (bass) and Rich New (drums). Guitarist Tom Moore displayed a grin through the whole of the set whilst producing hugely atmospheric undertones. It was easy to see why he was grinning; the band clearly enjoyed themselves and off the back of their recent EP Insularity [review here], the future is looking very bright for the five-piece.
Following those two performances would be difficult for any band, but Sümer were suitably up for the challenge. Combining Mastodon-esque riffs with a technical edge and the smooth vocals of both Ian Hill and Tim Bonney, the band put on a ferocious display of head-banging groove and heaviness. The lighting throughout their set only helped to aid the incredible atmosphere generated; subtle periods of darkness interspersed with bright neons, downtuned riffs amongst melodic solos. With the majority of their material coming from 2014’s debut record The Animal You Are (bar one new track), Sümer confirmed themselves to be an incredibly well-oiled machine capable of exciting things for their next release.
Danish melodic progsters VOLA previously stated that they only have three more shows to play in 2017 before they fully commit to following up 2015’s Inmazes. Fortunately, they chose to headline The Monolith’s special event at Dingwalls, Camden before heading across the country to take part in ArcTanGent festival. How this band are only a four-piece is quite incredible considering the levels of sonic prowess they display – whether through gentle, melodic crooning or their overtly technical guitar riffing. The audience were clearly enthralled by the display from the band, with appreciative nods followed by intense moshing several times during their set. Closing out with the undeniably brilliant ‘Stray The Skies’ (resulting in the largest, most active mosh pit of the evening), all four members posed for a selfie with the crowd promising to back with new material very soon.
All in all, another hugely successful event. Here’s to 2018……