Diamond Lil + Awake By Design + Twisted Species + Fury + Swamp Snake @ 02 Academy, Birmingham – 23 February 2013


Diamond LilReview by Paul H Birch and photos by Mark Lloyd

The tribes are out tonight. With all three stages of The 02 Academy offering something or other ticket touts are spreading themselves thin while smokers are huddled together freezing their knackers off in the snow.

Inside the more petite option that is the Academy 3 five bands are seeking to impress, entertain – and if they can – squeeze in as many numbers between them until the main event.

Excuses you don’t need but apologies are offered regardless for my missing out on opening act Swamp Snake. Suffice to say that if the rest of the bands were anything to go by then they would have ticked the box by fitting into a different sub-category of that vast musical spectrum we have come know as rock (without the roll). Not only were the sounds each band made distinct from each other but their visual apparel and stage craft too.

Fury offer us speed metal and like to thrust their hands in the air aggressively but brim excitedly when shaking people’s hands offstage, Twisted Species opt for a heavier alt-rock grind and their shaven-headed gruff lead vocalist’s equally as polite up at the bar, the symphonic rock of Awake by Design is a little too theatrical for me but offstage their bombastic posturing is left behind and they all look incredibly shy. This is all getting a little too paternal on my part.

But then the audience is filled with older generations and some kids, for families as well as friends have come here to support the bands. A chap starts a conversation, telling me he’s come along with his own family because his mate’s “a relative of one of the bands”. Rock music isn’t his thing “as you can probably tell” he jokes sheepishly, and needlessly. “But I liked the last band, with the piano.” He meant Awake By Design’s synthesiser and sharing the evening’s etiquette I keep my pomposity in check and don’t correct him. One thing’s for sure, no-one going home from here will watch The X-Factor with the same couch-potato acceptance ever again.

It’s not that there’s any great sense of occasion, or even expectation when Diamond Lil line up on stage but it’s apparent the game is being raised.

Vocalist Ellis Wilde paces the stage as the music ruminates; the band dig into a lean muscular metallic strut and surge forward as one, their singer rapping and roaring away until ‘I Want More’ climaxes in a blistering guitar solo.

‘Bottom of a Glass’ follows as they deliver each of their debut EP’s tracks albeit in a different order, with no overdubs but plenty of audience participation.

It’s obvious they’re communicating to the faithful – A flock of girlfriends and possibly one of the band’s moms are enthusiastically down the front, young hairy-sorts headbang until their necks get sore – while the rest of us, stand back smugly having seen it all before, but tapping our feet regardless.

Diamond Lil have a good set of tunes; they can play well individually but more importantly they have confidence in each other’s abilities and it shows both aurally and visually.

When Ellis and guitarist Harry Colley sit down for an unfamiliar acoustic number they lose some of the crowd, but then the band click with the power ballad of ‘Beautiful Nowhere’ and you’re waiting for the smokers to come inside and wave their cigarette lighters. Colley releases a squealing yet melodic solo, underpinned by Jamie Downes’ sympathetic rumbling bass and Austin Miller’s constant Simon Kirke styled time keeping on drums.

After the pounding riff of ‘Council Pusher’ concludes Ellis asks how many in the audience have seen them before and only about half can answer in the affirmative. If that translates into word of mouth EP sales and increased gig attendances that’s great. Mind you, put them on tour in a decent support slot and who knows how far they could go – This is an exciting band, I recommend you get in on the ground floor while you can!

And you can see more shots from the show by clicking here or pressing play below:


  1. It is a real pity you missed Swampsnakes who played a really great stomping rock set. With Craig Keating (ex-Signify) on Rythym G and vocals they were very good, but when he came out from behind the guitar and took the frontman role as simply the vocalist, they were bloody great. This is the last time they will appear in this guise but they certainly haven’t gone away, as Hils Ovation will no doubt be telling you about pretty soon.

  2. Not a very helpful review,for any of the bands i feel – is the reviewer here to review the bands or comment on the audience? Is it just another free night out and the chance to write some stuff to massage an ego? Does he have the first idea of how hard it is to get a gig? It doesn’t help that this venue also has 3 ‘arenas’ and it’s crackers trying to fill them all on the same night! I see ABD a lot so admit to a bias, but due to work couldn’t do this one – the band weren’t happy afterwards as the sound was crap – but if anyone from MR was at the Black Country Metal Fest, they would have seen the band tear up the venue and the crowd of 300+ went mental! (Robin 2 02/03/13) It helps to have some understanding of where the bands are coming from and an affinity with the type of music helps too – i don’t like certain bands and wouldn’t therefore see them, never mind review them. Also events like this aren’t helped by the fact it’s saturation in the area! If the sound is poor too, that doesn’t help either – fast forward one week to the Black Country Metal Fest and ABD tore the place apart! And does it matter if they seem reserved or even ‘shy’ after the show, would you rather they trash the dressing rooms and puke on the punters? I give up! The genre of music we call ‘rock’ needs all the support it can get and for the life of me i cannot see how reviews like this help anyone – if you aint gonna help – don’t hinder!Come and see them at the Asylum with David R Black on 4th April!! And we all know bands have girlfriends who attend shows – but who cares!! It’s a well known historical fact that lots of lads get into bands to attract girls anyway, so why review them???
    I look forward to reading more MR reviews as on the whole i really like your site and feel it does a great job of giving bands a break and some publicity, but cannot for the life of me see how this kind of review helps at all.

    • Stu, your comments are ridiculous!

      “Not helpful”? Why have a go at the reviewer who’s giving their opinion? I wouldn’t want to read a review that’s not honest.
      Whether or not it’s hard to get a gig isn’t the point. It’s down to how a band performs on the night. Audiences go to gigs (and PAY) to be entertained, not pity the guys on stage!

      “It doesn’t help that this venue also has 3 ‘arenas’ and it’s crackers trying to fill them all on the same night!” WHAT? So it’s the venue’s fault that they didn’t do very well? You’re right the venue should have re-directed the folks from the other venues to this gig.

      As for the reviewer not being at the gig at the Robin, this review is about this gig! Not that one!

      This review HELPS because the band AND the venue should learn from it.
      The band have to learn how to deal with the cards they are dealt; and the venue should get better sound guys.

      Writing nothing but praise for bands is rubbish, no less than propaganda! That way audiences show up expecting the best and get a lot worse!
      And any website that does that is crap!

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