Sworn to Oath + Gravities + Deadset + Hate Behind The Veil @ The Sugarmill, Stoke — 14th September 2012

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Review by Will Harris

When I arrived at the small warehouse-like venue of The Sugarmill, Hate Behind The Veil are just about to unleash a fearsome assault on the ears of the few dozen audience members. Combining grindy hardcore with occasional servings of sludge and the melodic, the young local four-piece appear to be primarily concerned with one thing: rattling the fillings in your teeth. The group are currently searching for a fifth guitarist, but from tonight’s avalanche of thundering drums and heavy drops, you have to wonder why. They’re yet to develop much of a stage presence, but for now the tinnitus will do the talking (catch them here again on 12th October).

Moving on in a similar but more accessible vein, another young local act Deadset instantly whip up an enthusiastic mosh pit as vocalist Olly Griffiths bounces around the stage. A modest five-song set of well-executed mid-tempo post-hardcore, what the music lacks in unpredictability it makes up for in aggression and conviction. The crowd aren’t likely to forget them, not least because their penultimate number kicks like a pair of steel-capped Doc Martens to the chest when it drops.

Things take a slight turn for the prog with the arrival of Gravities, who put indie-ish vocals together with melodic rock riffs, which following the onslaught brought by the opening acts feels a little underwhelming. The components are strong — a confident frontman, a formidable lead guitarist and a tight rhythm section — but there’s a lack of real dynamic and bite that comes across as mere blandness. And it’s a shame: an instrumental outro to Gravities’ second song has a blasting epic power to it that most young bands would kill to have just 10 seconds of in their set.

The room’s packed for the headline act, and with huge cheers, whistles and screams as they enter the stage, it’s all on Sworn to Oath to ensure they don’t disappoint. Towering vocalist Tom Shaw and stocky axeman Dave Leese lumber backwards and forwards as they punch slow, heavy chords before a fast punk beat kicks off their opener. Next the pit goes wild for the pummeling riff-driven metal of latest single ‘Stand Alone’, also where Leese first pulls out some of his searing, squealy lead work, to the audience’s delight. And so it continues for two more speedy headbangers, before the group pull out a collaboration of Pantera’s ‘I’m Broken’ with Deadset vocalist Olly Griffiths, a beefy and decent tribute to the original (even if Griffiths does appear to forget a few of the words), that’s received with huge applause.

The enthusiasm of the audience isn’t unearned either: Sworn to Oath’s live show is a genuinely thrilling one, and singer/bassist Shaw isn’t happy to play without them being a part of it either, using the middle eight of ‘Last Call’ to conduct the biggest, most frantic pit the room can accommodate. Their closer, too, ‘Leave You For Dead’, picks up a shouty choir for its repeated closing lines making an empowering finale.

Another chant, ‘D.F.A.’, begins after the band finishes, referring to their motto, ‘Don’t F**k About’. Clearly, Sworn to Oath are serious about living by it.

 

Read about Sworn to Oath’s life as an unsigned band in our interview, here