Review by Paul Quinton
Bit of a diverse double bill, this, combining London Industrial-funk-metallists Kyrbgrinder with North Eastern Female Fronted Symphonic metal band Winter in Eden. Don’t you just love trying to categorise rock bands? Record Collector magazine have started to call symphonic metal ‘Female fronted symphonic Metal’, or FFSM for short, so we’ll go with that for now. As it happens, these two bands have played together several times before, most notably at successive Cambridge Rock Festivals, and anyway, a bit of musical diversity is always a good thing. The Zephyr Lounge was a new venue for me, having started when the owners of the adjacent Leamington Assembly converted a former café into a bar. Capacity is about 100, and while the stage is on the small side, the PA and onstage facilities look to be very good, and being able to share backstage facilities with the Assembly means that this is a very good set-up.
Winter In Eden are on the road to promote their new album, Court of Conscience, produced by Ruud Jolie of Within Temptation, no less. While the album is still recognisably Winter In Eden, they’ve shown a welcome eagerness to experiment, taking their music into new areas, and yet still being part of the FFSM genre. The set opened with ‘Knife Edge’ from the new album, and at first I thought there might be some issues with the sound, as all you could hear at first were Steve Hauxwell’s drums, but when the guitars and keyboards made their presence felt, the sound seemed to clear up hugely, and it remained good for the rest the set.
The band played a good selection from all three of their studio albums, and the older songs, while still enjoyable, served to show just how far the band have come in terms of songwriting and performance, but most of all they now look to have so much confidence in their material and as performers, they genuinely looked to belong on a much bigger stage. Particular highlights in the set included ‘Torment’, especially the instrumental section where the band flirt with prog metal around Sam Cull’s guitar, ‘Regret’, which is a terrifically good song and ‘Toxicate’ which stood out the first time I heard the album, and is just as good live.
The main set finished with the highly commercial ‘Before It Began’, a song I can easily see Planet Rock playing the hell out of, before an excellent two song encore, including ‘Lies’ which seems to have gained a very Chilli Peppers riff from somewhere. There were a couple of low points, the quieter passages in ‘Burdened’ for instance didn’t quite work in this setting, but right now Winter In Eden are so far ahead of every single UK FFSM band you could name, it surely means the band are about to move several rungs up the ladder.
If you judge bands merely by the name, you might think that Kyrbgrinder would be an industrial metal or even a grindcore band, at least something on those lines, anyway. However the reality is very different. They’re a three-piece, fronted, if that’s the right word, by Threshold drummer Johanne James. Apart from being a terrific sticksman, he also sings, the band being completed by guitarist Aaron Waddingham and bassist Dave Lugay. Waddingham brings the metal edge to the band, whereas Lugay’s roots are obviously in funk, and when these ingredients are mixed together, it’s a pretty potent combination. The most obvious comparison would be a band like Living Colour, although Kyrbgrinder are considerably heavier, without ever losing their considerable groove.
A band led by a singing drummer doesn’t exactly conjure up visions of a dynamic stage show, but Johanne James is no ordinary singing drummer. His kit is placed front and centre of the stage, he sings with a headset mic, rather than a fixed one, which enables him to make constant eye contact with the crowd, something he does with great enthusiasm, often singling people out with his sticks, almost demanding they get into the show. He’s also a pretty mean singer, whereas his overall showmanship enables Kugay and Waddingham get on with the serious business of laying down some pretty hefty riffs. The band aren’t afraid to jam and stretch things out, either, in songs like ‘Where Do We Go’, when James raps and then even whispers his words before bringing the crowd into it.
The band have a new album due in the New Year, and the played one or two songs from it in this set, although Johanne gave us little clue as to possible titles, before bringing Winter In Eden singer Vicky Johnson out to join in on the choruses of set closer ‘Welcome To Pain’. Vicky has contributed vocals to Kyrbgrinder’s new album, although where her dulcet tones will fit in with the band’s concentrated fury is anyone’s guess. All in all, this was a really good night’s music with two bands who, despite having contrasting styles seemed to complement each other well, and who both deserve to be much wider known.