Live Review : Bad Wolves + RedHook + In Search Of Sun @ Academy 2, Manchester on June 13th 2019

Doing gig reviews in the North West of England does mean that travel and the weather are frequent battles, but not even I expect to be nervously checking the National Rail website (other train information websites are available) in June. It finally stops raining though and, unlike at the Heart Of A Coward gig the previous week, I turn up to the venue resembling a human rather than a drowned rat.

Due to some press pass technical difficulties, we get in halfway through the set of opening band In Search Of Sun. There are definitely elements of bands like ‘Siamese’ and ‘Port Noir’ on view here, but Incubus have blatantly been an early influence on the London-based act. Interweaving bass, guitars and syncopated drum patterns lay a backdrop to clean vocal melodies. Despite some big choruses, these guys mainly focus on being funky. Which they do very, very well. There are some delightfully intricate guitar passages which lend me to think that they are best described as an immensely funky version of Monuments. With a new album on the horizon, and a rise in popularity in bands like VOLA and Dance Gavin Dance, the immediate future could be bright for In Search Of Sun.

Next up are Australian band RedHook, who provide a very sugary electro-pop-rock offering. Unfortunately, they lack the subtlety and craft of their antipodean colleagues Tonight Alive. There's no doubting that Emmy Mack has energy and character, but the backing to her angsty bubblegum vocals is a little too generic and simple to retain any genuine interest. I appreciate there’s a market for this brand of extremely poppy easy-access rock, but it’s simply not offering anything to me at all. I can only describe it as Avril Lavigne fronting the worst of modern Bring Me The Horizon. It doesn't help that the sound is terrible; very trebly, vocals horrifically loud, and no definition for any aspect. Basically, it's all Emmy’s vocals with a stomping backing track. I suppose the industrial-tinged backing track is fun at least, but I honestly don't understand them supporting Bad Wolves, unless this is purely a randomised pre-Download Festival warm-up gig formulated by Live Nation...

Headliners Bad Wolves take to the stage in theatrical and dramatic style; bass booming and lights flickering in the gloom. The Californian band leap straight into ‘Learn to Live, complete with juxtaposed brutal guitars and staccato singing, which flips into open chorded strums and luscious, rich, operatic vocals. You could liken them to Mushroomhead or Fozzy, but the closest and most apt comparison is to Five Finger Death Punch. In fact they’re the band that gave them a record deal and who’s guitarist Zoltan manages them. Tommy Vext's vocals are somewhere between Ivan L. Moody and Howard Jones - yep, they’re that powerful and technically diverse.

They do a fun cover medley of Queens of the Stone Age, System of a Down (complete with a comedy skit about missing dinner prior to the show before Chop Suey), Nirvana, and Rage Against the Machine. It proves that they can do fun as well as they do serious and brutal, and by now they have everyone eating out of their hands with crowd favourite ‘Remember When unsurprisingly going down a treat.

They get Emmy out to duet ‘Hear Me Now, before finishing on blockbuster cover ‘Zombie (The Cranberries). I’m thinking It's going to be a lacklustre end to the gig unless this song strikes a chord with you, which it never has with me. However, their version is powerfully layered and stirring, emphasising just how well these guys can cover a wide range of metal sub-styles professionally and impressively.

 

Words by Matt Fraser
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki