Live Review : Heart Of A Coward + Any Given Day + Lock & Key @ Rebellion, Manchester on June 4th 2019

I’ve finished my pre-gig interview with Heart Of A Coward frontman Kaan Tasan (see the interview here), and now find myself stood in the gig queue in the pouring rain. Pouring doesn’t do it justice really, as it is absolutely thrashing it down. We shuffle ever closer towards the door until the welcoming heat of Rebellion wraps its arms around us and drags us in. Every last person who makes their way through the door looks like a drowned rat, but to a person when they see the Heart Of A Coward backdrop and merchandise table their faces light up.

Lock & Key have been on hiatus for a good while, but earlier this year announced their return and have recent single ‘Lifeline’ to promote. The hardcore quintet own the stage from the moment they stride on, every member of the band rocking shorts (remember it’s hot inside Rebellion…wet outside) and an air of intensity. These guys are such a close match to Obey the Brave it’s uncanny, and it’s really the guitars where the most similarities can be found. Ben Wright and Danny Reeves offer just as much variety in their guitar riffs as my Canadian favourites, displaying catchy melodic nuance alongside deliciously punchy hardcore tropes and beatdowns. These guys have known Heart Of A Coward for years and hopefully the exposure of being openers for them on this tour will truly kickstart their return.

I’ve previously seen Any Given Day at the O2 Ritz, but this is my first time watching them in an intimate venue. They open with ‘Savior’ and the crowd are immediately singing along to every word. Being able to see them up close only intensifies the sheer power and force of frontman Dennis Diehl. He’s like a Germanic warrior of old, with long beard and an intimidating physique. But it’s his clean vocals that make the biggest impression – rounded, rich and bellowing in a similar vein to Cameron Heacock of American Head Charge. There are elements of their overall sound that is also reminiscent of American Head Charge, but it’s clearly Killswitch Engage who provide their main source of influence. They appear to be using processed guitars (so no amps on-stage) which means the guitars have plenty of clarity, but possibly lack some dynamism. That doesn’t spoil their performance or impact on the crowd tonight though, who lap up every song with glee.

Heart Of A Coward take to the stage one-by-one to cheers of delight, and you can see their intention to use all the space on offer as they prowl the stage. Frontman Kaan perches on the box-riser at the front of the stage urging the crowd into action as they hit hard and early with new tracks ‘Drown in Ruin and ‘Ritual’. They musically and physically dart around the stage, striking poses as they unleash their distinctive high-gain, low-pitch, growling guitars. Like Any Given Day, they’re amp-less on stage, but they have definitely retained their punch and power in the live sound. Vishal “V” Khetia is playing the bass like a beast – spider walking all over the fretboard quicker than most guitarists dare. Tonight Kaan truly embodies Chester Bennington with his rasping, visceral screams intermingled with honest and raw melodic vocals. Those clean soaring vocals are better than they’ve ever been, as he sings every word wide-eyed to each crowd member down the front one-by-one. This version of the band feels more brutal and sincere than ever. Compared to the set I saw them perform as headliners at Tech-Fest in 2018, one of the first gigs with Kaan at the helm, you can see that they’re much more comfortable and assured in their work. There’s an effortless coherence and cohesion to their live-craft, and the benefit of numerous hours of preparation that Kaan spoke to me about earlier are now clear to see. It’s the most heartfelt performance of ‘Deadweight’ I can remember and, as they get everyone onstage for final song ‘Around A Girl’ (In 80 Days)’, I for one can’t wait to see Heart Of A Coward again live as soon as possible.

Words by Matt Fraser
Photography by Johann WIerzbick