On 30 January, the Bristol O2 Academy played host to Welsh hybrid metalers, Skindred, as they tour in aid of promoting their new album, Kill The Power.
In terms of support we see the headline band’s personality split into its two main elements: the fun, quirky, shred-tastic showmen who make up L.A. alt-metal outfit, Viza and the more serious, grittier, but doubly passionate Soil.
Dealing out their riveting blend of both mesmerising and stirring moustached alternative metal, Viza kick things off by showing the early crowd just what grabbed the attention of Serj Tankian’s label, Serjical Strike Records. Despite a far below capacity audience, the gypsy rockers showcase their feverish rhythms punctuated with impeccably tight lead guitar hooks. Ignoring smattered calls for an encore, they leave the stage but wish us the best with the heartfelt statement, “Buy our merch, buy our album, fuck our wives, we don’t care.”
Soil present themselves as a very “bread and butter” type of metal band. Consisting of a drummer, guitarist, bassist and vocalist, thick and heavy is their basic no-frills style. They know just how to use it too. “You’re all over the place aren’t you,” drawls frontman, Ryan McCombs. “There is no place to hide.” He’s right. Having far more to work with than Viza, Soil set about turning every individual into a tool of the building’s demise.
In August of last year, Soil released Whole, the first album to feature McCombs since 2004. Tonight’s crowd, however, seems all too pleased to welcome the singer back as The Hate Song, one of the new album’s proper ear-bleeders, stirs up a notably more enthusiastic reaction than its predecessors. It’s not just brutality that marks this reunion though. McComb disappears for a moment after a sonic curveball in the form of a cover of Black Betty. The band strikes up the bars to the set’s finale, Halo. A verse of disembodied vocals later, a fist raises a mic stand from the centre of the audience, shining in the bouncers’ torchlight. The old-new vocalist is welcomed with open arms.
We live in a world where internet downloads make it harder and harder to make money through selling records. However, there is one band from who couldn’t care less as long as you sit down, “shut up fuck-o” and listen to them play a live show. Skindred have always been firm advocates of the survival and growth of rock and metal through the support of the masses and tonight is yet another chance for Bristol to show just how this is done. The opening drum fill to Ratrace is the catalyst that fuses the audience into the one continually morphing mass that it’s to maintain for the rest of the night. Enter the chorus and the floorboards become a trampoline, every member of the audience pogoing to the mastery of bombastic bearded riff-man, Mikey Demus. As a wise Welshman once said, “Nobody, nobody gets out alive!”
Already a fairly unique item in British metal’s arsenal, tonight Skindred push this further as they show some electronic flair. Every so often a remix is thrown into the set list, including a dub-step version of System Of A Down’s Toxicity. Far from becoming a damper on an otherwise very organic evening of metal, each one is welcomed with undiluted enthusiasm from the crowd. Clearly you come to a Skindred gig for the metal but stay for the party. This is further highlighted by their new good-time anthem Saturday. The song’s relative anonymity allows for a slight break from the physical carnage but a danceable verse and beltable chorus see none of the atmosphere lost.
The encore brings more feeling now as Skindred introduce another new song, We Live. Both a needed respite in which to lick wounds and a soulfully reflective track, Skindred let the audience in on their softer side. This is short lived though as brutality takes the fore once again in the form of Warning.
As the show closes, a sea of shirts is whirled above heads in salute of the staple of all Skindred gigs, the Newport Helicopter. Free music may be rife but it is clear that Bristol is far from killing the power of live music.