We were handed a metal treat as got our first look at the new-look Defences, one of our favourite bands at GR Towers, as they supported melodic metal band The Raven Age along with another of our former featured bands MSRY at The Underworld in Camden last Thursday (28 March).
The evening got off to an explosive start as Oxford quartet MSRY came on stage in pitch black surroundings then big booming riffs and drums kicking in under a huge scream from lively frontman Kial Churcher. His wild screamed vocals took over before leaping into the crowd, standing in the middle of the audience screaming. It was a high-octane beginning to proceedings.
Next was Broken Teeth, which opened up with a little riff that thrust into a savage burst of screams and low guitars. A cool little riff gave way to more booming chords with fun pink strobe lighting adding to the wildness. Some guy from the crowd – who may have been Thomas Smith who collaborates on the track? – joined in on vocals as it came to a huge ending.
Blue (I think) saw the pace drop down to slightly less mentally fast, but featured a big doomy breakdown, in which Kial jumped into the crowd then guitarist Charlie Bishop one-upped him by running to the back of the venue and climbed up onto the top of the upstairs balcony (see right).
Kial announced “this one is about us breaking every bone in our body on tour” as they launched into Safety First, which saw a really cool little breakdown section with gaps filled by drums then blasting into a final rendition of the chorus.
Next was Trump Card, on which Kial revealed “This one’s about Donald Trump. Fuck him and fuck everything about him.” It was huge, with big guitars and wild screams then a drums only section during which the bassist pumped his chest before launching into a huge breakdown of low-tuned guitars and bass that literally made the stage shake.
That was followed by Freedom, with big searing guitars over a huge bassline then driving into huge bass drum over pounding bass and screams. And they closed out in typically heavy fashion with wild drums pounding away and Kial grabbing a cymbal, taking it into the crowd and smashing on it as the set came to a massive ending.
They were followed on stage by Defences, who had a new look with fresh ‘screamer’ William Alex Young – the lead singer of tech metallers Arcaeon – and guitarist Ian Harrington switching to bass.
They came on to a big backing noise and burst intoGrow, with William not only providing big screamed vocals but also helping out Cherry Duesbury on clean vocals and Calum Wilmot smashing out some awesome solos.
That was followed by their awesome new single Shatter, which opened up with big synth sounds over heavy guitar through a screamed intro.
A high backing track opened up Might And Main, the title track from their 2017 debut album, on which big screams burst into a singalong chorus.
The trademark Defences move of Ian and Calum playing big drums at the front of the stage remains and is better than ever. The ever-excellent Kyle Schicksal Parke – who told me to write that he bought me a beer, as he’s such a generous soul – providing awesome little drum fillers over a backing track of big guitar bursts. That led us into Scared, which sounded awesome with its big singalong choruses, then a huge scream from William bursting into a final chorus filled with naughty little drum rolls from Kyle.
They got the crowd involved in a noise contest, with one half shouting “Break through” and the other “Stop me.” That led into the big bouncy Beneath The Surface, which opened up with a big riff and big screams answered by Cherry’s clean vocals, then the crowd helping out with the singalong chorus. Right at the end of the track, they made everyone in the crowd get low to the ground then jump up as they dropped into one final smash of the chorus.
They closed out with a brand new song that further sets the scene for Defences taking a heavier approach. Introducing In Eclipse, Cherry told the crowd the inspiration for the song was about: “Life can be brutal but you need to take that pain and use it. Do something with it and be stronger with it. That’s the reason you’re here.”
It opened up with light synths under Cherry’s light vocals then a big burst of low guitars and pounding drums as the eerie synth continued. William’s screamed vocals came in and were matched by big drum hits then Cherry’s vocals led into a big chorus and more big screams. Joint vocals between Cherry and William gave us a view of how their sound has evolved with the new man on board, then big booming guitars led into a huge section of bass and drums over doomy cymbals. It sounded huge, and we’re excited to hear more new music from Defences very soon.
And the metal goodness kept on coming as London five-piece The Raven Age headlined. They built the suspense with a pretty packed-out crowd with a rocky version of the Game of Thrones theme then an odd gothic violin track.
They eventually appeared and kicked off with a tracked filled with big singalong choruses and doomy drums. Then a bit of an epic track that went straight into big guitar riffs and shouts of “hey, hey” before a cool darting riff, a big solo and gradually build into a big smash-up of doomy cymbals as the track kept on going with bursts of guitars.
Next, a heavy intro then fast-paced vocals built towards a big chorus with a fun little guitar lick underneath. The guitars flowed into a heavy verse, then a big rock-out gave way to a solo and a final chorus.
Then Surrogate sounded pretty awesome, with darting guitars and huge cries of Here I am through the chorus getting all the crowd involved. Relentless piercing guitar riffs gave way to cool little mini guitar solo ahead of a final singalong chorus.
More big singalong vocals followed in The Merciful One, which featured a really cool solo that continued under the final chorus. The entire band then left the stage bar the guitarist playing over an eerie backing track. The band returned, asked everyone to get their phone lights on as they launched into Sailor’s Fate. Matt James’ impressive vocals began over light guitar, but it went out with an impressive double guitar solo then built up to a huge outro.
Next was Fleur de Lis which, Matt told the crowd, was: “About a woman in France that carries through to today being an absolute shitshow. Imagine what we could do if everyone was together…” Huge opening riffs kicked it off then impressive high-pitched vocals ahead of big cries of “Warriors.”
Matt’s vocals are seriously impressive, and took to the fore in the next track on which he was supported by some big screams and more darting joint solos. He then got his acoustic guitar for The Face That Launched A Thousand Ships, which built up eventually with big vocals through the chorus and another really cool dual solo – which I’m a big fan of – led into a heavy ending.
Then, I think, Trapped Within The Shadows opened with crashing drums and flying guitars that continued under big vocals. It dropped into booming guitars over low-tuned fast-paced guitars through a really fun verse, then a big chilled string section gave way to a solo that developed into another solo-off.
The Raven Age brought an interesting mix of varying metal styles to an end in impressive fashion – they’re a seriously good live band, I really enjoyed my first listen to them and I highly recommend checking them out. The support from Defences, as always, was bang-on, and it was fun to get a first look at the more aggressive, intense live show of MSRY.