Blackwolf & Fire Red Empress The Exchange, Bristol
A short jaunt to Bristol for two up and coming British rock band, as we waited outside, many were unsure why the tour was now only two bands rather than three, however The Brew had some problems so we were now left with newbies Fire Red Empress and rising stars Blackwolf, fresh from a support tour with The Answer and a slot at Steelhouse.
Into the Exchange and the atmosphere was electric, there was the usual mix of old and young which was very nice to see, there were rockers, metallers, corporate types and those curious of this band that have support from both Classic Rock and Planet Rock. As we mulled around I think the DJ in The Exchange misjudged the audience somewhat as the warm up music playing over the P.A was brutal death metal, interspersed with TOTO and wrestling themes. Still I found it all hilarious and as Fire Red Empress took the stage all eyes were on them.
Fire Red Empress
As these five men took the stage they launched straight into their brand of heavy, hook filled rock. The band are about big, monster riffs mixed with a radio friendly sheen. For a band that are relatively new to the scene and one that only actually have three song EP to their name filling a long set may have been difficult but the band already have an entire set list of songs that equally as good as the cowbell driven Left Unspoken, the QOTSA style Paint Me The Devil and the massive crushing riff of Behind The Veil. They indeed have a set list of great song all of which get you rocking very well, the Gethin brothers' guitars are biting, distorted and drive the songs along with a modern yet classic sound. Ben Picken's bass and Luke Middleton's drums are where a lot of Fire Red Empress' power comes from with a rumbling thunder coming from the back of the stage. These big, bludgeoning riffs are a perfect counterpoint for the powerful, melodic vocals of Nik Taylor-Stoakes who has distinctly modern sounding voice and is a sublime frontman, air guitaring, and rocking as the band moved through the the set, he was also affable, not taking himself early when joking about the band members ages even though they are only a new band! This obvious experience pays off as the band deliver every song with guts and precision. Fire Red Empress have a great stage presence and some awesome songs that remind you of QOTSA mixed with a bit of Clutch, they are modern, heavy and could just explode soon! 8/10
Playing to a partisan audience, the home town heroes returned in their first headlining tour, as the masses gathered almost filling the venue, the band came on stage and kicked straight into the bluesy intro to Moving Mountains which does just that kicking things off with it's hip shaking, swagger. With a great bottom end coming from the funky bass of Ben Webb and the powerhouse drumming of Tom Lennox-Brown Blackwolf have the same kind of power in their rhythm that Zeppelin did with JPJ and Bohnam, this is bolstered by the Malcolm Young style riffing of guitarist Jason Cronin, these three set the base on which John Greenhill can peel off leads and solos like Page, Kossoff and even Hendrix. At the end of the first track the crowd erupted and noticeably shocked band plunged straight into the AC/DC style stomp of Keep Moving On came next keeping the tempo high and provided ample opportunity for the fans to rock out, before the speed picked up again with rapid fire rush of Black Hole Friend which has the snooty punk edge of Appetite era G'N'R. Another stop, another ovation and the band that are all about the fans are obvious crowd pleaser's, their mix of the classic bands like Zep, Free and Acca Dacca all wrapped in modern delivery is all encompassing. the atmosphere they create is simply electric and it's on songs like the excellent Sleepwalking that show what this band can do, it is a ballad Aerosmith would be proud of with melodic guitars and Scott Sharp's impressive and expansive vocal range that is part Rodgers, part Plant and even part Cornell, especially on the heavier, grungier new track Kiss The Fire and Steady Slow. House Of Emerald Wine is a bluesy rocker that got the crowd up again and moved into the pure Zeppelin of Faith In Me. Sharp guided the crowd in shouts, calls and claps for the sing along tracks like Relief and House Of Emerald Wine he is a hell of front man who commands the attention of the crowd with his superb voice and style, he is the perfect focal point for a band that let the music do the talking (as the Toxic Twins used to say), although Cronin's stomps and gurns are on par on the entertainment level. The main set came to an end with the gospel/blues influenced Sea Of Mercy which is another rump shaker and as the the last note rang out the crowd erupted with calls for more, the band duly obliged their parting shot being the excellent Mr Maker which brought the house down. Nights like these are ones that make me love what I do, two great bands that represent the future of British rock, I can tell you it is in very good hands!! 9/10