InMe, Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics and Empire, The Globe, Cardiff
A trio of British bands descended upon The Globe on a Tuesday night, all three playing different styles rock/metal but as the night progressed all of them, endeared themselves to the crowd. The headliners due to their longevity (this was their 20th anniversary tour) and headline status and supports due to their disregard to be labelled as such both taking the stage with confidence and doing what they do to win the hearts of the reasonably full venue.
First to take flight were the South West based band EMP!RE (8) who play riff heavy modern rock with a metallic sheen, the dual guitars riffed in tandem with the flowing melodic intricate guitar lines trading off throughout as the rhythm section pumped out driving heaviness that had the radio play ability of Biffy Clyro. EMP!RE were immediately impressive and the stage banter of Joe Green was understated and welcoming warming the hearts of the early birds with his humour and humility. He then proceeded to unleash one the best vocal performances I've heard this year, his range is staggering (and I say that as someone that has studied singing) soaring to almost soprano highs as well as adding guttural lows, telling the crowd in jest after this bowel rupturing scream that they wouldn't like him when he's angry. Songs such as Sparrows were excellent and the entire presence of the band persuaded me to pick up their new EP and meant I could have a very interesting and human conversation with frontman (later seen shimmying to the other bands). The heady mix of At The Drive In, Coheed & Cambria and Forever Never made for staggering opening effort, proggy, heavy and hooky enough to appeal to a broad audience EMP!RE are a band I will come back to again.
The same can be said for second supports Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics (9) who expertly meld classic hard rock with modern sheen. If the name seems familiar then there is a good chance you've heard frontman Aaron before in his previous guise as the young long haired crooner for Heaven's Basement. He left the band to form this outfit (cut his hair!) and if I'm brutally honest it was a very good move, Buchanan was the standout in Heaven's Basement and he seems more comfortable with this band than he ever was playing the larger venues with his previous act. That's not to say that they are resting on their laurels, all five members of the group took tot he stage with a swagger a plunged into a set of unknown songs that due tot he sheer performance level were greeted like old friends.
This was groovy, hip-shaking rock n roll with a 21st Century crunch, Kev Hickman and Chris Guyatt laying down a sturdy foundation while the twin axes of Tom McCarthy and Laurie Buchanan (Aaron's sister) conjured fuzzed and strutting guitar riffs and slinky solos. Working through songs from their soon to be released debut album, the one or two technical hitches were the only cracks in the bands armour revealing their relative youth as a collective. However with songs such as The Man With The Stars On His Knees which has Aaron display his wonderful rock star vocals, then builds breaks into trade off solo between Tom and Laurie that evokes the spirit of Skynyrd with McCarthy as Allen Collins and the wide brimmed hat wearing Buchanan taking the Gary Rossington role (with a smidgen of SRV too). Nigh on perfect and with a bit of tweaking The Cult Classics will ascend to a higher echelon than just a cult act. Catch them now!
With heavy gauntlet to pick up from their opening acts, headliners InMe (8) had a lot to live up too, but as the 80's megamix played between the sets subsided the band now in their 20th year hit the stage and kicked things off with the Myths & Photographs which got the partisan crowd bouncing from minute one. A band that have always been more than what their tag suggests InMe have always fused angsty alt-metal with a technical precision favoured by prog metal bands, watching the band play their instruments is like witnessing four virtuoso's at work. Massive kudos to drummer Simon Taylor who was visibly extremely ill but still played like his life depended on it, hanging his head in exhaustion after every song. With the McPherson brothers, Dave vocals/guitar and Greg bass/vocals and guitarist Gazz Marlow up front the songs came a rapid rate.
The set list containing 15 slices of the bands signature sounds (with the bonus of no encores) with more modern tracks such as the trio of Hymn: Ivory Elder, Creation: Amethyst and Reverie: Aquarium coming from their Sci-Fi concept record Trilogy: Dawn rubbing shoulders with cuts from their debut record Overgrown Eden, the gaps were filled in with crowd-pleasers such as 7 Weeks, Legacy and one of my personal favourites Nova Armada (excellent arpeggios from Marlow). Again there were sound gremlins mainly for Dave's guitar but no-one noticed really with everyone in the crowd already onside, the band could have sung nursery rhymes and the crowd would have gone nuts, they didn't do this instead it was up to sing-alongs such as Safe In A Room and Firefly to give the tonsils a flex, not that Dave needed our help belting out every line with the same raw emotion as he has always had as brother Greg aided and abetted him with the harmonies. Once again InMe displayed why they receive such affection and devotion from their fanbase as they rounded out the the set with Underdose and Faster The Chase. 20 years is a long time for any band but InMe show no signs of stopping now.