It may have been a miserable rainy night in Cardiff but the temperature inside the Capital's premier rock and metal club was the opposite of the freezing drizzle outside.
First up was local melodic death destroyers Democratus (8). The band has pushed hard over the past few months, getting a solid number of gigs under their belts. Last time I saw them they’d put on a splendid opening set for Suffocation in Bristol’s Bierkeller. Tonight, they took that performance and ramped it up at least 25% Once again it was front man-mountain Steve Jenkins who was the focal point, his screams splitting the eardrums as the band kicked into their opening number. Tighter than a tyre welders grip, the band blasted through a six-song set, with tracks from their fine debut EP Starting Again comprising the bulk of the songs. Endless Prophecy and the politically charged Lie For A Life probably the standout tracks for me. Jenkins vocals consistently improve, and his confidence was evident with regular forays into the crowd, even starting an impromptu pit at one point. Democratus are gigging more in 2018 and I thoroughly recommend a viewing if you get the chance.
Cardiff’s Vile Inscription (8) brought an even heavier noise to the venue with their ballistic assault demanding attention. Skull crushingly heavy, the band’s vocalist, Matt Small, is anything but that, with a central presence and guttural roars which could wake the dead. Technical death metal is always a challenge to get right but the aggression of their songs combined with unexpected melody hit just the right notes. The mandatory cannibalism themed track produced a good chuckle whilst their other songs were just as lacerating. A biting set which deserved a few more punters.
Main support Reprisal (7) opened to about five in the crowd but really didn’t give a shit as their pulverising groove and death fused thrash fired up. Vocalist Tom is an imposing frontman with energy and an intensity which kept the increased crowd on their toes, not to mention a few feet away as his forages into the crowd just enhanced the maniacal glean in his eyes! Hammer Of Life stood out in a short but scything set which didn’t let up from start to finish. Self deprecating humour is a necessity at gigs where you are unknown to much of the crowd and Tom had it in spades. A well-earned ovation rewarded their efforts. The guys from Surrey are certainly worth a watch … probably from a safe distance!
Headliners Bloodshot Dawn (9) have regrouped and released their stunning third album Reanimation which is already looking good for a place in the top 10 of 2018. With drummer James Stewart on duty for Vader the band enlisted Guilio Gelati from Hideous Divinity to help alongside Canadian Morgan Reid on guitar and new bassist Giacomo Gastaidi. Opening with Vision from their still outrageously intense debut album to a raging pit, the band were on top form, kicking quickly into Smoke And Mirrors from Demons. Before first new track Survival Evolved demonstrated the increase in quality of their writing. It simply blew a hole in the room. A bizarrely quiet crowd punctuated the silence with chants of the band's name throughout, ferocious pitting and much head banging supporting each track.
The new material fitted snuggly amongst the older songs with Shackled particularly impressive. Some horrible feedback caused a challenge with the guitar sound, a little of the technicality lost in the mix but the band blasted forward, inciting a wall of death. As the small crowd warmed up chants of “bag of prawns” and “buttered scone”, variations on the band's name became more hilarious. A circle pit was hysterical too. With DNA Reacquisition segueing nearly into the title track of the new album demonstrating once more the strength of the new material the band closed strongly. A welcome return to one of the UK's strongest death metal outfits who are once more demonstrating the quality that got us so excited in the first place.