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Tuesday 6 June 2023

A View From The Back Of The Room: Battle Born, Eulogy & Democratus (Live Review By Simon Black)

Battle Born, Eulogy & Democratus, Fuel, Cardiff, 01.06.23

“It’s been too long, Cardiff” are amongst the first words Democratus (10) frontman Steve ‘Moomin’ Jenkins utters as the band hit the stage after far too long a break for these boys on home, or indeed any other turf. I was here back when they won their slot at Bloodstock in 2018 and watched them tear the New Blood stage a new exit hole a few weeks later, and the band had been gently and determinedly building their profile ever since. Then Covid screwed things up, but the band have their own challenges health wise since, so this is the first show in quite some time. In some ways this is a shame, because they’ve tentatively taken this opening slot full of consciousness that they might have a few motes of rust to scrub away, but the audience is having none of this and from the get-go is backing them all the way, as only a Cardiff crowd can do to one of our own. 

It’s an early graveyard slot on a school night and they only get to soundcheck mere minutes before starting which is the only thing letting them down here tonight, but the band get the entire occupancy of the room down the front from the opening bars, and even though it’s far from full this early, it’s a really damn loud reception from a crowd who’ve missed them as much as they’ve missed us. The set is brutally short and sweet, with the band fully stepping back into the fray like they never left to give us a punchy and powerful forty minutes of solid Modern Metal, as the band feed from the energy in the room and deliver a hugely appreciated return to their spiritual home. Rust and cobwebs well and truly cleared, let’s hope they’re back up where they belong sharpish.

In the short time bands drop from view, others rapidly step into fill the void, and Eulogy (9) have worked hard to build a following here too. Their Rebirth album rather blew me away when I reviewed it on here a while back, but this was the first time I had actually got to see them live, despite the fact that they’ve been close to winning their own Metal 2 The Masses slot two years running. So, although Democratus got the love, these boys got the respect and again a healthy response from the punters. As the oldest bunch on the menu, these boys are happy to just play and their ‘not going away any time soon’ style of good old-fashioned Metal tinged Hard Rock transposes live very well. Although on album the slower tracks have a kind of relentless energy, the sound mix in the room isn’t doing then any favours, so when they slip up a couple of gears and increase the tempo halfway through, the crowd moves with them and the set finishes on a hugely energetic high, despite sneaking a completely new track out for its first live airing, and which is certainly working well tonight.

Headliners Battle Born (8) have not got it easy tonight, following two local acts who have both owned the room so far tonight and taken a fair few of the crowd with them to the bar. Add to this, singer Jack Reynolds was ill and had completely lost his voice, forcing the remainder of the band to decide between pulling out completely, or bravely dividing his vocal lines up between the remaining four of them. They are clearly nervous this time, which is probably not where you want to be opening a show when pompous Power Metal is where you normally stand, but they do pull it off. Fortunately, since most of them are part of the vocal harmony layers they use anyway and can sing quite well themselves, they make it work once they hit the groove. Clearly this sort of thing is going to mess your timing out, especially when you need to tune strings and find your self having to supply the distraction banter at the same time, but within three songs they’ve found their groove and the crowd give it up.

I had reviewed their self-titled 2020 EP and it won me over with its honesty, but I’ve not heard their material live before, I can only go on the basis of what I saw, and that was as far as I am concerned was damned near spot on despite the challenges on the night. This kind of up-tempo sword and sorcery infused Power Metal struggles to find a market in the UK compared to the continent, but because they approach it with honesty and are prepared to take the huge risk of playing without the all-important front man this style of music requires to rope in the crowd. They may not have been the main reason for people showing up tonight, but they pulled everyone back from the bar and earned their respect, and that is a damn good thing for a mid-week show. They may not have quite pulled it off as well as they would have with their full complement in tow, and tonight belonged to the local support but they certainly delivered a slick and musically fluid set of romping anthemic Power Metal magic that is definitely enough for this old hack to want to see them again.

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