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Wednesday 28 June 2023

A View From The Back Of The Room: Godsticks & Temples On Mars (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Godsticks & Temples On Mars, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff, 22/06/23

The pilgrimage to Fuel Rock Club for the "hometown" show of Wales' premier prog export is one that I thoroughly enjoy. On every album release they always include a South Wales show and while it's often the smallest on the tour schedule, it's always the most fun with lots of Welsh banter and a looseness that perhaps they don't have elsewhere. That feeling of being amongst friends.

Before the headliners though was Temples On Mars (7), modern prog metal, alt rock with a bit of grunge attitude, I first saw them at Radar Festival last year and in the confines of Fuel their unique blend of music made for a good kick off to the evening playing a few newer numbers that will be on their next record as well as a couple from their debut. As Daz Carikas lays down a heavy groove with his bass, Dean Gibb slams hard on the drums, the heaviness perhaps a little too loud for the Fuel stage as it was sort of distorted.

The guitars of Gerald Gikl and James Donaldson trading riffs and breakdowns. Donaldson is the focus of this band, it's his voice that gives them a lot of power and he moves as much as possible one minute in the crowd the next on top of an amp soloing. The final song he even puts his guitar behind him Bon Jovi style as he takes just vocals before bringing the riffs back with Gill for the final part. More frantic than the headliners but with a different style Temples On Mars' next album will be something to look out for.

Next though it was Darran Charles' prog baby Godsticks (9) with new album This Is What A Winner Looks Like in tow they again graces the stage of Fuel to a partisan crowd, kicking off their 1 hour and a bit set with If I Don't Take It All from the new one, five of the set from there and five coming from Emergence. Charles and Gavin Bushell's guitar playing enticing as it dances between melodic prog rock, classic metal and modern metal on each song. The duo of Throne/Eliminate And Repair came next as Darran's vocal approach was as good as it is on record, giving it a bit of banter before Below The Belt the first off Emergence.

Charles is a great frontman, affable and humorous, cracking jokes about the noise level of the crowd, ranking them out of ten before starting Surrender one of three from Inescapable, or as one of the crowd put it...the blue one. Behind Charles and Bushell is the rhythm section Francis George on bass, augmenting the heavier end of the music while Tom Price plays some intricate percussion but is chastised by Charles for not being able to push a button of a taped intro. Building up their set so it ebbs and flows countering their new music with older music to great effect, the excellent Hard To Face, one of only two from Faced With Rage signalled that time was nearly up as the main set finished with We Are Leaving and Lack Of Scrutiny.

After putting down their instruments and then picking them back up for the 'encore' of Exit Stage Right (luckily not persued by a bear) which got Fuel finally to a 10/10 out of noise, according to Charles. Godsticks are one of Wales premier bands, see them when they next come around as you'll be in for a heck of a night of music.

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