Ramming Speed & Support @ Rebellion
Things are eerily flat in Manchester as I make my way across the city centre to Rebellion. Traffic hums its usual, monotonous song as people go about their business, but there is no real atmosphere either buzzing or maudlin underneath a characteristically overcast sky.
It’s a Wednesday night and so not everyone can make it to tonight’s showcase of local acts showing American boys Ramming Speed what they’re made of, but those who do turn up get a damn lot for their money’s worth. As the headliners later gush themselves – “you’ve got some killer guitar players, Manchester.”
In short, Gorehead are a group of Mancunian stoners who inject wit and tongue-in-cheek into the unapologetic hell that is grindcore. All their songs last about two minutes and throw the proverbial kitchen sink at you. Seizure Salad and Diarrhoea of a Madman (top titles there, lads) are played at whiplash inducing tempo and occasionally drop into System of a Down fashioned stomps which further expand this band’s dimensions. It’s all a bit rough around the edges, but isn’t that the point? Their set is great fun.
A stylistic shift – the first of so many tonight, which makes the evening so great – sees the stoner/sludge mongerers in Barbarian Hermit slither onto stage. “This is not a soundcheck, this is not a drill,” jests vocalist Si as the first shattering chords boom from Marshall Cabs. It’s a clever way to get everyone to dump their cigarettes in ash trays and get their arses indoors for their set, and it doesn’t half work. The tempos are slow for the most part, but the towering, wrecking ball guitar work that seeps from out of the PA is irresistible. Naturally, a large part of their intrinsic musicality is Sabbath worship, but in all they create riffs and songs that you can’t help move to. It doesn’t hinder things that they’re frontman is both a thrilling watch and a bright, smart and lovable personality either. You can’t not get down to this.
Christ knows how many times I’ve seen Liverpudlian thrashers Exiled now, and maybe that’s the problem. This is the loosest, messiest set I’ve seen them perform. The bass tone, when John Riley’s long fingers begin to rain down on the high end of the fretboard sound like a whoopee cushion being thrown down the stairs and guitarist Joe Bradley, who gleefully swigs from cheap, Sainsbury’s own vodka between songs, is on another planet. It’s not that they’re particularly bad, but for a band I know can do so much better, this is a little disappointing.
Another band I’m well acquainted with, there’s just something about Insurgency that dwells on the same wavelength as my soul. The Lancastrian three piece are brutally heavy; they vomit blast beats, raspy screams and tremolo infested riffs out into an audience who’s growing in size, but for all of that devilish bravado there’s something tangible within it all. It’s not just about brutality, they’re focus is much more macro than that and, as a result, they’ve concocted a truly spellbinding sound that goes down a storm tonight.
A mutation of speed-addled thrash and filthy grindcore, with and a pleasing splice of rock n’ roll goodness powdering the mix, Ramming Speed produce an airtight set of sensorial carnage. Frontman Peter Gallagher’s dress sense – shorts and Puma socks pulled up just below his scrawny, knobbly knees – may make your skin crawl a little, but what’s that matter? We’re here for heavy, we’re here for aggression and they deliver that in droves. They may only be playing to the other bands and a handful of other scragglers – this scribe included – but they’ve not travelled all the way from the States to get pissy and lose heart. Every note is delivered with menace and passion and no one here tonight complains at what they hear.
Words: Phil Weller