Grass Roots ft. Reptilian Humanoid at Zombie Shack: Live Review
Words and Photos: Anthony Firmin
It is always great to see people taking up the challenge and lighting the mantle for promoting gigs, especially in Manchester and so we are at the Zombie Shack for the opening night for Grass Roots whose raison d'être is to showcase the best bands and artists. And this evening there is quite an eclectic mix on offer covering several genres and styles and is also a big night for headliners, Reptilian Humanoid, as they are previewing some of their soon to be released EP.
First up are The Demo who hail from Middleton playing rock’n’roll with a distinctive 60’s feel to it. The already largish crowd are bopping along and thoroughly enjoying them as their sound embodies Small Faces/Kinks but with a more up to date sound not dissimilar to The Courteeners.
Next up are Mewn who are relatively newish on the scene but have played a handful of gigs in the last 6 months. Their slow and droney sound is light and appealing, reminiscent of Portishead at times as the band create their sonic textures onto which they layer their songs, its dark, haunting and melancholy yet quite lovely but leaves one feeling equally uneasy. Their last song is untitled but is easily the highlight of their far too short set as it starts slowly and builds up to quite a dramatic finish.
But who are Mewn? Their Facebook ‘about’ section is empty and even after talking to a couple of band they are going to remain something of a mystery. Where is Agatha Christie when you need her?
Another contrast are four piece Second Sun but only three of the band have made a showing this evening, they alternate between poppy and heavier alt-rock, earlier on in their set they are sometimes sounding like The Police but with a harder edge – it works well for them too. Sadly technical problems with James Shaffer’s sound early on and a duo of snapped strings didn’t help, but kudos for them for ploughing on, driven by the booming bass of Tom Jackson and rock solid drumming of Andrew Trigg.
Having done no research for todays show I have been pleasantly surprised by all of them so far, sometimes a better approach, it has all been top stuff with great variety.
With only a handful of performances since the name change to Reptilian Humanoid which took place a while ago, you could easily have thought they had lost interest but in reality the band have been hard at work rehearsing and recording. With an EP ready to be launched and a flurry of activity planned for the live scene, the band are more than ready to make a re-emergence from hibernation.
The set starts off with their classic instrumental Megalochong which incorporates new song The Lizard and they are making a statement – the band are hard and tight. Bogarts Brew is solid too and demonstrates the band’s skill at moving between riffing and rocking and going into quieter sections. A previously untitled song is also played but has been given a name on the night, Crack Cocaine and then finishing off their set with the song that gave their name – Reptilian Humanoid.
They are setting a new standard within the prog metal genre by giving it smattering of classic rock sound, Charlie Powell’s keyboards make a huge difference and help set the band apart by adding colour and depth. Mark Baxter’s bass effortlessly integrates with Rob Wellock’s drumming, whereas Dan Thornton’s guitar playing dominates when it needs to be, but he is equally happy to pull back and allow the others to shine through, often sharing solo spots with the keyboards. Indeed, all of them know when less is more, something that a lot of bands could learn from. On top of it all Keenan Judge’s singing is on top form all the way thought the set.
Their’s is a sound that is an amalgamation; they take their heaviness from Black Sabbath and their sense of melody as well as call and return from Deep Purple. There is also a smattering of Hawkwind underlying it all. And it works. I loved the band during their pervious incarnation and tonight’s performance re-ignited my love for their music – and they are top people too.