Alabama Thunderpussy / Blood Island Raiders / Head-On / Panic Cell
23 October 2004
The Garage, London

Whoever put together tonight`s bill deserves a pat on the back. Teaming up three very strong British bands, packed with potential, with Richmond, Virginia`s Alabama Thunderpussy.

Panic Cell were a late, but very welcome, addition to the bill and as a result they actually had to take the stage before the actual advertised time for the doors opening. However, aside from a sarcastic "So this is Saturday night in London?", comment from vocalist Luke Bell, the fact that not many people have arrived yet doesn`t affect Panic Cell`s performance.

Damn Self Pity and Nothing are fused together for the opening salvo. Lee Turner braying seven shades out of his kit during the latter. Actually, it was the first time I had noticed Lee wears a mic head set and one of the many strengths of the band is his combined backing vocals with guitarist Kelly Downes.

Perhaps with the stoner audience in mind, Harjeet Virdee`s guitar introduction to Shallow has some additional improvisation tonight. Bobby Town is as animated as ever, mouthing along the words and holding his bass aloft when he`s not trying to avoid getting a poke in the ribs from Luke Bell.

There are one or two people here who obviously watch Scuzz TV, given the response to the two songs currently getting airplay, Save Me and Thousand Words. Though, to be fair, Panic Cell`s knack of writing very heavy put incredibly catchy metal tunes goes down well and despite the fact that it`s still earlier every song is met with enthusiastic cheers and applause.

Away From Here ends a short set, but one which undoubtedly picked up a few new fans.

Panic Cell set list:
Damn Self Pity / Nothing / Shallow / Save Me / Thousand Words / Away From Here

I`d been very impressed by the track The Stomp by Head-On which appeared on a Metal Hammer compilation and was looking forward to their set tonight. Well, I have to say they exceeded what I had hoped for. The band describes their sound as heavy groove metal and if you imagine a mixture of Black Label Society and Pantera at their stomping best you wouldn`t be a million miles away.

Immediately Break The Walls Down gets head nodding. Apparently the band shares an obsession with wrestling and that`s more than apparent when you take one look at man mountain vocalist Mark Logan. His beefed-up appearance fits perfectly with the chunky riffs of the likes of Wrecking Ball.

Guitarist Oz is phenomenal, simple as that. If you`re a fan of Zakk Wylde you`re going to love his playing. In fact if Zakk decided to leave his role alongside Ozzy, Head-On better hide their Oz, as the Prince Of Darkness would likely snap him up. When not reeling off catchy riffs he`s dropping jaws with astounding solos.

This type of metal needs a solid rhythm section and Head-On have this in Ross "The Boss" White on bass and Effon on drums. The Boss doubles up on his bass duties by also being the lead singer / guitarist in Descent and spends much of the set windmilling his dreads. Effon meanwhile, we didn`t get much sight of as he was hidden behind all the camouflage netting fittingly covering his kit.

For closing number Here Comes The Hammer, Logan produces a huge wooden mallet and proceeds to destroy a satellite receiver box. That was something I almost missed as by that point I had already decided to head over to the merchandise stall and get a copy of their new CD, X.X.L., before they sold out I was that impressed.

Panic Cell and Head-On will be playing together again on 12th November at the Croydon Cartoon with 5th Man Down, Invey and Exit By Name and I would certainly recommend attendance.

Head-On set list:
Break The Walls Down / The Stomp / Sunrise / Wrecking Ball / Breaking Point / Here Comes The Hammer

Following the sets by Panic Cell & Head-On I already felt like I`d got my money`s worth and was amused to see some photographers turning up having missed both. Still, there was yet more quality British metal to come in the shape of Blood Island Raiders.

Blood Island Raiders offer a more traditional doom/stoner metal sound, not too dissimilar to Orange Goblin, whose vocalist Ben Ward is here supporting the band tonight. Opener Demon however had me thinking of Danzig, with its dark bluesy riffing coupled with vocalist Warren crooning into a vintage microphone.

Al "aka" The Reverend is wearing a St Vitus shirt tonight and his solid riffing would not be out of place with those dark lords of doom. Armageddon is about as doomy as you can get with it`s crawling pace marshalled by Paul on his sparse but fully used drum kit.

When the pace picks up during Fear, the sight on stage is of a sea of hair with bassist Seamus a mass of dreadlocks nodding along to the catchy riff. The band pretty much stick to their positions and concentrate on doing the job in hand and there`s a real turn up, plug in and rock feel to them.

Master Plan closes the set with its tortured slow riff beating us into submission until it shifts up a gear towards the end and The Reverend leans heavily on his wah-wah for another bluesy solo.

Blood Island Raiders set list:
Demon / For The Sake Of Oddity / Fear / Armageddon / The Brutal Cry Of War / The Blade Of Vengeance / Master Plan

By this point I was fearing whether Alabama Thunderpussy could actually follow those three bands, but those fears were banished when Wage Slave opened the set. Erik Larson and Ryan Lake combining mid song for some Southern style guitar harmonies.

Alabama Thunderpussy have been going since 1996 and since then they have been quite prolific in putting out albums. Having only recently got a copy of their latest Fulton Hill I was unfamiliar with a portion of the songs played, but the likes of Dry Spell and it`s trippy use of flange had me making a mental note to look out for some of their other releases.

There`s little movement on stage other than the shaking of heads with the band getting down to the rocking at hand. That`s not the case stage front however when drummer Bryan Cox hits out the introductory snare of Infested. The spiralling guitar riff and Johnny Weills cry of "Get ready, all set…" triggers a violent pit with some assholes intent on getting a few punches in. The tension is defused somewhat following the song when Weills warns in a Southern drawl, "Be careful in that mash-pot or you`ll be off in an am-bu-f**kin-lance."

Weills is a recent addition to the line-up. He not only looks like he needs a bath but that he could keel over in the on-stage heat at any minute. He soon dispatches his vintage Somewhere In Time shirt to go bare chested whilst putting his all into every phrase. He has a unique style whereby one minute he`s barking out the likes of Blasphemy, then he`s hitting all the notes in a husky tone to Three Stars. The latter is a stand-out moment in the set with its Lynyrd Skynyrd vibe.

It`s apparent the rest of the band are very tuned in to playing together. Bassist John Peter at times seems to be in trance as he rolls his head around whilst shadowing Bryan Cox`s drums. The heavily tattooed Cox meanwhile looks like he`s just got off a Viking ship with beard and platted pig tales.

Lunar Eclipse is apparently about "f**king werewolves" and features some more sweet guitar harmonies. Following that Orange Goblin receive a dedication in the form of a storming version of Rainbow`s Man On The Silver Mountain.

This really was one of those gigs that you`d have happily seen go on all night and it seemed the band would have happily obliged. Unfortunately there`s a curfew due to the following club night and Alabama Thunderpussy have to wrap things up, with I think Heathen.

Alabama Thunderpussy set list:
Wage Slave / Esteem Fiend / Dry Spell / Infested / Blasphemy / Three Stars / Whore Adore / Ambition / Victory Through Defeat / Lunar Eclipse / Man On The Silver Mountain / Struggling For Balance / Heathen /

Alabama Thunderpussy
Blood Island Raiders
Panic Cell