God Forbid / Caliban / Gutworm
2 December 2004
Camden Underworld

No rest for the wicked. Machine Head`s extensive UK tour, on which God Forbid and Caliban were supplying opening duties, afforded three separate nights off. And whilst the headline act were putting their feet up, God Forbid and Caliban had arranged intimate gigs, with tonight`s being the last of the three.

Opening duties tonight however went to Wellingborough`s Gutworm a band whose clash with Evergrey at this year`s Bloodstock Festival meant that this would be my first live experience. To be honest, Gutworm weren`t high on my list of bands to see at Bloodstock, as their brand of extreme metal is a bit beyond what I usually listen to, mainly down to the screaming vocals.

Neil Hudson`s microphone is distorted between songs so when he lets rip with his savage shrieks you are hit with an inhuman and intelligible barrage. I can appreciate he does the style well, it`s just not to my tastes.

The music however is something I could get my teeth into with scything guitars and hyper blast beats. Saturate In Sadness eases the pace somewhat with chunky riffing coming over not unlike Machine Head.

Despite the sonic aggression, the band are certainly in an affable mood tonight with a number of friends here to support them, or in the case of one, to take the piss. Though Hudson soon deals his revenge by pointing out the heckler is a fat bald chef and changes the next song to Obscure Barbeque.

Due to time constraints Gutworm lose two songs from their planned set and wrap up with What You Are, which is to be their first video. Hudson decides as there`s not enough people down the front for a wall of death, he requests a fence of death. Though not for the last time tonight, after the crowd separates in preparation, nothing happens.

Gutworm set list:
Loveless / Below Within / Obscure Devotion / Saturate In Sadness / Blind From Truth / Reborn / What You Are

Caliban would appear to have reached a crossroads. Speaking to one long time fan after, he was disappointed that they had not played more of their earlier hardcore material. On new album The Opposite From Within however, the involvement of Anders Friden of In Flames and Andy Sneap, leaves no doubt that more metal is being incorporated into their sound. Now whilst I quite like the new album, as it progresses, it does becomes quite monotonous as Caliban seem stuck in a formula of ferociously fast riff into beat-down staccato riff into emo chorus repetition.

The fact that people were limbering up as the band took to the stage offered a clue to what was about to occur and to the predominantly hardcore audience Caliban possess. The opening shouts of "Where is your?" of The Beloved & The Hatred had people falling over each other at the front to sing into the microphone. Then as the song kicked in a huge circle opened up with kung-fu style flailing dancing breaking out. In contrast, the song`s chorus sounds like the Lostprophets, with guitarist Denis Schmidt supplying the clean vocals.

For Stigmata, vocalist Andy Dörner tries to encourage a wall of death, though tonight`s crowd seem a bit reluctant to run head on at each other and Dörner, in thick German accent, is left pondering "What is wrong with the Wall Of Death? We will have to try it again later." Towards the tail end of the set, to encourage the crowd, he trades off the band playing fan favourite Assassin Of Love for another attempt. This time a few do charge, but the kung-fu certainly ensues. That proved bad timing as I had to stand crossed legged wanting to go to the loo until the song finished and it was safe to cross the dancefloor. On getting to the loo I found two young fans examining each others fat lip and black eye. Maybe I`m getting old, but I prefer the good old friendly mosh.

The machine gun riffing of Goodbye fittingly closes and enjoyable set, but I was left pondering, with such a hardcore audience, where do Caliban head next without alienating their followers.

Caliban set list:
The Beloved & The Hatred / Forsaken Horizon / Stigmata / Fire Of Night / My Little Secret / Between The Worlds / I`ve Sold Myself / Assassin Of Love / Goodbye

The New Wave of American Heavy Metal - NWOAHM! We like our sub-genres in metal don`t we, and as the years go by they seem to get tighter and tighter. This division seems to be an exclusive club of Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, Lamb of God and God Forbid with Chimaira hoping for an invite. Anything else similar goes under the catch all "metalcore" tag. It does get confusing and difficult to keep up with, which is probably why God Forbid had, up until the day previous to this gig, managed to slip through my net.

An invite to review this gig, led to a quick purchase of latest album Gone Forever, leading to a realisation that this is good stuff!

As feedback flooded around the Underworld, frontman Byron Davis stepped up to the mic and declared "Let the games begin". This signalled Forcefed and an onslaught of metal riffing that Arch Enemy would have been proud of. The crowd singing back the "What are we waiting for?" refrain.

Better Days, the first single from the latest album, followed showing off one of God Forbid`s potent weapons in the clean vocal melodies of brothers Doc & Dallas Coyle. Unless it`s rehearsed, the brothers appear to share an onstage telepathy. Flanking either side of the stage they headbang and pose in synch and stride forward to their microphones in unison. Similarly their guitar playing is together as one with riffs twisting around each other.

Davis tells us Anti-hero was written for George Bush with the band not best pleased by his recent election victory. The song mixes more traditional metal with hardcore overtones and features guitar soloing Zakk Wylde would be proud of.

The band lean heavily on new album Gone Forever, playing all but two songs from it. Songs from previous album Determination contain a more hardcore influence and it`s evident that God Forbid appear to have carefully injected more melody into their newer material. The sound originates more from metal with a hardcore influence than the other way round and it is noticeable that the kung-fu posturing in the crowd had ceased.

Precious Lie is dedicated to the ladies present, but despite its melodic intro it hardly lets up on aggression when Corey Pierce`s double bass drumming interrupts the moment of serenity. The mixture of the solemn twin harmony vocals, stop-start rhythms and thrashing riffs made this a stand out moment in the set.

Unlike Caliban before them, whose screamer Andy Dörner had looked uneasy when sitting out the clean vocals, God Forbid`s trade offs between the screams of Davis and clean vocals of the Coyle brothers feels perfectly natural. Davis often adding a screamed line underneath the harmonies, adding rather than detracting from the song. You could never call Davis uneasy in any case, making use of the full stage and supplying a challenge to bassist John Outcalt for space, himself often never still for long.

It`s impossible to ignore the New Jersey acts racial diversity, something not common enough in the world of metal and something that was echoed by a diverse crowd. Davis reminds us however that one thing we all have in common tonight is that we all bleed red, as he leads the band into the awesome Judge The Blood.

Following introductions, the band show us exactly what they are capable of with a technical instrumental workout, before Washed Out World and Broken Promises close the set.

Davis announces that band will be back for "the real deal" in March, before letting us know they`d be about afterwards. Sure to his word the band hung about for autographs, pictures and to generally meet the fans until the venue eventually ushered everyone out.

God Forbid set list:
Forcefed / Better Days / Anti-Hero / Gone Forever / Divide My Destiny / Go Your Own Way / Precious Lie / Judge The Blood / Instrumental / Washed Out World / Broken Promises

God Forbid
The Underworld