WhIle we all know it’s really not about any kind of contest but there is something tantalising about a pair of metal bands squaring off with a pair of ‘alt-rock’ acts in front of crowd at what, on its best nights, can be one of Guernsey’s best music venues.
That’s exactly what we got tonight as metal newcomers Apothis and veterans Granite Wolf ‘faced off’ against hard indie trio Lifejacket and grunge infused rockers Terrible Stuntman for Havoc Events and L’Islet Records at The Fermain Tavern.
After what seemed initially like it was going to be an unsure start, young five-piece Apothis burst out the gates with a power and energy I don’t ever recall seeing from a band making their debut.
Playing a style of metal that’s as heavy as you could want but packed with hooks they had the crowd on the dance floor and into it all from the start.
While, for my tastes, it could all have had a bit more groove and the mid-set drum solo, while certainly very well played verged on being a bit too much of a break in momentum, the rest was as spot on as you could ask for from a debut performance.
The band seemed more comfortable on stage than many who’ve been doing this for years and frontman Zav Pike showed a terrific presence with a real throat burning delivery that was nicely backed by cleaner backing vocals from Drew Baudins.
I’m not sure what proportion was covers or originals but the band owned it all with an uncomplicated and uncynical nature with no posing and just straight forward charisma that some other metal bands could learn from and based off this there should be big things to come for Apothis.
While all the members of the band are familiar I haven’t actually had the chance to see them in the guise of more recently formed Terrible Stuntman very often, and the last time I did was back in January at another Havoc event.
From the off the four piece, consisting of Bobby Battle (guitar and vocals), Liam Bewey (guitar), Tyler Edmonds (bass and vocals) and Dan Garnham (drums), were loud, groovy and vital, mixing an almost metallic heaviness with a grungy, indie approach — in that there’s no denying it has similarities to Battle and Garnham’s past band To The Woods, but it is a development on that in many ways.
The first half of the set was packed with the usually expected bluster but, with a track called Lobotomy, this started to change and it felt like we were starting to see behind the lairiness (though there was still plenty of that too).
This continued to the rest of the set reaching a highlight with Never Gonna Save The Whorld (sic), which may well be the best song I’ve heard from Bobby, and as a whole the set balanced a more disciplined edge with a huge power and energy marking a watershed moment for the band as a whole and Bobby in particular.
After that there’s no denying that hard indie trio Lifejacket was something of a change of pace and delivered, comparatively, a calm set, though in actuality there’s nothing calm about their songs.
Recent performances have seen the band turn down the outward intensity but embed it more deeply in the music and that was once again the case here, with the vicious bitterness and rage at the world still there in the lyrics but a delivery more nuanced so it really stands out when needed.
A few newer songs also show this development with Esoteric Love almost going a bit Rush in the middle, while Antarctic Homesick Blues has a huge, ‘stadium indie,’ quality to it.
While bassist John McCarthy provides a fun focal point the contrast with guitarist and lead singer Andy Sauvage shows a band happy to be themselves but they come together to make something more, leading to some angular fun with an edge.
While they don’t have the stage presence of the bands before and after, they still seemed to catch the attention of the audience despite being the least ‘heavy’ act of the night.
And then Granite Wolf launched into their set and the place exploded like I’m not sure I’ve seen since Skindred more than a decade ago.
The band provided their usual combination of huge riffs and monster grooves making for unselfconscious, straightforward, hard rocking metal that’s like a combination of a physical assault and an incitement to dance.
In response to this the dance floor became a full on mosh pit for the majority of the set with bodies flying every which way.
In the past it’s seemed like Guernsey had forgotten how to mosh but that changed here and the energy in the room found that perfect feedback loop where the band drive the crowd who in turn drive the band and so on and, while I’m not one for being in the thick of it, this was infectious and put a big grin on my face for the duration.
As the set ended with a majestic rendition of the beer and whiskey sodden Rock ’N’ Roll Hound the band were called back for more leading to one final blast that closed their set and the night, which was already terrific, on a real high.
There’s been much discussion of the state of heavy, alternative, music in Guernsey in recent times but based off this, if it comes with a ton of energy and a good spirit, it’s alive and well and has the power the create something hugely memorable and as good as you’ll find anywhere.