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Live Review – ‘Lowering the Tone’ tour at Nottingham Rescue Rooms

There has been a great deal of drama surrounding Lowering the Tone headliners and UK progressive trendsetters TesseracT recently. Having parted ways with previous singer Daniel Tompkins, with whom they recorded their debut album ‘One’, they announced that American singer Elliot Coleman would be taking his place. The typical vocal naysayers were of course up in arms about this, and I was intrigued to see how the new frontman would handle the live show, despite the fact that I was already a fan of his previous projects.

First on the bill were French/Swedish newcomers Uneven Structure, playing material from their upcoming Basick Records debut ‘Februus’ (coming late next month). They took to the stage with confidence and played their fairly unique blend of haunting atmosphere and heavy-hitting, groovy metal riffs with a surprising stage presence, thanks in no small part to vocalist Matthieu Romarin, whose sweat was flying literally centimetres from my face. From the front, their sound could have been clearer, but they gain extra points elsewhere, both for being purveyors of copious groove and for their performance, with plenty of tight drumming and dreadlocked hair whipping about like the tendrils of some huge syncopation monster. Oh, and their bassist came onstage wearing a beret and a string of onions. Excellent.

Next up, and my most anticipated band on the lineup (since I’ve seen TesseracT before), were instrumental prog-metal sweethearts Chimp Spanner. Sporting a pair of bright yellow stage banners with their logo on and carrying eight-stringed guitars they certainly piqued the interest of a few audience members who presumably weren’t familiar with them, and inspired a great deal of head-bobbing. Starting as the solo project of guitarist and songwriter Paul Ortiz, they have bridged the gap to becoming a fully functional live band brilliantly, putting on an impressive and engaging on-stage display and choosing songs for their setlist that were, in my opinion, perfect. I could talk for ages about how I started to get chills when I heard the opening notes of ‘Under One Sky’ or how I was pleasantly surprised when they began ‘Clarity in Chaos’ from first album ‘Imperium Vorago’ but I won’t, as one thing sticks out in my mind above all else: Boris Le Gal. Sat behind the drum kit, Le Gal put on what can only be described as one hell of a show, twirling his sticks, gesturing to the audience and spreading his infectious grin, all while playing complicated beats in odd time signatures and seemingly enjoying it a great deal. The other instrumentalists were also enjoyable to watch, and what they lacked in their percussionist’s flamboyance they made up for in tight, technical playing and a great sense of camaraderie with one another (in spite of rather humorous lighting hiccups). Their mix was very clear, letting the fast, yet well composed and tasteful lead work of Ortiz shine through when it needed to, but also meshing together quite nicely in the less solo-centric passages. After climactic closer ‘The Mirror’, Chimp Spanner left the stage to loud applause, and the audience braced themselves for the headliners.

TesseracT began their set with the instrumental intro track ‘Hollow’, with new vocalist Elliot Coleman looking playfully out from the stage door into a room full of grooving men and women. One thing that was clear from the outset was that TesseracT are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to tightness and live sound. The roar and “djent” of the amplifiers belonging to guitarists Acle Kahney and James Monteith was imposing but satisfying, and drummer Jay Postones’s kit sounded rather huge from the stage and through the PA speakers. Tying it in with the low end was a daunting task that bassist Amos Williams rose to without faltering, and once Coleman took to the stage, things began in earnest with crowd-pleaser Concealing Fate Part II – Deception. The vocalist immediately made a statement of intent, adhering to the parts written before his involvement but also making his mark on them as opposed to sticking to them note-for-note. The rest of their set spanned the majority of their first album, but also included a new song (the set list that we caught a glimpse of named it ‘Eclipse’, though it was described as an “untitled demo” by Coleman). It was an extended version of a clip posted online a couple of weeks prior, and sounded fairly unique as far as the other songs in the set were concerned. Coleman really came into the limelight here; the vocals of his own composition seemed to suit him much better and his execution was near-impeccable, with the soulful delivery that he’d shown in the other songs coming to the fore. Whilst the song itself felt under-developed in terms of structure, it was a delight nonetheless. By the time the band came to their last song (the anthemic Acceptance, Concealing Fate Part I), the crowd were certainly giving it their all, with a mosh pit breaking out front and centre and many fans literally reaching out to the new frontman. Sadly, they didn’t play the epic album-closer Eden, but they made up for that in a stunning performance and a new singer that more than proved himself, as far as I’m concerned.

All in all, it was a fantastic night of live music that convinced this writer of many things, mostly that these bands are fairly badass. Be sure to keep an eye on Uneven Structure’s debut out on October 31st, stay tuned for Chimp Spanner’s upcoming EP and without a doubt check out TesseracT’s new vocalist.

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