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Thursday 13th February 2014
The Scene in Lincoln, UK
Reviews by Mark Holmes; Photography by Vickie Sargent & Mark Holmes
An LGBT bar might seem like the most unlikely of venues for a night of extreme metal although this is exactly where Martyr Defiled are commencing their UK tour on a chilly Thursday night. As a despondent-looking drag queen comperes a karaoke downstairs, Lincoln's very own Tiger Warsaw take to the stage in the upstairs room, and ease punters into the evening's later intensities with their easy-on-the-ear post-rock/metal stylings. Well, easy-on-the-ear instrumentally at least, because some seriously off-key vocals mar the entire effect of their music. Fortunately, the singing is only a sporadic feature of Tiger Warsaw's sonic palette, so lengthy instrumental passages are given enough breathing space to develop into atmospherically melodic passages. And the overall effect is fairly absorbing; however, when the vocals cut in, it's a discordantly jarring dent in their otherwise captivating tunes. A real shame because Tiger Warsaw, instrumentally, are quite sublime.
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The second local support band tagged onto tonight's touring package bill are Borders. Sharing a name with the onetime book and music retailer, they have a lot more to offer than their somewhat uninspiring moniker suggests. With a dynamic stage presence, they actually look like they're having a whole load of fun performing tonight. Some neat groove-based riffing infused with a sporadicity of djent flavours helps maintain interest in their music which, otherwise, leans towards standard heard-it-all-before (and much better) genericism. They do, however, come across with a strong presence in a live context so, with more experience, hopefully they'll be able to discover a bigger degree of self-identity within their songwriting. Only then will they be able to start standing out from the crowd and garner more attention. From what I've witnessed tonight, though, Borders are a promising prospect.
Borders at The Scene in Lincoln, UK, 13th February 2014
Photograph copyright © 2014 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Following the opening local acts are the first of two main supports on Martyr Defiled's headline tour, Manchester's Heritage. Veering towards the melodic side of metal-edged hardcore, the Mancunians succeed in delivering an energetically exciting set. Bearded frontman Chris Satchell growls his way through each song, interposed by clean vocal passages courtesy of bassist Michael Williamson. Melodic hooks are fused neatly within the context of some up-tempo aggression, which makes for a pretty engaging blend. And Satchell's brief between-song banter is humorous enough to keep the band from being submerged by their musical austerity. As such, Heritage are both a fun and formidable prospect on the live stage and turn in what transpires to be the strongest performance of the night. Very impressive indeed.
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Black Tongue from Hull are up next and fill The Scene's upstairs room with their hard-hitting blend of sludgy death/doom/hardcore sounds. With song structures adhering to a predominantly down-tempo structure, it's a welcome break in the evening's pace. Incisive and tight with their delivery, grime-ridden sonics blast loudly from the PA as guitars, bass and drums combine in a crushingly intense unity of hefty doom, over which frontman Alex Teyen growls and squeals with a fittingly anguished pungency. As such, witnessing Black Tongue in action is a viscerally somatic experience - bursts of bass-heavy sludge resonate through the body with a menacing embrace. Black Tongue are musical despair exemplified. And I mean that in the most complimentary of ways, of course.
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Preceding Martyr Defiled's appearance is an overly long soundcheck on a night that's seen some impressively swift change-over times thus far. I'm sure that serves to build eager anticipation in some, and frustration in others, although after hitting the stage and delivering their opening number in full-on energetic mode, the band are spontaneously struck with some unspecified technical problems. Equipment faffing ensues while frontman Matt Jones paces frantically and impatiently up and down in front of the stage, somewhat resembling a man who's forgotten to take a final piss before showtime (in fact, his chosen performance space tonight is the floor space... I guess he deemed the stage not big enough to contain his energetically flailing body, or simply suffers from some kind of bizarre stage aversion syndrome). Attempting to entertain the crowd, public speaking most definitely isn't his forte. Listing random football teams and video games engenders not a single murmur of a response from the crowd although a few cheer when he announces it's his birthday. Five minutes of awkwardness seems much longer so it's a relief for all, and I'm sure the band most of all, when they eventually resume.

Airing a mix of both old material and tracks from their forthcoming new album, the band's sound through the PA, and the mix, is not quite as good as that for Heritage and Black Tongue, although it's certainly acceptable and efficacious for conveying their death/hardcore discharge. A few over-excited audience members join Jones in his vigorous flailing while others do their best to avoid being inadvertently kicked and punched. The rest of the band remain onstage and give it their all at this opening show of the tour. Ultimately, Martyr Defiled's combo of death metal clichés and equally tried and tested metalcore-style breakdowns is old hat, although the band deliver their material with an effectively convincing bite. It's difficult not to admire the incisiveness of their no-nonsense approach, despite it being inherently derivative at core. And on an evening that's become gradually more and more musically intense, from Tiger Warsaw's post-rock atmospherics right up to Martyr Defiled's full-on aural virulence, it's kind of weird retiring to the downstairs bar where badly sung pop anthems are in full flow in karaoke hell.
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