Despite a slightly late and frustrating train journey – where two teenagers sharing an mp3 player were singing only loudly, and badly, to the chagrin of much of the carriage – I somehow got to the venue just in time to be in place as ESA came onstage, and the pounding beats of Your Blood Is My Blood shook the attendees to attention.
The confrontational, loud feel of the opening five minutes was continued right through the set, too, with the quieter tracks that have been present in the past all being jettisoned in favour of the harder side of the ESA output. Part of this, of course, may have been to allow more of the new album (The Sea and the Silence, copies of which were unfortunately not available in time for last night) to be aired.
And on what we heard last night, the new album should be pretty damned good. An interesting addition has been vocals on some of the new tracks, which add an air of menace, and, crucially, some variety (an important point when onstage it is little more than one person performing, as well as Owen on visual effects and the odd vocalist, of which in a moment). In addition to the vocals, some of the effects used also brought a more, er, metal, feel too – in some respects a merger of two (very) disparate influences, in growling death metal and heavy industrial. And of course, this was rammed home nicely by the traditional appearance of Luke bringing his furious vocals to Satan Is Real, an-always welcome highlight of an ESA set (and I’d love to hear a studio version of the track with the vocals, too – the CD version sounds strangely bare when I hear it nowadays).
Despite a slightly-standoffish crowd to begin with, ESA once again won over a crowd who may not all have been as familiar with the artist as some of us were. Now to look forward to the new album…
So onto Modulate. They’ve had something of a busy year, playing live a fair bit, releasing an album a few of you might just have heard, and so there was a fair amount of anticipation for this gig. This was the first time I’d seen them in a good few months, and certainly the first time since the album was released, so I was also interested to see how the new material went down now it would be more familiar.
The answer didn’t take long to come, either, as the band took to the stage in their usual co-ordinated outfits (this time red shirts, black ties) and tore straight into a barnstorming Revolution – a track I’ve long been championing and it works very well indeed as an opener. But then again, judging on the ecstatic reaction (not quite as crazy as Woolstock, but still pretty good) they could have opened with anything they liked!
Like ESA, there was a notable attempt to keep momentum going right through the set, with little in the way of pauses for breath between tracks, and a high tempo being kept up all the way through. For a band like Modulate, this is a great thing, as many of their tracks are of course pounding club tracks and we got pretty much all of them last night. Highlights, of quite a few, were in particular the call-to-arms of Buzzsaw, the very clever teasing intro used for Dirtygrrrls Dirtybois, the best live take on Skullfuck I’ve heard the band do yet, and a big surprise in hearing the first airing of Faktory in quite a while. The latter was on the original promo CD, but (much to my disappointment, at least) never made it to the album. It sounded awesome live again, too – here’s to hearing it again soon.
Despite a few minor sound issues (the bass wasn’t anywhere near high enough for the first half of the set), yet again Modulate delivered in some style. With ever-increasing confidence, their live sets continue to get better, there is no sign of any fatigue from crowds who have seen this band more than a few times of late, and surely it is time for the band to be playing to bigger crowds – or perhaps, better still, some of the festivals next year.