For the second time in three days the Camden Underworld played host to a value triple bill of three up and coming melodic rock bands, on this occasion with home grown meat in a Swedish sandwich (or smorgasbord perhaps?)
However, the turnout was rather disappointing and probably fewer than saw headliners Eclipse play here last year. By an accident of bad timing both the Cadillac 3 and Halestorm were playing shows in Camden that night, while some others were keeping their powder dry for the appearance of the three bands at Hard Rock Hell AOR.
It used to be said that you could whistle down a coal mine and a Yorkshire fast bowler or Geordie footballer would emerge. In Sweden there appears to be an equivalent production line of young melodic rock bands, one of whom, Reach, opened proceedings.
With a confident stage presence, a bare chested drummer and an extravagantly pompadoured lead singer fronting a long-haired band, comparisons with H.E.A.T. were obvious. Despite deploying a basic guitar-bass-drums format, they were typically melodic with Alex Waghorn’s strong singing supported by excellent backing vocals and the opener ‘You Called My Name’ was a real statement of intent.
Though the rest of the set – with highlights including ‘Coming Home’, ‘Looking for Love’, ‘Fortune and Fame’ and near eponymous close ‘Reach Out’ – lacked a bit of variety, it was a highly promising debut on English soil that had me heading to the merch stand to get a copy of their new ‘Reach Out To Rock’ CD.
Tainted Nation flew the home flag and are a vehicle for Eden’s Curse drummer Pete Newdeck to moonlight as a lead singer, his engaging down-to-earth personality making him well suited to a frontman role.
His most recent outing has been with the critically acclaimed In Faith but his own band are a different beat altogether, uncompromisingly heavy with two guitars and showing traditional British steel.
‘Dare You’ was a fine opener and they also previewed a number of songs such as ‘Stand Up and Fight’ which appear to be in an even heavier yet more modern direction. Some of their set was not particularly to my taste but the likes of ‘Your Only Friend’ were enjoyable enough.
Having just released an excellent new album in ‘Armageddonize’ Eclipse’s set benefited from now having three excellent albums worth of material to choose from. Again eschewing keyboards or a second guitar player, they manage to be both uncompromising and melodic, with guitarist Magnus Henriksson performing minor miracles the way his riffs and solos fill out the sound. Interestingly Magnus Ulfstedt, formerly the band’s drummer, was back but playing bass in a rhythm section with his successor Robban Back.
They opened with the couple of newies in ‘I Don’t Wanna Say I’m Sorry’ and the memorable hook of ‘Stand On Your Feet’, as the set mixed the now familiar – a furious ‘Wake Me Up’ and passionate ‘About to Break’ – with new songs such as ‘The Storm’ with its instantly catchy ‘this is an emergency’ chorus, and ‘Wide Open’.
One criticism is that the songs can sound a bit samey – for example ‘Battlegrounds’ and ‘Blood Enemies’ being cut from almost identical Lizzy-esque cloth, so it was particularly pleasing that ‘Breakdown’, with its bluesy Cinderella/Whitesnake stomp-like grooves even seemed to get a few of the crowd dancing.
He may not be as hyperactive as his near namesake Erik Gronwall in H.E.A.T. but Erik Martensson is a relaxed and commanding frontman, taking everything in his stride with his ridiculously boyish smile and waving a mike stand with flag colours that were definitely not Swedish. On new song ‘Live Like I’m Dying’ the emotion he invested into his delivery was quite stunning.
Erik expressed his pride in latest supergroup Revolution Saints covering ‘To Mend A Broken Heart’, though personally I thought their version on this occasion sounded a bit thinner than the layered original on 2008 ‘s Are You Ready to Rock, while ‘Bleed and Scream’ is unquestionably a fan favourite, before they ended with the rapid fire riffing of ‘All Died Young’.
The set had flown by and there was only time for one encore, ‘Breaking My Heart Again’, which still reminds me of Dio’s ‘Rock n Roll Children’.
It was another night when all three bands gave their all, and despite the disappointing turnout tonight, the blend of old, and new material and the effortless way they pulled off a strong set of songs suggest that the Eclipse bandwagon is gathering momentum.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
Album review (Eclipse)
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