Gig review: ROCK GODDESS/Praying Mantis/Desolation Angels – Islington O2 Academy, London, 3 December 2015

Praying Mantis, Cambridge Rock Festival, 2013

A night of NWOBHM resurrections.

First up Desolation Angels. The band ambled on stage to a room of about 50 souls and did a bit of instrument fiddling over David Bowie’s ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ blasting from the PA. Not a seamless introduction and no surprise that the first tune was a bit disjointed with the sound all over the place.

It didn’t take these seasoned pros long to hit their straps, though. ‘Fury’ was much more together with a great sounding angry chug and proper buzz-saw riff. The band looked like they were enjoying themselves and bassist Clive Pearson was clearly up for it, cajoling the diehards down the front and strutting around like all good bassists should.

The twin guitar sound generated by band originals Keith Sharp and Robin Brancher was all gutsy raw power in the classic metal mould of early Maiden or Saxon.

The only track I knew well was ‘Valhalla’ from the bands debut album and it was delivered here in some style. Chunky riffing and some wonderful howling lead breaks; and a chance for Paul Taylor to properly exercise his lungs on the chant-along chorus.

The band only had time for a few tracks, which is a shame because they were getting into a great rhythm with ‘Evil Possessor’ and the more pacey ‘Arc Angel’. A band to see more of.

Praying Mantis were never properly part of the NWOBHM movement, but seemed to get swept up in it and then swamped by it. Their more melodic, AOR-influenced sound probably didn’t benefit from the prevailing mood music at the time. They split after one well-received album, ‘Time Tells No Lies’, in 1981.

They lay dormant for 10 years or so before reforming and have delivered eight albums since 1991. The current line up is promoting the ‘Legacy’ release in August this year. Even though they were a melodic rose between two thunderous thorns on this bill, the band stood up really well.

New vocalist Jaycee Cuijpers handled the material with aplomb. He has a commanding voice that displayed range and tone as well as oomph. He did justice to back catalogue tracks like the sweeping ‘Praying Mantis’ as well as new material like up tempo, fresh sounding ‘Fight For Your Honour’.

The ever-present Troy brothers are the driving force of the band. Tino on guitar and Chris on bass. They combined wonderfully on ‘Highway’, coming on strong with a seductive, almost funky riff over a tight sound. Possibly the best delivery in the set.

I was wondering what had happened to the keyboards when ‘Believable’ kicked in. The keys turned up on a backing tape. Probably wise under the circumstances. There wasn’t room to swing a moog on stage. The five-piece were tight up against the Goddesses kit as it was.

‘The Runner’ went down well with the crowd which had grown to a healthy size by then; followed up with a great run through ‘Turn the Tables’, featuring a twin lead guitar attack. Andy Burgess pairing with Tino in a melodic burn up.

The band seemed to step up the energy for the last couple of tracks culled from those early ‘80’s days. ‘Children of the Earth’ was a bit loose and fraught, whereas ‘Captured Cities’, squeezed in after their official times was up, came across with real zest, precision and plenty of balls. Great show.

My expectations of Rock Goddess were not high. I was never a fan. To be fair they played with great spirit and Jody Turner never stopped working the audience. The band seemed to be having a ball and the crowd mostly responded well.

The trouble lies squarely with the material. It is thinner than a Klaus Meine comb-over. The band had to dredge up demos and unreleased material from their early days to pad out a set that didn’t touch the better known songs recorded with Dee O’Malley on bass. Back together with original bassist Tracey Lamb, the later material is presumably off limits.

Spirit and enthusiasm can only get you so far. ‘Satisfied Then Crucified’ opened up the set and, despite being one of the better tracks, suffered with poor sound. Jody’s guitar set-up produced a strangled and processed tone, lacking proper grunt and sheer rawness. I’m no technophile, but the old fashioned straight-through-the-amp growl works well for my ears.

‘Take Your Love Away’ and the classic ‘Heavy Metal Rock ‘n’ Roll’ set closer both rattled along with plenty of verve and power. In between there was too much mundane riffage, screeching vocals and identikit arrangements.

Tracks like ‘To Be Betrayed’ and ‘Flying To See You’ were just too dull and mediocre, despite Jody’s well-meant attempts to fire up the audience. A ‘my-side-of-the-crowd-can-shout-louder-than-yours’ pantomime routine after all of four songs about summed up the set. Not the Goddesses finest hour, I fear.

Review by Dave Atkinson
Photo by Simon Dunkerley


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Power Plays w/c 2 September (Mon-Fri)

BAD WOLVES Killing Me Slowly (Eleven Seven Music)
THE DEAD DAISIES Righteous Days (SPV)
DEEP DEEP WATER Something In The Water (indie)
MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST Sleeping With The Light On (Nuclear Blast)
GHOSTS OF MEN Crooked Back (Regent Street Records)
ANNIE HASLAM Blood And Water (indie)

Featured Albums w/c 2 September (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 MICK DEVINE Here Now (Escape Music)
12:00-13:00 MOB RULES Beast Over Europe (SPV)
14:00-16:00 THE PORTRAITS For Our Times (indie)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

STACKRIDGE A Victory For Common Sense (2009)



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