Edinburgh, Scotland outfit Vantage Point have long been impressing people with their theatrical take on Maiden-esque Metal. So when the opportunity arose to finally see them in the flesh, Sea Of Tranquility's Steven Reid whisked himself off to Scotland's capital for a "Demonic Dinner Dance". However what wasn't expected was that catching the powerful quartet would result in the SoT staff writer stumbling headlong into the local Metal-core (and so much more) scene in the process. Here's a lowdown of the five acts who graced the Opium Bar stage...
Opening proceedings were Darkfall, a young outfit who offer their influences as Alter Bridge, Dream Theater, Avenged Sevenfold and Trivium. Yet what they serve up is a damn sight heavier than that list suggests. Singer Alexander Stewart adds convincing gutturals – although his clean vocals could do with some attention – to some all out Metal, while the more groove oriented "Caught In The Firestorm" revealed a different side to what this fledgling act produce. Not the most interesting band on the eye, (Stewart might have at least emptied the bulging pockets of his hoodie before going on stage), Darkfall need to work on their stage-craft to make a mark, while the slow "Broken Melody" did, in truth, struggle to hold the attention. However "Sacrifice" had much more to offer, showing the rhythm section giving some serious attention to detail, even if bassist Jamie McArthur started a game which ran through the night of guess how many strings I need on my bass (five in his case)? A solid start to the evening, Darkfall are far from the finished article (I was a little surprised they've been together for more than two years), but they showed signs of promise and certainly have time on their side.
Up next was As I Was Hunted, a female fronted act delivering Pop-Punk ala Tonight Alive with a Metal-core injection and a heavier old style Paramore feel; something borne out through a neat cover of the 'More's "Stay The Night". Although the four-piece were also happy to mix in touches of Rage Against The Machine rifferama to an all out attack and some cleverly refined touches. Front-gal Zoe Baines possesses a shy confidence which immediately drew the attention, and allowing her Scottish accent to shine bright as she attacked each line, she had the voice to match. At times she did get a little lost in the maelstrom, but with the right backing this lass could go far. Dextrous guitarist Andrew Pavis laid down some heavy slabs, even if he does look like your sweet younger nephew – drummer Marc Christie looks unsettlingly like Sarah Millican, with a beard, but with the gusto he assaulted the drums, I'm not saying that to his face... As for bassist Scott Bathgate? He tied the night's string tally on five! It's obvious that As I Was Hunted have spent some time on stage, an understated belief shining through in their sounds and moves and while the songs need some polish, more nights like tonight will serve this lot well. With a debut EP hopefully on the way soon, AIWH are well worth keeping an eye on.
In all honesty Vantage Point stood out like a sore thumb on this bill, the, by the standards of what surrounded them, veterans already established recording artists and seasoned stage hands. And boy did it show, the exuberant "The Big Welcome" segueing into the title track from the band's latest album Demonic Dinner Dance with a confidence and attack a country mile ahead of what had come before and what would follow. Frontman Murray Graham (who only has four strings on his bass, but the pronged BC Rich was the coolest on show...) revelling in assaulting a fresh young audience with his dynamic range and pitch. In fact I'd say his on stage vocals outstrip his studio efforts! Guitarists Liam Kane and James Mitchell darted around the tight stage, Mitchell defying gravity as he leant backwards to the floor, as Kane sporting a spanking new Lynch Mob shirt showed his admiration for the ex-Dokken man through not just his attire, but also his guitar and sound. "Pleasure Slave" and "Into The Vault" raced past a blur of snare cracks and riffage, before the ever excellent "24 Hour Breakdown", "Gripped By The Throat" and "Daredevil On The Shore" brought an all too short set to a close. Unfortunately drummer Richard Corral, who was otherwise excellent, found his kick-drum pedal suddenly make a bid for freedom during the closing numbers, distracting him and his bandmates for a second or two, but they regained control with impressive speed and little fuss as they finally won over their new audience with many a head banged and devil horn thrown. Job done, stage conquered, mental note on my part to catch this band again and with a longer set.
Credit to Solitude though, for this musically muscular young outfit ran VP close, a Metal-core Yashin without the melodies the closest comparison. If vocalist Calum Beveridge hadn't told us, we'd never have known his band were airing some new tracks tonight, so tight and in control were they. "King Tuts" bulldozed an introduction, six (yes ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner) string bass extravaganzas abounded from Kieren O'Brien and while I'd question anyone in this scene needing more than four thick strings on their hefty bass plank, I have to admit that this young lad can play; his tapping, picking almost slapping style a sight to behold during "Your Disguise". Add in a powerhouse drumming performance from Andy Sterrick, who hammered out the breakdowns and smashed through the guitars (although he did cause mild panic when he lost his bottle of Lucozade mid set!) and sizzlingly aggressive six string assaults from Josh de Melo and Solitude have got it nailed down. He may look in shape, but with Beveridge puffing between songs he maybe needs to put in some gym time (although his unfeasibly tight trousers can't have helped), but in fairness to him, he was on the stage one minute, the raised stage-front the next, before entering the audience and bellowing his message home through the insistent "The Trail" and "Lessons". However even he was outshone when unexpectedly the singer handed the microphone to an audience member who ripped out the words without missing a beat. Amazingly, Jack Allen from the band Ernest, as he was introduced, was the best of the 'Core singers of the night, even if his efforts did result in the ridiculous "martial arts" of "hardcore dancing", the less of which said the better... Of the bands I hadn't encountered in any shape or form before, Solitude were by far and away the best.
By far and away not, were the headline act Kaoss Theory!. I make no secret that I'm not the world's biggest Metal-core fan, but done well it can be mightily effective. Kaoss Theory! however are from the school of simple scream and grind. Although singer Liam Nisbet did also having a strange predilection for whooping; neither Metal, or Core, nor exactly fitting within its surrounds. What they don't do though is have songs convincing enough to hold the attention and even though tonight was the first of a UK tour for this Glenrothes outfit, two songs in and it was clear the crowd had thinned, watches/phones were being glanced at and that some were hoping the amp problems bassist (five strings....make some effort eh?) Fraser Todd experienced might be terminal. In fairness to the KT!, they were a man down, a twin guitar attack blunted to one for the night but not many complained when a couple of songs had to be dropped for this reason. "Eat You Alive" came and went, as did a snare drum (it's going to be an expensive tour at this rate...), although at least "Desolation" did show a little more subtlety and diversity; Solitude's drummer darting up on stage during the song to make running repairs to cymbals and stands being thrashed by drummer Marc James, who it has to be said was mightily impressive as he tore his kit apart. However with skins snapping and cymbals falling, it would be fair to suggest he might need some sort of drum tech and quick! Ten out of ten for effort for Kaoss Theory!, however unless the loss of a guitarist for the night was a bigger hindrance than they were letting on, what this outfit really need is a couple of songs which manage to raise themselves from below average.
Having not experienced four out of the five bands on tonight's bill, truth be told it could have gone either way, but credit to Edinburgh's youngsters for putting on an excellent night. Solitude were thoroughly memorable, As I Was Hunted not all that far behind, while Darkfall showed promise. That the headline act proved a real disappointment was a shame, but either way the night belonged to Vantage Point, who proved once and for all that they are a band of real class and substance.