Tonight sees the long overdue return of metal mob Mushroomhead who, after 13 years, have finally made it back across the pond to hit up a 15-date tour of the UK. As if the fans haven’t waited long enough it takes over an hour wait for doors to eventually open to begin tonight’s proceedings.
Kicking off the night are local metal outfit The Five Hundred, who are a perfect choice of support. The pummeling rhythms of drummer Liam Perez and bassist Andy Crawford mixed with the guitar work of Mark Byrne and Paul Doughty are on point throughout songs such as single ‘Come Closer’ all the way to set closer ‘Shutter To The Light’. Vocal duties are handled by John Eley, who switches between souring melodies and crushing growls effortlessly. Because of the local edge, there are already fans in the crowd from the moment they step out on stage, but there is no doubt they leave tonight with a whole heap more. (3.5/5)
Next up are Exeter four-piece Sanguine, who show just how hard switching between vocal styles “effortlessly” is. Musically the band are tight, with guitarist/backing vocalist Nick Magee doing his best to get the crowd involved in the set, but vocalist Tarin Kerrey is the weak link. Sure, her singing is quite good, not the most powerful, but enough to keep from dismissing the band as ‘another female fronted rock band’. The screaming however, rather than helping distance themselves from that trope, just sounds painful to the ears as well as the throat. Maybe Kerrey just needs practice on handling her voice, because at the moment it honestly doesn’t sound healthy, and will probably cause some problems a few years down the line. For all that is lacking in screaming technique, Sanguine sure know how to command the stage and crowd, waving around a huge flag, getting the audience to howl before ‘Raised By Wolves’ and trying their best to get some movement going on the floor. Unfortunately, stage presence and sound go hand in hand to make for a great performance, and the latter is somewhat lacking. (2/5)
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Finally headliners Mushroomhead take to the stage one by one. This is a band who pride themselves on having the visual presence to back up their eerie sound, and tonight doesn’t disappoint. Their famed masks are teamed with UV paints as dark yet pulsing lights scatter the stage. The drums topped with water not only make for a truly wonderful spectacle but also double as an efficient cooling system for those lucky enough to be on the front rows. Or in the pit. Or on stage. Basically water everywhere. Finally, smoke is pumped onto the stage at intervals, giving the waiting fans a well-rounded sensory explosion – not just a live performance but an experience.
Mushroomhead mix old favourites such as ‘Sun Doesn’t Rise’ and ‘Solitaire Unraveling’ alongside more recent offerings like ‘Qwerty’, making sure there is something for everyone. The audience are a visual representation of how long the band have been going, fans who have been with the band since the early ’00s stand shoulder to shoulder with others young enough to be their kids or grandkids, but all are united in their dedication to tonight’s headliners.
UnSaid Fate vocalist Jackie LaPonza is welcomed to the stage to perform with the band throughout the set, starting out casually dressed but culminating in a full wedding dress/Marie Antoinette hair piece combo during ‘One More Day’.
The band end the night with an encore of Pink Floyd’s ‘Empty Spaces’ and ‘Born Of Desire’, leaving the fans drenched but happy that they finally got to tick seeing Mushroomhead live off their bucket lists. (4/5)
Words and photos by Carrie-Anne Pollard.