Tonight was a sell-out gig at Camden Barfly, which is no mean feat in this city of plenty, but for Heart of a Coward the hard graft is finally paying off and deservedly so. The support bands tonight were each different in their own right, but worked well together to fulfil their purpose.
First up was Death Remains, they were an enema to the room, starting the night as they intended it to continue. Barry O’Connor now fronts the band (he was the drummer in their former incarnation After Death) and does a good job of rousing up the audience. From where I was stood at the very front (trying to be a reviewer and photographer simultaneously) it was a bit hard to hear the vocals, but they had a fair few of their own fans amongst the audience tonight bellowing along to every word. The melodic guitar playing from fellow founding member Marc Yacas creates a delicate overtone to what is otherwise a full throttle assault on our ears. Their set included both singles ‘Blood Brothers’ and ‘Work. Sleep. Repeat.’ from their just released debut album ‘Stand. Fight. Believe.’ which has been very well received in the music press and bodes a decent future for the band. Rounding off with ‘The Northern Line Massacre’ Death Remains played a damn fine show that was nothing short of a tribute to the musical drive and determination of great friends lost[ (3.5/5)
Malevolence took the great atmosphere that Death Remains had created in the Barfly and practically tore it a new one. This band were relentless in their musical onslaught, with particular note being made to drummer Charlie whose fast paced drumming and continuous china cymbal use left me feeling as if I had just done a few rounds with Amir Khan. Alex on vocals got the circle pit going. His vocals punctuated through the music and were used more sparingly than other groups in this genre, but perhaps as a result, to greater effect. This combined with the incessant tempo changes and use of blast beats in songs like ‘Condemned to Misery’ meant there wasn’t really a dull moment in their set. (4/5)
Female fronted The Charm The Fury were better than I expected (I am not a fan of female fronted bands in general). Caroline Westendorp’s scream vocals were, I felt, better than her American Avril Lavigne style clean vocals. They were an energetic band live and I enjoyed the instrumental section part way through, with a decent guitar solo. Whilst they are good at what they do, I struggled to find something different that makes them stand out from similar bands, that said, the crowd certainly enjoyed them, particularly at the end when the singer and two of the guitarists headed on down into the audience to finish their last song from within the pit. (3/5)
With Camden Barfly full to bursting, there is a lot of heart in this room and certainly no cowards, although perhaps somewhat sensibly, singer Jamie’s mum is hugging the bar rather than stage front with her son. Opening their set with the first track ‘Monstro’ from their latest album ‘Severance’, it is power riffing from the start and we are happy to walk the circles pits of hell with Heart of a Coward. The heavy sound of their music is even better live than on CD and contrasts so well with the clean vocals on songs like ‘Shade’. This is particularly evident in the solidness of their breakdowns on songs like ‘Mirrors’ and throughout the gig. I also liked the way the set list was chosen, with certain songs that are grouped together on the albums being grouped together on the set list, songs work well together for a reason.
The stand out moment of aural brutality was just over half way through the night when their performance was taken to another level as they played ‘We Stand As One’, ‘Deadweight’ and ‘Psycophant’ in succession, for which the crowd went absolutely nuts.
Their connection with the crowd throughout the shows is what for me, makes Heart of a Coward such a good live band. As frontman and vocalist, a lot of the responsibility of this falls to Jamie Graham who despite being under the weather (damn that tour flu) gives his fans exactly what they want, he engages with them. From those who want to sing into his microphone and catch his tour flu, to those who just want to shake his hand as they crowd surf, he doesn’t miss a single one.
They closed the set with the entire Barfly screaming their lungs out to ‘Around A Girl (In 80 Days))’ and as they head off the stage, shaking and high fiving the hands of the front rows of fans as they go, chants of “one more song, one more song” emanate from the crowd. After a moments pondering, Jamie returns to the stage and says “So you want one more song?” to which there is a unanimous “YEAH!” from the audience. “We don;t do encores we are not that kind of band, but we’ll do ‘Killing Fields’” he replies and what an encore bonus song that was!
Tonight was for me one of the top five gigs I have been to in my twenty years of gigging. I sure hope the likes of the US Vans Warped tour picks them up and takes them on the road, they would not only be a blinding addition to the bill for the American audience, they deserve it. Heart of a Coward have come a significant way since I first saw them at Hevy Fest in 2011, they are one of the most enjoyable bands live and not just within their own genre, across genres. Fuck yes Heart of a Coward – Jamie, Carl, Steve, V and Noddy, that is how a gig should be, thank you! (5/5)
Words and photos by Heather Fitsell (February Photography)