||UNZUCHT AND DARKHAUS IN CONTEST FOR SUPREMACY IN EDINBURGH
Unzucht/Darkhaus: La Belle Angele, Edinburgh
13th November 2016
It's taken Ken Hanlon, frontman of international rockers Darkhaus, a long time to have a homecoming gig with his band. Four years, two albums, an EP and several tours have gone by but finally he is on the stage of Edinburgh's La Belle Angele club with his band, only a few miles from his Livingston roots and with plenty of family and friends around to welcome him.
The hall is far from full but an enthusiastic cheer greets the band as they hit the stage full of confidence and launch straight into 'All Of Nothing' from their latest album 'When Sparks Ignite'. The sound is big and brash but well sorted from the start and it is soon evident that the band's speciality of producing a big rock sound infused with melody and really well crafted songs carries over to make them a really dynamic live act.
Darkhaus' more recent material focuses more on the guitars and tonight despite being without regular axeman, Pro-Pain's Marshall Stephens, his stand in Kei Li handles the rhythm guitar job like he was born to it. This allowed Rupert Keplinger (who also plays with Eisbrecher) all the space he needs to show off his lead skills. That big beefy guitar sound really powers the band along and tunes like 'Second Chance' and 'Providence' really have the audience moving together and being drawn in ever closer.
The rhythm section is also a huge part of that sound with Pro-Pain's Gary Meskil happy to take more of a back seat than when he's blasting out the sweaty hardcore and simply join with drummer Paul Keller to give the band the platform it needs.All that driving energy and big melodic riffs might overpower some singers but Darkhaus' Scottish frontman doesn't exude a confident swagger just because he's at home. He has a terrific set of pipes and his strong melodic tones carry easily over the band and lets the quality of the songs really shine.
Tracks like 'Second Chances' and 'Ghost' are impressive and memorable even to those in the crowd hearing them for the first time and when they add in some programmed synths for the lighter tone of songs from debut album 'My Only Shelter', it only shows their diversity and quality. The big time hooks of 'Breaking The Silence' ends a set which seems way too short for both band and audience and leaves everyone wanting more.
As someone who loves the band's recorded output to date it was great to find out that Darkhaus are a really impressive live act too. Judging by the enthusiastic reaction around me, it wasn't just me who thought so. You might think that with members who have other well known band commitments that they might lack the feel of being a real tight unit but nothing could be further from the truth. Terrific stuff, a real tight band with huge potential, I really hope they come back to the UK soon.
Many headliners may have baulked at following such a well received support act but German dark rockers Unzucht don't seem to be phased in the slightest. The crowd numbers were down a little as some Darkhaus fans hadn't hung around for them but all front man Daniel Schulz did was shrug his shoulders and tell everyone 'We're going to have fun, OK'. True to his word that's exactly what happened for the next hour.
Guitarist Daniel De Clercq had managed to hurt his foot on the first date of the tour and was restricted to playing from a stool, but this didn't seem to affect the energy levels at all. While he played with a ferocious intensity, Schulz charmed the audience spending as much time out on a podium at the front of the stage and interracting with the front rows and beyond as in the traditional centre stage spot. Just about any time he left a space out front, bass player Alex Blaschke was happy to fill it, delighted in the opportunity to pull a few rock star poses with a big grin on his face.
Sound wise Unzucht cover a broad spectrum of dark and gothic styles mixing in Rammstein style heavy riffing, thrashing punk energy or slices of melodic gothic pop, all performed with their signature energy and charm. It's very hard not to warm to them as Schulz (who confusingly turns out to be Spanish) encourages the crowd to join in with every song, shows flashes of self deprecating wit along the way and ends up in the audience making singing and dancing along with the band a complete community experience.
I have to say that as someone unfamiliar with their material, all the charm in the world couldn't help me to find a song that really grabbed me and made me sit up, take notice and rush off to the merch booth to get an album. However they came across as such a likeable bunch and I really admired their commitment to putting on a good show in front of one of the smallest crowds of the tour so hopefully they do have some tracks that are growers when I check out their recorded output. Meantime I have to offer a hearty well done and would certainly recommend them as a fun band to see live.
Tonight it felt like there were two headline acts vying for the audience's attention. The winner in the end was really the audience.