Making a welcome return to Wolverhampton in the evening’s ‘Special Guest Slot’ to Gin Annie and The Hot One Two were powerhouse Leicester trio Skam, with Waking The Angels making up the foursome.
Skam – Waking The Angels
KK’s Steel Mill – 12 May 2023
Words: Sophie James
Photography: John Inglis
Friday night, and Singer/Guitarist Steve could not help remarking on the typical weekend shenanigans on what should have been a short hop up the M6. Steve, we share your pain.
Out of the new breed of bands, I would go so far as to say that Skam probably have the most ardent and hardcore fanbase of them all. Anyway, on to the performance.
The fuzzy, distorted guitar introduced Green Eyes and BANG! We were straight in. It was immediately evident how clear Steve’s voice was in the mix. No mean feat when considering the heavyweight riffing and Neal’s crashing drums. Iron Cross caused Duty Photographer John to provide the tagline of the set – we will return to that later.
Suffice to say that the huge sound was already beginning to win over those unfamiliar with the band and their material. Bassist Matthew was revelling in the acres of space afforded, which comes as no surprise to those who know him and admire his ‘exploits’. A brisk shuffle with the lyrics delivered with a similar enunciation to James Hetfield but without the gruff tones. Rhythmically too, it was reminiscent of a speedier but sprightlier ’90s-tallica.
The band rein themselves in with One Track Mind, beginning all Soundgardeny. That more restrained rhythm continued before Steve unleashed a devastating solo. In a multi-guitar outfit, one could envisage protagonists exchanging licks before converging on the harmonies. Maximum kudos to Steve. He did it all so vehemently well independently.
Bring The Rain revealed exceedingly hefty blues rock stylings. Circles appeared to combine melodic and stylistic elements of both The Masons and The Crows. One guitar down but equally as intense, if not sneaking it, but that’s all subjective.
“Anyone who has seen Skam before will know this one.” Neal’s rolling drumbeat introduces Take It Or Leave It. As much an indispensable set inclusion as, say, Paranoid.
This may well be the sole few moments of recognition to the casual listener. However, those more acquainted, or who have really listened this evening, realise that there is so much more to them.
“You know what to do.”
It is inevitable, given the bass line of Massacre, that it will morph into a bone fide classic, especially when played in these parts. The riff, in doom-laden harmony with the bass, tips its hat at that undoubted influence but without blatantly copying it. Call it ‘Son of’ if you like, but when it came to that point, cue the most engrossing piece of audience participation of the whole evening, almost to a man hollering, “Generals gathered in their Massessssssss!!!!!
The “Oh Lord Yeah!” saw the band kick back in and continue their own arrangement. Steve’s impressive solo was at a speed where Tony rarely ventured, while Neal was in monster mode on the skins. The ‘Swinging Thunder’, like, someone had slipped Bill Ward some accelerant. That never happened back in the day, did it?
Imagine a fusion of Monster Truck, Clutch, ZZ Top and Molly Hatchet. Good. That just about sums up everything you can possibly imagine about set closer No Lies. The kinda song that makes you want to dance with your beer rather than your dearly beloved. What’s not to like?
“You’re here for a Rock Show. This is what it’s all about. Hands in the air! Let’s finish this!”
Following the all-out assault of The Hot One Two, this was equally as relentless to the very end. Again, all too short an appearance but one which whets the appetite of the new converts.
Quite often, an artist’s subtleties are lost in the overall bluster of the mix. When the volume is at performance levels, one can understand the casual listener missing so much. Skam, however, possess a trademark foundation onto which all the other musical colours are applied and mixed.
There is an intelligence and complexity within the compositions and the subsequent arrangement that far exceeds what one may expect from a three-piece. Such is the quality of the playing; these are all there and the underlying reason why the sound is so immense.
Thus explaining John’s Tagline “Bloody Heavy for a Three Piece”. Nuff said.
Waking The Angels
Due to an advanced start time, I, unfortunately, missed half of comparative newcomers, Staffordshire quartet Waking The Angels set. Failing to mention them completely would be doing them a great disservice.
Having seen them a few times this year, including on this very stage at Easter’s Mayor’s Fest, I describe them as a pulsating mix of modern and goth-tinted rock driven by sharp riffs and pumping bass lines.
Singer Mike is always engaging and prepared to banter with the audience when time allows. Much of this revolves around merchandise and is all so well-humoured.
My late arrival was mid-power ballad Gypsy Queen which had a superb, measured solo from Greg.
“Dance to this one if you know it,” announced Destination Love Affair before “This is us and we are….” introduced the eponymous earworm-inducing anthem Waking The Angels. “We are, we are, we are, we are Waking The Angels!” As much a declaration of identity as a statement of intent.
Always encouraging to see an outfit like this given an opportunity on a weighty bill.