Wednesday, 15 October 2014

M.A.R.S Alternative Freshers Festival @ The Firehouse, Southampton 3.10.2014 - 4.10.2014

Words:  Charlotte Whittingham  Photography:  Pedro Alves

It had come to that time of year; new students flowing into a new city to start a new chapter of their life. For those looking for a more alternative outing M.A.R.S (Metal and Rock Society) at Southampton Solent University were more than happy to accommodate them with a Rock and Metal festival at their local hotspot The Firehouse. This festival was split into to two days; Friday 3rd October being suited more to Hard Rock and Groove Metal fans, on the other hand Saturday 4th October providing a more brutal side to the Metal spectrum.

Friday 3rd October

This fateful evening kicked off with some local flavor in the form of Southampton Progressive Soul outfit SPYTFYRE. It was still early on the evening as people were still arriving as they played us a set consisting of fantastic guitar solos and riffs; I also heard some great melodies. As much as I enjoyed their set musically, I noticed it wasn’t really keeping the crowd interested as patrons continued their conversations, going out for their much-needed cigarette or getting a drink. Overall a pretty decent set, just a shame the crowd didn’t seem to take notice.

Next to take to the stage on this fateful occasion was Brighton Hard Rock piece BY DEFINTION; judging from the moment when they walked onto the stage they had a more active crowd. As they played their set I was reminded of Southern Rock legends Black Stone Cherry with their excellently dirty distorted solos and top-notch vocals. Also the fact I did a lot more head banging than note taking is a sign that I am highly enjoying a set.

Ballsy Hard Rock outfit TRICORN were next to show The Firehouse what they were made of; I had witnessed this hairy cluster of rockers about a few years ago in the same city and was highly impressed with their manly stage presence. When say I masculine stage presence I mean lots of hair and lots of attitude that showed Southampton they meant business. All of that plus some excellent music meant they were able to pull off the perfect set and impress Southampton’s metal heads.

MARCH THE DESERT provided us with the chance to take a break from all the rapid moshing and headbanging to give Southampton’s metal community a chance to re-gather their energy before headliners XII Boar. Musically they were rather enjoyable with their groovy guitar riffs/solos and rough vocals, although the comment I heard most from the crowd about MARCH THE DESERT was how much one of the band members looked uncannily like John Lennon that I wholeheartedly agree with. They certainly got me warmed up ready for the headliners.

After having spoken to XII BOAR and listened to their stuff earlier I was incredibly excited to see what they had to offer live. I must say I was highly impressed with their no-nonsense stage presence, hard rock tunage and the ability to get the crowds going; basically the whole package of a perfect headliner. The crowd went absolutely crazy for them; mosh pits, stage diving and head banging showing us so much glossy hair that would make Pantene bow before the metal community. I honestly did a lot more head banging than note taking during this band meaning I was enjoying XII BOAR a lot.

So this concluded the first night of hard rock, groove metal from Southampton’s very own MARS. I was only anxious to know what the next evening had to offer.

Saturday 4th October

Due to some blunders before leaving to go I was very disappointed to arrive after first act LAID WASTED had finished. From what I remember from their previous shows they often give the crowd a treat; their comical stage presence via Sean Walsh and their music would have been the perfect way to open up the evening of brutality that The Firehouse was about to receive.

The first band I actually got to see that evening were Progressive/Black Metal oufit REIGN OF PERDITION. Now before arriving to the event I was feeling quite stressed so their mellow music actually calmed me down in time before any more bands took to the stage. They also seemed to gain a positive reception from the crowd, which is often good for the first or second band into the evening.

Bristolian Progressive Metal ENDEAVOUR outfit were up next; during this was when the first bout of head banging started to take place. What I really enjoyed about their set was their amazing merge of Progressive and Melodic Metal that in in my opinion created some excellent songs for the The Firehouse’s patrons to enjoy. I was also taken with their lively stage presence, which appeared to be infectious as the crowds seem to do the same.

Black Metal force VEHEMENT were next cast a dark cloud over The Firehouse; I first saw these Eastbourne metal heads a few months ago at the exact same venue, I enjoyed their set then. Now over the past few months I am beginning to have a better appreciation and understanding of any kind of extreme metal and watching them with this new found gratefulness I found I enjoyed VEHEMENT’s set a lot more. Especially when they had the crowd at the palms of their hands from the first death growl; rapid head banging and fist pumping reinforced this. This curse Vehement seemed to have was so powerful that even people at the bar were showing their appreciation in a true metal head fashion. So it’s safe to say Vehement tore the roof off that evening.

Extreme Metal cluster AGHAST stepped into the shoes of main support with true metal fashion. They basically brought brutality to The Firehouse on a silver platter with their lively stage presence, perfect brutal metal tunes and a more than active crowd. I was particularly taken by their set when front man James stood on top of the speakers. This seemed to be the point where The Firehouse got fuller meaning the carnage just increased. After that bout of carnage I was anxious when BASEMENT TORTURE KILLINGS were due to take the stage as Aghast were a tough act to follow.

Headliners BASEMENT TORTURE KILLINGS describe themselves as Murder Metal on their Facebook page and after witnessing their live set it is easy to see why. As the opening song, which was something quite innocent that lured us into a false sense of security. Next minute you see a band that appear to have blood on their hands quite literally as they dominated the stage in their blood stained attire. Their infectious energy passed on into the crowd like the Olympic torch being distributed on. Even though this headliner weren’t quite my cup of tea I definitely thought they were the ideal choice to close the festival of Rock and Metal.

So from this report I am sure you have gathered I enjoyed this local festival of brutality and carnage. This whole festival provided a huge reminder for me as a music journalist why I continue to support underground metal music in any way I can.

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