Earthtone9 / dBh / Raging SpeedHorn

Nottingham Rock City

November 27 1999

Raging Speedhorn. The demo leaves me unconvinced. They're going to gain love and hate in equal measures I think. Live I've got to be honest they were much better, musically tight and more interesting than the demo suggests. However, my real big problem with this band is the decision to have two vocalists doing pretty much exactly the same thing, especially when that thing is to ape the Iron Monkey vocals (sorry, can't resist that one, every single time). I like vocals with variety, so when the opportunity is presented and it's wasted, well, it's a shame. Still, there was a sizeable number of people here for the first band on, and even though the infamous semi-circular gap is held between band and crowd, a few people are in there doing the old career around the dancefloor bit. And it's good to see people stepping up rather than just hanging around at the back of the venue, shit, that's what I do isn't it. At the moment it still feels that the Speedhorn have better titles, such as Superscud and Necrophiliac Glue Sniffer, than actual songs, but I was pleasantly surprised.

dBh really need the opportunity to get into the studio now and record their new material, because this band has come on so much, and changed so much from the one that recorded that ponderous debut. Live they're much more versatile and energetic, with vocalist Andy in making the biggest progression. Musically it's a whole lot harder and heavier, with a decidely more hardcore outlook. Kane is the standout track, a death metal like growl over gently strummed guitars, before it careers off into all sorts of directions, heavy hardcore, speedy grindcore blasts, it' scarily good, along with other new tracks such as recent single Moron Teachers. It's so good they really need to get it recorded, put out as an album, and then be able to tour that to death. There seems to be more than a polite interest in the band, as long as they can tap into that live energy when they record again.

I can't believe it's actually the last night of this tour and it's the first time I've seen the band play during it. And surprisingly after about 6 weeks constant touring, none of Earthtone9 have black eyes as they take to the stage. Not that you would really expect any of that now would you? Instead Earthtone 9 choose to pummel the senses purely with their music. Whether it's Serpentine Placement or the track that always gets people going Withered, there's a swagger about the band live. It's not a highly visual display, although Karl has developed immeasurably since the first time I saw the band a year ago, but it's the music that just graps you and wraps you up. And it causes some kind of confusion with the crowd. It seems that most people are unsure whether to dance and get violent or just watch and appreciate, so that there's kind of that uneasy standoff between crowd and stage.

But in many respects, to me Earthtone 9 are ready or need to move on. It feels to me like they're currently limited by how they're having to do things live. I still believe that this is a band that would suit the use of projections and video feeds in the live context. They're not a visual band - it's the music that does the talking, but the music is complex and layered enough to warrant such treatment. And it's like at the moment they're limited in what they can play - tracks such as Sand 2:00:00 and Leadfoot from the debut are great, but it means they're missing Ever You Say or O...O...O... and enertia 65800 from Off Kilter. But the re-introduction of Joe on guitar and providing melodic backing vocals to complement Karl kind of shows how there's perhaps a leaning to do the more melodic ethereal moments. But of course at the moment it's all touted by the magazines as hardcore or extreme metal, and so the band have to concentrate on those harsher moments. At least it's good to see the magazines getting behind the band a bit more. But a track such as Zechariah Rush with it's melody, or the back up vocals on i nagual eye, the awesome Serpentine Placement or even grind and click is almost like a middle ground, extreme enough, but with enough melody coursing through it. It shows the band seemingly itching to play more with that side of things, to bring out those extra dimensions. On the other hand, there's the threat to break out into a feedback drenced noise piece bubbling below the surface and pushing the extremeties further as hinted by Simon Says. And they should be in the position where they can explore all of these moments, because they are the ones that help lift them above the rest of the pack.

Steve Jarvis may believe that the band has no songs, but well as I write this I should be nursing a hangover after last night, instead I've got the bloody riff to Zechariah Rush going on. Earthtone9, not just a fine band, but a hangover cure? But can someone explain why some bloke decided it would be a good idea after the gig to remove all his clothes and walk on to the dance floor? Yer going to regret that one this morning.