earthtone9 / Element / Bulwark

Nottingham Old Angel

February 4 1999

"knock knock -hello, hello! Anyone in there? Come on answer. Or am I still just talking to myself?" All this rhetoric about hardcore and unity is just constantly being blown away. You've got a scene, you've got the bands, you've got the venues. So why don't you actually show some interest some of you? Huh? Unity my arse. It's cliqued all the way at the moment. You claim hardcore unity, and yet are trying your damndest to alienate any band that doesn't perfectly fit your pigeonhole. Or rather the pigeonhole that you've allowed someone else to create and tell you is your own. Man, it makes me sick sometimes. This was an awesome gig. Those who were there hopefully enjoyed it. Those who weren't - well I'm sure they all feel good about it to.

A few things have changed since the last time I saw Bulwark. One is the name, because formerly they were known as Noisegate, the other is that they appear to have lost a guitarist. But one thing that hasn't changed is their music and their approach to it. It all comes straight of the Pantera and Machine Head school of metal, and once again on the evidence of this evening, if it lacks something in originality, it makes up for it in quality. The sound, the songs, it's all there. They twist and grind away, and vocalist Nick has a powerful voice even if it does sometimes tread too closely to Anselmo for comfort. He's also retained that element that I'm not sure is good or bad in that he talks to the crowd and tries to engage them, but in a somewhat cringe worthy manner. As he tries once more to encourage someone to move, the comment that Nottingham is always a tough crowd is passed to me. And it's unfortunately correct. Summed up by the fact that they dedicate the last song of their 30 minute set to the one person who has been brave enough to actually move to the front and, er, move. And they may have said they hope the name Bulwark sticks in people's minds at the end of the night, but I'm afraid it could be for the wrong reason - sorry, but it just sounds like a bad name for a band to me.

Yeah, Nottingham is a tough crowd. Which is ludicrous really. I mean, there's shitloads of decent bands here, you've now got this place providing an alternative to Rock City for seeing great bands, places like Bunkers Hill and The Old Vic also put on some decent stuff. And yet it's still a tough crowd. Still the hardcore kids, the unity crew are not here AGAIN. It's a stand off affair, and so it takes Element and vocalist Luke to launch himself into the crowd on several occassions in order to generate anything like a response. I've been a bit harsh on Element a few times in a way, that they sound sometimes too derivative. It's only because when they do their thing and not copy, then they are excellent, and tonight that was the case. Maybe it's familiarity kicking in with some of the songs, but it sounded clear and powerful. They still have their moments where they loose it, but overall tonight they were excellent, especially when the vocals get mixed up and there's a bit more singing involved. They've got ability, there's no doubt about it. Possibly the rest of the band need to move a little more in order to engage people, but there again, it's a small stage and so it's difficult to do. But you know, Nottingham's got a good little scene going on, and they are becoming an important part of it.

Ah yes, the scene. The tough crowd syndrome. By the time earthtone9 take to the stage, the place is pretty full. There's something a little amiss though these days when I'm almost in the front row. Tough crowd. Stand off. Don't want the bands to actually think we're interested in them now do we. But it doesn't matter. earthtone9 are about the music. Always have been, hopefully always will be despite the attempts of some to try and deflect the focus towards other things. And tonight they were utterly awesome. Playing only the second gig with current bassist Dave, attention at first is drawn towards the new boy. How will they sound? Tight as hell and powerful. It only takes a couple of songs and it feels like he's been there forever, and you can get on with watching the rest of the set. Which of course is magnificent. Having seen them a number of times over the last year, there are no real surprises, and so there's nothing really new I can write about the set. The songs are huge. The likes of Serpentine, Zechariah, Withered, i nagual eye, Simon Says. They're not a visual band, but vocalist Karl is constantly writhing, even between songs, so focussed is the attention and the energy. You sense it's an experience. Some bands have to rely on a visual image in order to gain attention and interest - almost like they purposely need to deflect the attention from the music. That's not the case here. The music is the core of it all, around which everything else can be built. If this is hardcore, then it's on a different level. Probably too different for the fraternity. Maybe that's why they're not here again. They get challenged too much, the music is complex and varied and the whole experience is altogether different. Of course it can still induce a fairly violent reaction, as Karl warns a few people to calm down on the testosterone injections at one point, and Steve carries a table to safety at the side of the stage. Personally I kind of hope that they almost abandon the hardcore side of things in the way that hardcore appears to have abandoned them. Explore the other elements that they seem keen to play with, take a trip down those feeback alleys, add more of the melody that's there. I still think there's an album as worthy as say Tool to come out of them, and why not. Some people would complain and cry sell out. But there again, they're probably the same people who are never there anyway when it comes down to it. Those that are? Well, pretty much everyone I spoke to afterwards was either using words like awesome or walking round with dazed looks on their faces. They really are that good.

Because of the different styles of rock I tend to listen to, I find myself thinking or claiming that there's about a dozen best bands out there. But it's like this, in Nottingham at the moment, whatever you're style of rock, there's some of the best bands out there right here, right now. Some bands that although they may not think it, are important. Some bands that could have an impact, and not just in the UK. Want your intellgient kind of metal/hardcore style, you've got earthtone9 a band who were they American would be playing major sell out tours of the UK, a touch of stoner - then there's none finer than Blackrock, a bit of an Incubus like thing, the stunning Dai Lo, of course you've got some band called Pitchshifter, for the extreme hardcore amongst you there's Hard To Swallow and the myriad of offshoot bands, and then there's some fine upcoming nu-metal and hardcore bands like Element, 3rd Stone, Disaphere, Waimeashorey, Out For The Count, Own Worst Enemy and more. It's all happening. It's under your noses. Stop turning your nose up at it and then claiming there's fuck all out there.