System of a Down / Spineshank / Static-X
Nottingham Rock City
May 18 1999
Well, managed to miss Static-X totally tonight, so for the moment I'm going to have to go on the initial impressions from the couple of songs I managed to catch last night and the few demos that I heard last year. So, it's a White Zombish thing at the moment. Can't say any more than that.
Spineshank on the other hand utterly fail to move me. I'm sorry but they don't. They are the stereotype "nu-metal" band. Which means it gets a reasonable reception, but even then there's people around me who look distinctly unimpressed. They have all the variables, everything that's needed to make them totally relevent at the moment. Yet they are completely irrelevent in the grand scheme of things. The only songs I can remember them doing are 40 Below and Grey. And that's only because they were introduced. Yeah, so that's my fault for not having listened to the album enough. But there again it's their fault for making an album that doesn't shout at me to listen to it. Or whisper. Hell, it doesn't even whimper at me. Sorry. Fair's fair, they were better than last night. But, that's because of the stage divers tonight. And if this music is to move on to the next level, and approach arena status, which given the banality of the talk from the stage is where they're looking to go, well given that for safety reasons you won't get stage divers at those venues, you have to wonder what is going to provide the live appeal. They are limited, because guitarist Mike is still not allowed into the country until tomorrow, which means guitar tech Chris filling in and being assisted by Johnny on guitar. But when he starts chanting "Spineshank, Spineshank", and to these ear-plugged lugholes it sounds like he's the ONLY person in the place shouting it, you have to wonder. When the scene goes belly up ... well.
But there again, maybe that's all unfair of me. See, they were followed by System. Who proceeded to make them utterly meaningless. As indeed they manage to do to practically all the "nu metal" bands. And yes, that includes your Korn, Deftones, Limp Bizkit's and Coal Chambers. System are relevent now. But they are also relevent in the grander scheme of things musically.
They've changed things around a little since last night. Which means the fearsome P.L.U.C.K. still opens, but it is now followed by the teasing introduction to Suit-Pee. The place looks like it's pretty much sold out. Put it like this, there's definitely more people here than were last time for Soulfly and Sepultura. And I'd say there were more here than for Fear Factory. And yet when Suit-Pee kicks in, it seems like everyone gets sucked in towards the pit as the place suddenly converges on the stage. Yep, it's a pretty impressive reaction.
From there on in it's a run through everything off the album. Suggestions is hypnotic in it's holding of the attention, and then there's the new track X, which features Serj on the old skull faced shaker things that he uses. Shavo and Daron are tearing around the stage, providing suitable focal points that just don't exist in your Korn's etc. I mean, really, do people take any notice of the other members of those bands apart from the singer? And apart from checking out what they're wearing. Even John draws attention in the way that he bludgeons the drums, looking like he's intent on doing serious damage. And then of course there's some wonderful drumming in the songs anyway.
Everything is reeled off with barely a pause for breath, which makes remembering the order in which everything was played impossible for me. Marmalade from the Strangelands soundtrack is offered up, described by Daron as being about sex. And it features a guitar solo almost. Unheard of these days. It's another area that sets them out from the current crop. It's not just one down tuned sludge. There's actually melody and some great stuff going on there. Even live where Daron maybe sacrifices a little perfection for the sheer thrill and spectacle of the entertainment. Which to my mind is how it should be. So you get fluid guitar runs, and the guy whirring round like a devil, and shrieking backing vocals into the mike.
Mind, much like on the album, is the technical tour de force at the moment, introduced with the words "it's time to remove the sheriff", and ultimately focussing around the cry of "free thinkers are dangerous". Then you've got tracks such as Soil and Darts. And half way through, the band leave the stage. There's almost an ambient sound going on. Some people mistakenly think it's encore time already. But no. It's simply the build up to yet another song which sets them apart from their peers. My favourite track from the album, the anthem in waiting that is Spiders. It's sung. It's gorgeous. It's another dimension and dynamic that a band such as Spineshank for instance just haven't clued up on yet. Sure, it challenges the "pimp rock" fan who maybe thinks that everything needs to sound a certain way, based on the fact that the bands they listen to pretty much revolve around one sound. It maybe a relatively new sound, but it's becoming ever more restrictuve. But one thing I've learned during my life of listening to music, is that change and variation can be good. Can be exhilerating. Just like now. And then it's followed by the maniacle DDevil.
Towards the end, there's the one thing that to an extent is anti-climatical. Serj does a rant. It's against Tony Blair and the rest of the cronies that run everything. Against the war in Kosovo. A warning that unless we do something, then there will be no future for our children. "Do you think the world is going to shit? Can you get yourselves out of it? So what are you going to do? No, I mean, what are YOU going to do, not what are we going to play. I want to hear your thoughts." Obviously, with 2000 people here to "roooooockoutttttduddddde" you're not going to get a sensible response. It makes a pleasant change from the usual rhetoric that comes from the stage, but you question the worth of it and the impact. It's challenging the norm and the usual rules, and maybe that in itself is enough, but it doesn't feel it. It makes it too easy to look at and call "armchair politics". Similar to JS from Pitchshifter. And the thing is, Serj, like JS, strikes as an intelligent person with thought about things. I'd like to hear or read those thoughts, but at gigs it just feels like sloganeering. But whatever it is, it launches itself into the fearsome War? and the place explodes (sorry.) Well it almost does in that literal gig review sense of the word.
But to show there is the flipside to the coin, we earlier got the high of Peephole. And when they return for the encore, things have been changed slightly to last night. The cover of Berlin's track Metro is still there, and being the third time I've heard it live, it's now begining to stick in the mind. I can hear the melody being sung as I type this. And then it all finishes with the current single Sugar. And if the reaction here, as last night is anything to go by, it may even stand a chance of making an impact on the charts. Which would be nice. I mean, could you imagine Boyzone following them on Top Of The Pops. Don't laugh, it may not be as absurd as you think. If they could retain their integrity and do it on their terms, I'd like to see that sort of thing. It would look strange, it would challenge the senses of other people.
But yeah, there would be a danger. To an extent it's the same danger that I worry about now. See, like I said, this band makes all the other ones that are lumped into that "scene" redundant. They could give it up now. But there's a danger that they'll be lumped in there. The face paint and "wacky" hairstyles are maybe an indication. But there's so much more to them than that. Live as well as on album, they are in a different league. They have the songs to cross the different boundaries. Songs such as Spiders that can appeal to those that are utterly repulsed by the "nu-metal" thing. Songs such as War, or the multi-faceted P.L.U.C.K. They have tracks with the melody of Marmalade. Oh yeah, they're out there on a different plane, and tonight was simply awesome if you ask me. Which you didn't, but you've just spent a couple of minutes reading this, so you must've been reasonably interested. Drop your preconceptions and go check these.
And leaving, Vickie reckons it was better than One Minute Silence the other week, praise indeed, whilst Dan wanders by muttering something in his usual incomprehensible manner, which seemed to translate into them having been pretty good, and I'm going to go out on a limb and reckon that a fair few of the people leaving reckoned they've been pretty good. Me, like I said, I reckon awesome.