Live Music + Gig Reviews

Norma Jean + He Is Legend + Maylene and the Sons of Disaster + The Showdown @ Islington Academy, London

24 January 2007

Norma Jean

Norma Jean

Standing outside the Islington Academy, deep within a shining 21st Century shrine of consumerism, I just don’t understand it. Maybe I’m square, maybe I’m getting old; I just don’t understand why all the boys insist on wearing girls’ jeans. The plaid shirts, the fringes and the stretched ears are one thing. They may look silly to some, but that’s all down to personal choice. But girls’ jeans? They can’t be comfortable? Surely?

Alas, I by the end of the evening I am none the wiser. I am however left, left picking my jaw off the floor having witnessed sets from a bill of four blistering young bands who are carving the future of metal (thankfully, for the most part without girls jeans on).

First up, The Showdown look like Guns N’ Roses fans come grunge groupies, vocalist all tattered stonewashed jeans, a chequered shirts and saying words like ‘Metal power, Dude!’. Whether they are a ’90s reincarnation of Spinal Tap matters not because it just so happens with tunes like A Monument Encased In Ash, there is not a single head in the house that is not nodding in respect at the Pantera-driven metal riffage they spew forth.

Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster are certainly living up to their namesake this evening, with a shockingly bad mix, and consistently failing vocal mics, they certainly don’t leave the best impression to me as a newcomer, although their fans are rabid for tunes like Caution: Dangerous Curves Ahead, and demonstrate why the words ‘southern rock’ are as powerful today as when The Allman Brothers first strapped on their six strings.

With the exception of the headliners, He Is Legend are perhaps the only other act to have previously graced these shores. However, with their latest release Suck Out the Poison, they have left behind previous incarnations and tonight present themselves as something wholly other, which even after their progressive, post-everythingyou’veheard set, leaves the majority of the crowd scratching their heads in confusion. Front man Schuylar Croom IS the American manifestation of Russell Brand, complete with backcombed hair and pointed pixie boots. He crosses the stage like a man possessed, and with Dixie Wolf he shows that angelic and bestial are vocal positions he can hold almost simultaneously. Foraging into 10 minute epic renditions of your songs in front of a foreign crowd is a brave move, and one that He Is Legend execute brilliantly, even if the teenagers aren’t capable of concentrating for even half of their visionary set.

Norma Jean need no introduction, for a band who have succeeded in redefining noise-core insanity (with a little help from Converge) they are the surrogate fathers of a fast growing new breed of aurally abrasive acts. With schizophrenic synchronised flickering movie clips above their heads, and flailing guitars around their necks, A Grand Scene For a Colour Film destroys the PA, a sparks off stampedes among the crowd. Blueprints For Future Homes is a brilliant example of why Cory Brandon’s ability to blend coarse intensity with haunting melody has done nothing but strengthen this band’s arsenal.

The set is packed with songs that have become anti-anthems; neck breaking, cadence destroying numbers that leave my ears all but bleeding. Memphis Will Be Laid to Waste has the entire venue screaming back the vocals at the top of their lungs, and Creating Something Out of Nothing leaves the room breathless. The passion and intensity conveyed by this band are second only to the degree of just how damn tight they manage to stay through every cymbal choked time change and string bend. You will have to search pretty hard to find a band more simultaneously visually enthralling and acoustically insane.

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