WORDS: Jack Fermor-Worrell
As snow begins to fall in Manchester city centre, what better way to take refuge than witness Seattle goth-punks AIDEN hit up Sound Control on their final ever UK tour? The band have been a favourite within certain scenes for a decade or so now, but things are now sadly coming to an end.
First up though are local horror-metal outfit THE DEAD XIII, who delight the early-comers with a short-but-sweet set of abrasive riffs and pounding beats that hit like gut-punches. Despite a reasonably short set, the Manchester collective give the performance their all, and their electronic-tinged industrial tracks go down a treat with the early comers. The likes of Frostbite sound typically aggro-industrial, but there’s more than enough flair in the vocals of Kurt Blackshard to take a punt at AIDEN’s New Grave crown.
In terms of stage presence and musicianship, NEVER FOUND are pretty solid. Unfortunately, most of their punk edge is stripped away tonight by recurring technical problems that flood the venue with bursts of painful feedback. Frontman Daniel Barnes does an admirable job attempting to power through, but he’s essentially robbed of a lot of his impact by the issues. Tracks from the band’s Sorrow & Cyanide EP sound good enough, but there’s a distinct sense of something lacking, unfortunately. Where tracks like the emotional Take Me Away should probably sound powerful, there’s an oddly tinny guitar tone and the aforementioned feedback sadly causing more irritation than the band likely deserve. Nonetheless, this is definitely a band with a lot of potential, and NEVER FOUND are certainly worth keeping on your musical radar.
Getting things back on track slightly are ASHESTOANGELS, the one band on the bill who seem to have attracted almost as many fans as tonight’s headliners. Led by the charismatic Adam Crilly, the ‘new-grave’ punks plough straight into a double-hitter of the goth-tinged anthem Heavy Words & and Hollow Bones and Run – the latter, a relentlessly catchy affair that smacks of old-school AFI, and indeed, AIDEN. Newly-released song Find Hell proves truly excellent in a live setting – its chorus alone sounding too big for the building it’s being aired in. As ASHESTOANGELS get to the end of their set though, there’s one final surprise in store, as the band launch into a distinctly metal cover version of the DAVID BOWIE mega-hit Ziggy Stardust. It’s a poignant way to finish their show, and one that should stick in the minds of many that made it here tonight.
Really though, tonight is all about AIDEN. The goth-rock pioneers might be on their farewell tour (and have only one original member left), but tonight the band burst onto the stage and kick straight into Crawling Up From Hell – the rampaging opener of their newest self-titled album. Frontman and focal point William Francis prowls about the stage, effortlessly alternating between sultry pouting and cracking smiles at his adoring audience. Pretty soon though, the hits begin to come: We Sleep Forever leads into Let the Right One In, Hysteria and Moment. Then, a surprise, as Adam Crilly returns to the stage to lend guest vocals to new track New Grave. Another older number, Scavengers of the Damned, then finishes up the first part of the set with an attitude-laden stomp through masses of gang vocals and crunchy riffs, courtesy of guitarist Ian MacWillams. The main bulk of tonight’s show though is, of course, the airing of 2005’s Nightmare Anatomy in full. And indeed, as Francis gives his introductory screech to Knife Blood Nightmare, the pits begin to erupt. A lot has happened in music in the ten years since the release of this seminal record, but you’d barely guess it’s been that long by the performance tonight. Die Romantic remains a ridiculously potent anthem with the power to grab a whole room and have them shouting along in seconds, whilst Breathless gives everyone a short respite in-between the relentless punk shouting. As See You In Hell… draws to a close, the band leave the stage for the inevitable encore. What follows is a double-hitter of tracks all the way from the band’s debut Our Gang’s Dark Oath. Arguably one of the band’s biggest songs, I Set My Friends On Fire retains the barked screeching vocals of all those years ago, but adds what can only be attributed to a decade’s worth of experience and passion. Finally, World by Storm brings everything to a close with a full-on stage invasion, as Francis goads the audience into mass-crowd surfing and joining him on the stage “…for about five seconds…” before being thrown back into the mass of sweaty bodies. Sure enough, utter carnage occurs as masses of people seize their last opportunity to get up-close and personal with a band that’s meant so much to them for so long. AIDEN may be gone now, but those here will definitely remember tonight’s performance for a long time to come.