ChickenhawkWe Are the Ocean/Chickenhawk/Proceed

02 Academy 2, Hotham Street
9th October 2010

Reviewed by Richard Lewis

In the sweltering environs of the Academy 2, the popped-up metal of Proceed tumbles from the PA. Occupying the same polished, commercial-metal niche as Lostprophets, they share the same overwrought emotional vocals as the Welsh band. The ‘we’re filming a music video, so you need to get down the front’ ruse works effectively as the crowd is propelled stagewards in the hope of possibly being featured. The suspicion that many of the current crop of ‘metal’ bands are merely McFly with heavier guitars is an impression that isn’t dispelled by the current act. A cliché, yes, but strip away the volume and the distortion pedals and it remains a reasonably accurate description. The glumness, or rather aloofness exhibited by metal bands traditionally isn’t replicated here as their frontman is closer in spirit to, well, someone out of McFly, Metro Station, or (God help us) The Jonas Brothers as he plugs the product and exhorts the audience to join in. Their final track, powered by a synth pulse that is more prominent than the trashing guitars with the addition of a vocoder would sound far nearer to Scissor Sisters than Black Sabbath.

Although Nerve may be present largely to watch Chickenhawk who follow next, it seems that the vast majority of the audience quite clearly aren’t. A term coined to describe US pundits who strongly advocate military action yet avoided having to serve themselves (that means you, Dubya and Dick ‘Five Vietnam Deferments’ Cheney), the ‘Hawk’s bludgeoning attack places them far nearer titans like Metallica than the pop kids of earlier. The surge in volume and intensity leaves a huge section of the audience dumbfounded however and in spite of the conviction on display, the first two tracks finish to almost complete silence. Undeterred they plough on, with a few patrons laudably making the effort to jump around, but the massed outbreak of pogoing seen earlier vanishes.

The band admirably don’t appear to care either way, leaving feedback whistling out of their amps between tracks to mask the non-response of the audience. Hailing from Leeds, a city long associated with all things goth, the group thunder along on elastic band basslines, boasting a rhythm section that bends and flexes like a suspension bridge in a hurricane. In marked contrast to earlier, virtually nothing is said between songs in stark contrast to the over-enthusiastic plugging of Proceed.

Complementing the seamless bass guitar-bass drum interface, their guitarist throws some classic rock shapes with frequent Pete Townsend-esque windmilling. With a sticksman who has the chops in abundance to play this insanely fast they reroute Seattle via the Pennines one track resembling a close cousin of Nirvana’s Negative Creep, with the same desperate, strangulated vox. Key track NASA vs. ESA, concerning the US-Soviet space race, hinges on the couplet “Take me to the moon man/In a tin can” providing self-deprecation and avoiding My Chemical Romance style self absorption. I Hate This, Do You Like It? the group’s most recognisible song provides the finale. Built on a chassis of frantic Eddie Van Halen string tapping and machine gun drumming, the rhythm section slams down like a drop forge in a steel works, recalling Sabbath’s proto-industrial thud. As tight and sinewy as on record, the stop-start dynamics of the track finally wins over a few converts as they leave the stage to modest applause.

Walking onstage to an intro tape that sounds like a poor man’s version of The Omen theme, We Are the Ocean head back to the default McFly/Linkin Park setting mined by Proceed earlier. Despite having double the number of guitarists, compared to Chickenhawk’s one, We Are the Ocean’s axemen are roughly half as effective. Repeatedly bellowing at the audience to “make some noise”, the entire venue seemingly heaves forwards. The stock formula patented by Linkin Park almost a decade ago of screechy vocals/anthemic rock choruses is adhered to rigorously, as the crowd - frustrated by Chickenhawk’s rude imposition midway through the evening - go wild. Whilst there is no denying the obvious skill displayed in precision tooled pop-metal tracks such as Nothing Good Has Happened Yet, if the ever present screamo vocals were removed sonically the track resembles an early U2 track. Welcome to my Broken Home meanwhile races past in a blur of military drumming, frantic riffing and tuneful choruses that doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts in the way Chickenhawk seamlessly blended the same elements earlier in the evening.

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