The last time I rocked over to the Engine Rooms in Southampton was to check out the most static Protest The Hero show of my life. A cold, miserable room with tired punters who could barely stay awake after a dull performance by the Contortionist and hardly moved an inch to a the Canadian titans, but thankfully much has changed in the 2 years since I’ve been away.
The venues now warm and has brought in a much needed partition down the middle, to lock the sound into this converted warehouse and contain the echo. The sound system has had a major overhaul, as has the lighting and stage, creating an atmosphere that wasn’t available the last time. The beer was pretty damn awful, but with out of the way venues like this, being located in an industrial sector of the city, it’s hard to attract quality breweries or sponsors.
We got there in time for the first band Arctic Lake, the first trio of a triumvirate of British bands due to play the night. They play a style of art pop / indie post rock, which is something I’ve been more and more interested in of late. Drums and keyboard, with the odd distorted post-rock riff thrown in by the keyboardist. I did thoroughly enjoy the performance by the lead singer, but I found the backing music to be lacklustre and pretty unimaginative. She’d definitely do well finding different avenues in which to use her vocal talents. 6/10
Press To Meco
One of those bands who are constantly thrown around the UK scene is Press To Meco, and I’m glad I finally managed to catch them live. Their unique brand of pop-punk progressive metal was a welcome relief after the slow opening band, and these guys delivered with heavy riffs galore coupled with the expected fun poppy vocals. The band threw every bit of energy they had into the set, which really warmed the room up ready for Arcane Roots and got the crowd going a bit too to my surprise. Press To Meco rolled out a brand new song, which was this really interesting pseudo-thrash influenced song, of which they dragged out their final crushing riff for what seemed like a brutal eternity. Something for people to check out when their next record is out. I’d really recommend seeing these guys next time they make their way to your local town. 8/10
Topping the bill was the mighty Arcane Roots. Admittedly, I’d steered clear of them and it took a number of people recommending me Melancholia Hymns to actually take the plunge. For those who haven’t heard the record yet, but would like to check out a review, have a look at our editor Tyler’s review. Arcane Roots have an incredible depth to their music, moving from Indie sounding tracks, to progressive rock anthems before breaking off into math-rock driven sections. They certainly brought this experience to their live show, offering up punters an excellent pallette of sound.
The band have a light show similar to The Hirsch Effekt, with the 3 band members spotlighted as they play & the lights dimmed when their heavy synth soundscapes envelop the crowd. During the intense, emphatic moments the band smatter their music with, the strobes flash intensely creating a epic atmosphere that is great for headbanging and moshing to. So even during the first song the band were off to a brilliant start in my mind, as light shows are so important for directing the mood in the room. The band opened up with their extremely popular anthem ‘Off The Floor’ which proved to be a barnstormer, with a huge pit opening up for it’s insane build up and finale; beers and people flying all over the place.
The band played a set full of their latest album, but also dipped back frequently to not only their 2013 LP Blood & Chemistry, but also their 2015 EP Heaven & Earth. In fact the latter had 3 out of it’s 5 songs played, and has me yearning to explore their back catalogue in more depth. Throughout the show, the band had my blood racing, and from the energy displayed by the mosh pit throughout the full hour long set, the others there too.
There was a slight cock-up during one song, as lead singer Andrew had to restart it after 20-30 seconds, but with such highly complex music it’s better that he called himself out lest he got the bad press. Really good musicianship and something I’d rather see than someone blindly playing along / catching up and ruining the whole piece. Sometimes the bass they used got way too intense (again thankful for my earbuds to shelter me from the worst of it), but all in all a faultless show. From a venue perspective, I found the pit itself to be quite dangerous. Engine rooms double up as a rollerskating hall, and that smooth floor, combined with beer made for a slippery combination, and I’d recommend they look at some temporary flooring for these kind of gigs.
I was really impressed at the energy, and how current and fresh their older material sounded live. They are certainly a band I’d like to see again, and being UK based, this seems like something I can expect regularly. Be sure to check them out when they next visit your home town! 9/10