Three up and coming bands, one Kraken-decorated tour bus full of dreams/socks/video games, a hitherto limited number of UK appearances between them, one act (Greece's Planet Of Zeus) drafted in to join Kyng and Lionize after Anti-Mortem helpfully split up at the 11th hour… It was with excitement and a teeny bit of trepidation that we anticipated Lords Of The Riff. So its just as well that all three acts pulled out every conceivable stop across these 11 dates, culminating in one deliciously heavy, loveable night in Islington. You wanted riffs? You got riffs – you got a lot of riffs. Here's what we learnt.
This tour could have been called Lords Of The Beard Seriously, it could have. But not in the predictable, old fart sense. The facial hair across our Riff Lords is considerable, but speaks of zesty rock chops and appreciation of fret-crunching influences, rather than tired copycat nostalgia. Not that they’re clumsy, cack-handed kids either, far from it. All three bands brim with exuberant va-va-voom, but never at the expense of tightly executed tunes.
**‘Dance!’ might be Greek for ‘Mosh pit!’ **With this hearty command, beaming Planet Of Zeus frontman Babis Papanikolaou instigates an impressively full-spirited mosh pit; building on an already head-banging front row of punters (proper hair-throwing, none of this reserved forehead-bobbing malarkey). A little like Jason Lee circa My Name Is Earl, if Earl had gotten off his arse and formed a heavy rocking ‘southern metal’ outfit. Deep, gruffened vocals merge into melodic, hard grooving foundations in hitters like The Great Dandolos. Fierce and a lot of fun.
**The line between a beardy bassist and a nodding Churchill dog is actually quite small… **As all three (gratifyingly deft and watchable) bass dudes tonight suggest. PofZ’s Giannis “JayVee” Vrazos and Lionize’s Hank Upton, especially, nod and shake their heads so enthusiastically you worry their necks might snap off. They don’t, mercifully, but next time you’re at a gig just watch the bassist and see…
**Electric Halo is an awesome tune **A highly infectious highlight in Kyng’s classic rocking, stoner-hazed show (think a modern day Thin Lizzy and Kyuss, having a thoroughly nice time after drinking all the Kraken rum served to punters tonight by the nice Kraken girls and their giant deep sea diver-suited man… Now who doesn’t want to be part of that??). All propelled at a rate of knots by drumming revelation Pepe Clarke, an arsenal of AK47s in one blastbeating beast of a man. Not everyone can generate a mass chanting of ‘FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!’ and make it sound good-natured, but that’s just one of guitarist Eddie Veliz’s gifts.
The organ is a very ‘rawk’ instrument In the hands of Lionize keysman Chris Brooks, that is (incidentally, pretty much the only Riff Lord not sporting a ‘tache the size of a squirrel). Swirling organ blasts lend piquancy and power to the Marylanders’ set, while singer/guitarist Nate Bergman roars the likes of Replaced By Machines like the lives of him and his family depend on it. With a set largely drawn from latest LP Jetpack Soundtrack, it’s a ferocious but funky way to end the tour – complete with their trademark reggae-infused notes. Vibrant, and hard enough to break your face. In a nice way.
**Camaraderie is a beautiful thing **Brooks plays a tune with Planet Of Zeus, Kyng bassist Tony Castaneda plays in a PofZ T-shirt, all bands man each other’s merch stands and, most pleasingly, members of PofZ and Kyng join Lionize for a closing jam through Breather. It might not be a full house tonight, but that does nothing to dampen the gusto of everyone here, onstage and offstage.
A spark-filled, riff-tastic line up – wonderful to watch. Do check them out on their next UK trips.