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Stoneghost, live in London

Can the groove metal newbies deliver the goods?

Sometimes we can be so blinded by the disproportionate hype and corporate blather that surrounds and often stifles so many new bands in our world, that real, freshly-forged gems can completely pass us by. But even though their arrival has yet to spark the interest of the broader rock media, Stoneghost are generating their own buzz by offering a deeply refreshing alternative to the conformist norm and by skilfully combining a whole shit-ton of modern heaviness’ most desirable traits, from Pantera’s sledgehammer grooves through to the artful mutations of Mastodon. It’s a fluid formula that should, in a perfect world, turn them into British metal’s latest superstars; whether it will or not seems to depend largely on how many people Stoneghost can reach on the live circuit, and so the gruelling upward ascent begins in earnest right here.

The Barfly is close to packed as the south London quartet hit the stage, and although it’s hard to deny that at least half the people are curious observers rather than frothing diehards, the atmosphere in the room is sizzling with expectation. Frontman Jason Smith’s bellowed demands for everyone present to lose their shit could easily fall flat in a non-partisan environment, but The Sound Remains’ volley of surging riffs sets the tone immediately and the sheer muscular force of these savage grooves swiftly works its magic. By the time the foursome hit the neck-wrecking double whammy of Faceless Ghost and Devil’s Motion, you could be forgiven for thinking that Stoneghost are headlining at a much bigger venue and in front of a much bigger audience; strident, focused and hugely entertaining to watch in a way that most young bands patently aren’t, they already look more than ready for a rapid step up to greater things and bedlam is erupting around them. The fire in Jason’s eyes as Third Degree reaches its hypnotic, pounding denouement says it all about how hungry this band are to deliver the goods and, judging by the reaction, there is not a soul in this venue that won’t be signing up for a substantial dose.

By the end of a short but gleefully destructive set, there is condensation dripping from the ceiling and a sea of shit-eating grins and raised fists spreads from stage to bar. If they can repeat this at every show they play, Stoneghost will be major contenders in 12 months’ time. Sometimes great music and lots of passion are the only things that matter, and this band have vast amounts of both.