IDLEWAR / SCARSUN / EXCURSIA - Fuel, Cardiff 24.11.18

CLAIRE HILL

PHOTO CREDITS: IAN LOVELL PHOTOGRAPHY

Fuel may not be the biggest venue but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in experience and enthusiasm. With an especially busy Cardiff city centre due to the rugby, the front bar at Fuel is rammed. IDLEWAR’s recently released third album, ‘Fractured’ has been receiving glowing reviews from critics and fans alike and seeing the guys this side of the pond is a rarity, so Down The Front Media couldn’t miss the opportunity to catch the final night of their UK tour. Support slots tonight are coming from two local bands before the US heavyweight headliners close out the evening later.

First up tonight are Caerphilly’s metal/heavy rock outfit EXCURSIA, who have been together since 2015 and whose 2017 debut EP ‘Rise’ has just been re-released with extra tracks. The band’s set comprises mainly of tracks from that EP, beginning with titular track ‘Rise’. Lewis McGuire on raspy vocals is engaging, Sam Hill on lead guitar fierce and A’Dan Shide, Callum Fraser and Harry Paulett (rhythm guitar/bass/drums respectively) all showing signs of potential as they work their way through ‘Burning Through’, ‘Precious’ and ‘Pleonexia’, from the EP, before finishing with ‘Hand of God’, by which time a sweaty mosh is in full effect in front of the stage.  

https://www.facebook.com/Excursiaband
https://twitter.com/ExcursiaBand

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Next up its alt-rock/metal five-piece SCARSUN, from Ebbw Vale and fronted by vocalist Letha Curtis. They open with ‘Seen it All’ and ‘Flickering Light’, giving ample chance for Matt Hall and Aaron Jukes on guitars to throw out some riffs to show us what they’re made of, while Jim McDonald on bass and Nathan Buckland on drums make up a tight rhythm section. Letha’s vocals waver from snarly and raucous, the words almost spat out, to soundscapey at times, the band aren’t afraid to mix it up a bit. Highlights are ‘High (Doubt)’ and ‘Make Me Ache’. SCARSUN clearly have some friends/fans in the audience tonight, who are as appreciative as the others, who are still in attendance.

https://www.facebook.com/scarsunband/
https://twitter.com/scarsunband

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Finally, it’s time for IDLEWAR to hit the stage, and they do so without pomp or ceremony. As the opening bars of ‘Turn to Six’ begin, I’m hit with a wall of resonating bass from James Blake and it rumbles around my chest, while Pete Pagonis thunders away on his drums in the back; so understated in his manner but absolutely solid. Rick Graham’s shredding solo is lively and intense, but what absolutely blows me away is the explosive power and perfect control in James’ vocals. On IDLEWAR’s recorded material, he sounds amazing, but to hear him live is breathtaking! The lively crowd are whooping it up, some are headbanging, and the frivolity of earlier hasn’t worn off yet, as James acknowledges. “The Welsh are an enthusiastic bunch; thank you for having us…It’s the last show of our UK tour and we love that we ended up here with you rowdy bunch!”

IDLEWAR’s set is beautifully paced, unhurried and made up of songs from all three albums and the EP, delighting the audience, some of whom have been aware of the band since the very beginning. As the set continues with ‘Rage’, ‘Glory’, ‘Hang’ and ‘Feel the Pain’, Rick barely keeps still, he’s like a man set upon by a hive of bees as he moves about the stage banging out killer riffs and crunchy, gritty solos with abandon. He’s certainly not the showman type, there are no unnecessary flourishes from any of this band; what you see is what you get and I like that. There are no flashy outfits or props, just the performance to focus on. It’s honest, humble, organic and no-nonsense.

James is confident, warm and has a smile on his face as he addresses the audience, much as you would a friend. He acknowledges a guy who is celebrating his 21st birthday (a mosher) and dares to ask about the rugby result. He also asks us to “Put your arms around your friend - someone next to you - give them a big hug, love each other” before playing ‘Keep Your Word’ (from the ‘Rite’ album).  James then goes on to say “We’re all used to fucked up leadership aren’t we? We’ve got some of that! This song is called ‘Demented’”. It’s such a grungy, dramatic song with instrumental interludes. Pete’s hypnotic drumming throughout this track is dramatic and intoxicating. The room is getting more full as the band’s set continues, always a good sign if the music is drawing people in!

After that it’s time for some shots, to which James toasts to “having used as much tea as petrol on the tour” That leads nicely into ‘Perfect Disaster’, from ‘Fractured’, which James says “Is for all you messes out there - I’ll never tell you what this is about”. It’s got military style drumming and punchy booming bass notes that echo through the venue. The great sliding guitar riff sounds robust and the crowd are loving this track. There’s a bit of a break as Rick replaces a broken guitar string, which gets given to a delighted audience member. Then there is just time for ‘Panic’, from ‘Rite’, before the last song of the night which is ‘Eleventeen’, from the 2015 debut EP ‘Dig In’. The last words belong to James, “This is the song that started it off for us over here. Keep following independent rock bands, go see ’em, buy a shirt! We wanna meet as many of you as possible afterwards!” And meet people they did! T-shirts were bought, selfies were taken, a lot of fun was had. IDLEWAR are immense live, their no-frills attitude is brilliant and the phenomenal sound pretty much grabs you by the head and plugs you into the mains.  

http://www.idlewar.com/
https://twitter.com/IDLEWAR
https://www.facebook.com/idlewartheband/

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