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THE ALMIGHTY / STAMPIN' GROUND London Astoria - 13 December 2000   Print  E-mail 
Written by Graham Reed  
Tuesday, 14 September 2004

All good things come to those who hate....

As part of a weeks' long Kerrang sponsored K-FEST shows as the London Astoria, this show sees The Almighty returning to the same venue they made their triumphant UK return some 5 months ago. However, unlike the packed to capacity show then, tonight was sparsely attended (with the balcony shut off) and showed a rough and ready edge in comparison to the tightly rehearsed shows of earlier in the year. Playing support were Stampin Ground, held by some to be rising UK hardcore hopefuls and key lights of the UK scene. However, Stampin Ground leave a bad taste in the mouth tonight.

Despite hailing from the south of England, Stampin Ground resolutely sound like a totally derivative identikit American hardcore band , sorry 'crew'.Funnily enough, I never realised that Brooklyn was all along actually in Basildon, and CBGBs' was somewhere in Essex. How wrong I was, eh? Having just returned from a European tour with Agnostic Front, whereby the singer admits He's messed his voice up and apologises for doing so - but really I don't know why,because I can't make out a bloody word he's singing , apart from to apologise to the hardcore kids about the high door price, completely oblivious to the fact he's playing support and only abut 5 people are there to see them.

Stampin Ground play a set of competent, well rehearsed tight US based hardcore, including the crushingly heavy "By Whatever means necessary" and the heaviousity of "Pain is Weakness", but their best received moment is their insertion of the Mission Impossible theme towards the end of the set, a token crowd pleasing gesture that is as ill-judged as crass as to spoil everything they claim to be. Kudo's have to be given to the band for rising from the UK to be seen as one of the highlights of the hardcore scene, but when one of the earlier songs wholeheartedly rips off Slayer's "Angel of Death" , Whether it's by homage or incompetence is a different matter to decide.

Its little surprise, for a set of well rehearsed tight competent but ultimately tuneless ad unmemorable generic hardcore is way beyond many people's melodic belief. The moshpit comprises of about 5 people in backwards baseball caps throwing gang signs and bashing the shite out of each other, to which in response the singer tries to encourage everyone to join and beat the shit out of each other, he called it "play fighting". I call it unreconstructed dumb macho testosterone bullshit, the sort of shit that hardcore really should wipe out if its to appeal to anyone other than 15 year old meatheads. The ferocious aggressive macho posturing does nothing to make the scene appeal to anyone with a mental age above 12 or female fans, another fact that explains why its 90% male dominated and why the singer berates the fact that there's no women moshing...and can you blame them?

The genre is so macho and aggressive as to positively piss in the face of its own liberal morals, and I found the hard way that Fight Club is in fact a reality in the Astoria moshpit, with men doing the silliest fucking "hardcore" dances ever by looking like windup spastic toys . No wonder it's a tight knit scene looked on with derision at times. Stampin Ground, ultimately, are well rehearsed tight, competent and ..unfortunately, ultimately forgettable. The total inability to remember anything they played 5 minutes after they've come off stage is a bad sign, and they'd be well advised to learn that the ability to jump up and down in time does not a good band make. The singer admits their an acquired taste, and it's a taste not many people have acquired tonight. Write some tunes, stop listening to Biohazard and Agnostic Front, and grow up would be the best advice for Stampin Ground if they're ever gonna break out of their own self imposed little hardcore prison and appeal to more than about 5 people. They once did a song called "everybody deserves a death"....and tonight they got what they deserved, by dying on their asses.

By comparison, next up are the Almighty, playing a one off UK show as part of the K-Fest, and probably one of the UKs' brightest rock bands. Despite putting out an album earlier in the year that would easily rank amongst their best and prove that the Almighty are nowhere near past it, and with little or no profile thanks to their record company concentrating on the big bucks of the Iron Maiden reformation - and next year doesn't look much better to be honest now that Sanctuary are going to be plugging the archaic Megadeth to hell and back. However, tonight's show is unfortunately uneven, and it shows that the band haven't rehearsed, with a set that's sloppy to begin with, and gradually tightens up. Its nowhere near as tight as the show's earlier in the year and brings many surprises to a longterm fan set list wise. From the opening "Way Beyond Belief" to the ferocious early highlight of "Crank and Deceit", the setlist in unpredictable and far from the all out set the band could deliver.

 However, the show is tainted by a shadow hanging over the band - tonight is the last show bassist Floyd London is playing with the band. The air of the show is muted and rather akin to a wake, with an air of slight defeat rather than celebratory triumph hanging over the band, for this year has been less than a triumph. The band seem to be winning no converts thanks to poor promotion of the album , and playing to the hardcore converted in faded 10 year old "Soul Destruction" shirts. Unfortunately, as the audience grows older, the band will play on their past glories and to the truth is the bands future will simply fade away unless drastic action is taken, a real wasted opportunity when on the basis of tonights set Ricky Warwick is one of the finest songwriters around, with the songs equal parts aggression and melody. Nick Parsons, new guitarist, is enthusiastic and talented, writing many of the stand out moments from tonight s set, such as "Broken Machine", and newer songs such as "Revenge" perfectly fuse the Ramones and Motorhead in such a way it would be criminal to ignore, complete with Rickys bad puns and so much more.

The accessible "Big Black Automatic" whilst commercial and memorable, is simplistic to the point of stupidity, with much of the "Crank" era material coming off best, though the band almost fell apart in the middle of "Jonestown Mind". "La Chispe De La Muerte" is exceptional, "Wrench" has em bouncing up and down like good  uns', "Wild and Wonderful" (dedicated to Floyd) is the classic it always was. The encore sees the bringing out of a horn section for "all sussed out" and an unexpected and bizarre cover of David Bowies "Moonage daydream". Oddly enough, the band didn't play their biggest hit "Free n' Easy", before Ricky promises us they're going in the studio next month to make their new album and tour for the entire of next year.

Ultimately, tonight's rough and ready, loose and under-rehearsed show gave the band a poor send off to Floyd London. The band are capable of so so much better, and it seems that bands' heart really wasn't in it. The strength of the bands - the songs - is as strong and potent,melodic heavy and memorable as ever. The sound was ropey and the
atmosphere oddly muted. It was more like a wake than a gig, but all in all, the band have some serious groundwork ahead of them in order to approach their past commercial status. The question is, are they again going to fall victim to record company politics, or not? The next few months will tell.



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