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EARTHTONE 9 + RABIES CASTE - Birmingham Irish Centre - 16 October 2002   Print  E-mail 
Written by Graham Reed  
Tuesday, 14 September 2004

Now that the Foundry has closed, Birmingham Irish Centre (twice the size) is now where bands play on the local circuit. In a frankly undersold venue, amazingly so, you could be wonder why the band bothered. Given the performance they give, you don't have to worry. Before Earthtone 9 are Earache signings Rabies Caste, who though vaunted on the underground scene, give an impassioned performance, though to little avail. They don't follow the thrash-it-til-it-bleeds approach that 99% of Earache bands follow (such as Morbid Angel or Cathedral), but instead are more alike to American lo-fi noisecore such as, say, Neurosis, Unsane, and Today Is The Day. But while the sound is slow, ponderous and grungy, David K's monotone andrepetitive vocals soon grate and the material suffers, coming across as one-dimensional and tedious.Which it is.

Earthtone 9 by comparison are, as one of their songs says, a revelation. Despite the audience being thin on the ground, the band's performance doesn't suffer in the slightest, with a set mostly culled from the most recent (and recommended) `arc'tan'gent' CD. The opening 'Evil Crawling I' is simply riffmongus, with new drummer Richie Mills fitting in well; it may sound a little under-rehearsedin places, but otherwise it sounds no different to earlier in the year when the band supported Pitchshifter. Gone tonight are the set decorations, with the band relying on the music alone to stand out. It's a good job then that Earthtone 9 are one of the best metal bands in the UK. Hell, if they had a strong enough visual image and just one MTV2 friendly song, they might end up with the same amount of plaudits and international interest that Lostprophets ended up with (though Lostprophets hardly deserve it), and it certainly seems that might well yet be the case.

'PRD Chaos' highlights perhaps the best example of what Earthtone 9 are about; It's heavy, it's fast and catchy, and then it's mellow, melodic and yet perfectly suited to each other, complementing both sides of the band and with perfect dynamics designed to get a pit moving. Newie 'Amnesia' (off the recent demo) highlights a totally different, almost Morrissey-esque direction for the band, yet still showing progress. 'Star Damage' is savage, brutal and yet again,totally catchy. 'Tat Twam Asi' is as close to a hit single as Earthtone 9 get so far, thanks to an irregularly seen video, going from tribal-esque drumming which is more Dead Can Dance than the token tribalism of Soulfly (thank god) and still again, you can hum it afterwards.

 The epic `Binary 101' finishes the show, an almost Zeppelin-esque effort that grooves along and still shows just how varied and intense this band can be. But being the last show of the tour, it's not long before the band end up being attacked by roadies throwing toilet paper all over the stage... all while singer Karl Middleton wears unfeasibly large trousers and dances like a loon, and the bass player gurns for England. They just get into a groove and keep on going... Earthtone 9, even when playing to 70 people, give a show that marks them out to be definitely one of the most promising, most challenging bands in the UK. Less nu-metal than you might think, perhaps the best comparison would be someone like if Tool had grown up in Nottingham with heavy yet melodic and varied material, going from light to shade and back again... truly one of the few bands out there to deserve the plaudits laid upon them.

While pretty boy metal bands like New Found Glory and Linkin Park sing pop songz with loud guitars, Earthtone 9 are the complete flipside: talented, challenging and pushing the envelope with intelligence, not taking the easy option. Why should they when they are this good? Like Pitchshifter before them five years ago, this band has "soon to be huge" written all over them, and not before time too...


Setlist: Evil Crawling I / Prd Chaos / Withered / Amnesia / Star Damage For Beginners / Revelation / Tat Twam Asi / Binary 101

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