18 Jan 2022
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  • Shepherds Reign - Gig Review: Shepherds Reign w/ Coridian and Just One Fix @ Whammy Bar, Auckland - 22/07/2021

Shepherds Reign - Gig Review: Shepherds Reign w/ Coridian and Just One Fix @ Whammy Bar, Auckland - 22/07/2021

25 Jul 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

As soon as I heard this gig was taking place, I knew I was going to be there, as with three of NZ’s best bands in attendance it was going to be a “must see” event for any serious metalhead living in Auckland, but on a Thursday night guys? Really? It was with some trepidation that I made my way into town, hoping for an early finish but not expecting one, so was somewhat surprised to hear that the bands were expecting to be finished by 11:00 pm. Of course, it didn’t eventuate, but at least the intentions were good. 

Just One Fix apparently had the rather minor issue of having no guitar coming through the speakers during the soundcheck, which meant we were later than expected to be let in, but finally we were able to get inside, much to everyone’s relief. There had been heavy advance sales, and we were all keen to ensure we did not miss a note. The room was soon rammed, and I found myself sat at the bar next to Mark Derricutt, who tonight had forgone his normal weapon of choice, and instead of being behind a camera was also going to be reviewing. I was already stoked to see Chris Morgan was here, so I did not have to worry about trying to take any photos on my phone, as he always does a great job and I know Whammy Bar is often shunned by photographers. 

I just had time for a few minor chats and then Just One Fix took the stage. I have only caught the guys a few times, but they have already made an absolutely massive impression on me. At the back is Ross Curtain, and although he is a fairly recent recruit in terms of the age of the band he drives the music hard from the base, providing the foundation for the others. Sharne Scarborough is a mean guitarist, driving jagged riffs and solos into your brain, full of aggression and power yet also with finesse and poise, yet while over the other side of the stage is Ant Ward. I think he is planning on living out on my last review of him for the rest of his days, so tonight I decided to spend even more time studying his technique and styles to see if it were justified. In the end I decided he has an invisible easy chair on stage, as there were times when he just sat back in it and relaxed, with knees bent, seemingly without a care in the world while providing thumping basslines, and at others standing solid and powering in hard. If that were not enough, what can be said about Riccardo that has not already been said? Riccardo is not a small man, but his voice is even bigger, and sounds like he has been gargling whisky and gravel yet if anyone thinks that means there is no emotion or presence is sadly mistaken, as tonight he was a powering presence. 

They kicked off with Gods n Devils, one of two new songs in the set tonight (the other was Thorns), and from the first notes they were off on a metallic thrashing ride and taking us with it. The last time I saw them I said they reminded me somewhat of Testament, and that is still very much the case, with the music wrapped around the vocals and being driven through us by sheer force of will. Although complex, the music is also very direct, yet there are also plenty of nuances to show the quality, and the double tapped solo of Sharne was a delight. In Behind the Shadows the bridge took us in a totally different direction with very gentle drums before bringing us back into the melee. Time constraints meant they had to drop a song, but they finished with Proxy God (which is the correct title, whatever the bassist thinks it is called), and prior to Ant’s solo Riccardo commented that he had to prove what I had called him in the last review. The closing number was the highlight of a way too short set, and I look forward to seeing them do a proper headline somewhere soon.

Then it was over to Cordian who were very quick to get on stage. They were something of a filling in the sandwich tonight, as both Just One Fix and Shepherd’s Reign are quite a bit heavier, so they had adjusted their set accordingly, which meant that they had dropped Wicked Game as they felt it was too light for the audience. I fully understand why they did that, but given it is such a killer cover I would have gone for it. It was only after they had started playing that I realised something, in that I have never seen Coridian play anywhere apart from Dead Witch. It just so happens that whenever they have been gigging elsewhere, I have been unable to make it, so to see them on a bigger stage with a different sound system was going to be interesting. 

What I noticed quite quickly is that their sound really fills the space at hand with very little effort, so they are soon in total control. The Raven brothers always lock in, in a way which only happens from playing together as a unit for their whole lives, and then at the front is Dity who has one of the most effortless and controlled pure vocals you will ever come across in a rock band. Tonight, they started with Algorithm, which had a slow start, but quickly builds and is designed to get everyone’s attention right from the beginning. Unlike Just One Fix, Cordian are not nearly as firmly in the metal camp, and do not have nearly as much aggression and over the top sheer brutal power, but instead are smooth builders who set up a groove and invite us in. Dity can go really high when he needs to, providing a cut through to the music beneath him, which is being driven as always by the complex locked patterns of Kris and Nick, while Mike is slamming hard into the riffs. Mantra was one of the highlights tonight, which saw the boys move into an almost U2 territory. It never stopped changing and morphing with loads of different sections as the band took the crowd with them on a real ride. They also cut a song, but drove it home with Seed, and as always, they really delivered. I can’t get enough of Coridian, and am so looking forward to the debut album, which is currently being recorded. 

I have been reviewing live bands for more than 30 years, and often ask for a setlist to be able to help me prepare, but hats off to Shepherds Reign for not only giving me the list but details about each song (I showed it to Ant before the gig, and he said, “Why don’t we do that?”). Mind you, I was talking to drummer Shaymen Rameka and he was also very impressed! Even before playing the guys all make a huge impression on stage, all wearing traditional Samoan necklaces while a special mention ought to be made of the amount of hair, with singer Filivaa James needing special mention.  They kicked off with a new song, Ala Mai (Awaken), which is about awakening their Polynesian ancestors to guide them in creating peace around the world, yet while the lyrics may be about peace, the music is far more frenetic. This is hard-hitting stuff, far removed from both previous bands, with complex layering of guitars and bass over an incredibly powerful percussion, driven not only from the back but from the front with Filivaa hitting the pake as if his life depended on it. It must be said that it was noticeable during this song that two things had happened to the sound, namely that it had increased in volume and had lost the top end so that everything was now sounding very bass led indeed. This meant that we were losing some of the overall effects and instead of being full of dynamics did feel as if it were more on one level.  

Their most recent single, Aiga (Family), commenced with wonderful beck and call, before it settled down into a real syncopated groove. I was saying in a review just a few weeks ago that I could not remember the last time I saw a keytar on stage and tonight here was another one, adding additional nuances. The vocals in this number had real menace, and the mosh pit was in full flow. The music really gets people moving and making them want to punch the air and vent their aggression. Rapper Swizl Jager made his way on stage to join the guys for Nga Ao E Rua (Two Worlds Collide), a new metal v rap song performed in Samoan and Te Reo, and while the concept sounds wonderful, I am one of those who are not a fan of rap or hip hop, and this left me rather cold. Mind you, they then collaborated on a cover of Savage’s Swing, which made me feel I was in the arctic. Thankfully though, they were soon back on course with plenty of new numbers alongside songs from the debut, showing they have a host of great new music coming out soon which will be lapped up by all. 

Three amazing bands, all of whom are worthy of much bigger stages. Everyone there tonight had a blast, and Bahador (Written By Wolves) certainly seemed to be enjoying himself. Let’s hope it is not too long before we have the opportunity to catch them all again.


Photo Credit: Morgan Creative

Coridian
Just One Fix
Shepherd's Reign

 

About Shepherds Reign

Hailing from the deep Polynesian stronghold of South Auckland, Shepherds Reign have stamped their powerful mark on the New Zealand and international music scene in a very short amount of time, creating a huge buzz from their live shows. Combining the traditional and ancient music of their forefathers with modern rock and metal influences including bands like Gojira, Avenged Sevenfold and Dream Theater, Shepherds Reign have found their own unique sound in a cluttered and overblown musical environment.

Unlike any heavy artist, Shepherds Reign bring a captivating and enthralling sound with the use of the Samoan language, instruments and culture, making it an integral part of their live show. The evocative and primal live show displays a fierce pride for their music that wins the audience every time with its blood pumping ritualistic beats, thick melodic textures and an undeniable power that hooks the audience into the bands dark and heavy realm completely.

A fifteen date tour of New Zealand as special guests of Devilskin's RED NZ tour 2020 cemented a place for Shepherds Reign as a force to be reckoned with and won them a huge swathe of new fans. Paul Martin, bassist for Devilskin and producer of The Axe Attack commented “I totally knew our audience would love these guys! I can’t remember being this excited over a band for a long time. They completely blow me away with everything they do, attitude, commitment, passion and an unashamedly distinctive sound. But the real magic is in the songs. Powerful, compelling and totally undeniable.”

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Shepherds Reign

Releases

Shepherds Reign
Year: 2018
Type: Album

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