2 Dec 2022
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  • Blindspott - Gig Review: Blindspott & Written By Wolves @ The Factory, Hamilton - 8/10/2022

Blindspott - Gig Review: Blindspott & Written By Wolves @ The Factory, Hamilton - 8/10/2022

09 Oct 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

When the tour was originally announced there was no Auckland gig, so I quickly put my hand up for this one, and by the time an Auckland show was pencilled in I was already committed to see Reb Fountain on that date, but there was no way I was going to miss them this time around. It may be more than 100 kms to the gig, and it took me ages to find somewhere to park, but that all went out the window when I wandered to the back door and was greeted by Davie wanting to know if I would like a beer. Would I?

There then started an incredibly intense discussion between various people regarding Friends, and Ross in particular, but soon it was time for DJ Kane Hawkins to get the music started. I don’t know what I expected, but it was not a slice of 80’s pop and rock, kicking off with Dire Straits, before moving through Dexy’s Midnight Runners, The Knack and more. To my ears it was a great way to start what was promising to be an early night with WBW due onstage at 7:30, which is an ungodly early hour for any band, but at least it meant I might not be too late home. Kane was soon playing Iron Maiden’s Two Minutes To Midnight, and we all knew what that meant, it was time for the Wolfpack to enjoy themselves.

I have long ago lost words to describe Written By Wolves, as not only are they are an amazing band but all the guys have become friends, which means a great deal to me. Lauren, Bahador’s wife, even invited me around their house for a BBQ a few weeks back, and for someone working away from home and family that means so very much indeed.

The backing track started with the stage in total darkness, and the guys belting hell out of the drums, and as with the last time I saw them, I was immediately reminded of Kodo and suddenly the stage was being swamped, Bahador and Davie were hitting the riffs and Mikey was there encouraging the audience to go crazy as they ripped into Give Em’ Hell. Oli was soon on top of his kit singing along as the guys created the energy they are known for, shaking the place to its foundations. They bring together so many influences from dance, throw it into metal, and create something which is magical and all their own. Let It Burn may start with a gentle keyboard introduction, but it is soon a real banger, with Karl crunching the kit, Oli providing both keyboards and percussion, Davie and Bahador bringing the noise and Mikey in total control. He really is the consummate frontman, as not only is he one of the finest rock singers in the business who can do it live as well as in the studio, but he is always doing whatever he can to get the crowd that much more energised, as intense as possible.

Mikey got everyone kneeling the floor until he gave the signal during Tell Me What You’re Running From, and by now they were in the palm of his hand. I have no idea how he hits the falsetto during that, the note is really high! There were shouts of recognition when they kicked into Papercut, their single from last year which ties in with the mental awareness of The Collab Project. It was intense before this, but the guys were now taking it to another level. The song ended with Bahador and Mikey right on the edge of the stage – then they ripped into Oh No! and yet again I just lost my mind. When I saw them play this earlier in the year it hit me so hard that I was totally in the zone, nothing existed in the world apart from the song, and the same happened again – so much so that it took a while to realise someone was watching me with a huge smile on her face and giving me the devil horns. If that was not enough, a gentle intro started and then we were into the metallic mayhem which is Better Luck Next Time. I was officially going nuts by now – there is something about this band which resonates so deeply with me, a very strong connection indeed.

After all that intensity the only thing to do is bring it down before it ramps up again, and that is what happened with synths then leading into another drumfest with B and Davie joining Karl and Oli on the attack. Then the riffs started, and we were into the second half of their set with Not Afraid To Die, and Mikey encouraged everyone to get to the front of the stage and had them all jumping up and down. This is one of their slower songs, although it does ramp up in the chorus, but it felt well placed in the set, as I knew what was to come.

Next up was Follow Me, one of their heaviest numbers while also containing sections when there are no guitars, building the contrast as the guys take the audience to a new level. There is even room for rap in this! Then it was time for Secrets, and if you have not seen the video they did for this as part of The Collab Project and mental health awareness, you must check it out. Lyrically this song is immense, and they put everything into it. The stage went dark, Mikey riled up the crowd some more, and then it was into To Tell You The Truth, another slower burner packed full of atmosphere which becomes a monster. Some years back the guys covered Sia’s Elastic Heart, taking it into new directions, and mixing a ballad with a belter, and soon there were plenty of arms waving in the audience. 

The crowd responded when Mikey asked if they wanted one more, so the intro kicked off and everyone was waiting to hear what it would turn into, but unless you had already seen them on this tour you would not have expected Master of Puppets and there was a mighty roar when the crowd heard the riff. It may be a monster, but tonight it was a singalong monster, Oli was on top of his keyboards headbanging, Karl was still belting hell out of the kit, Davie and B were relishing being metal gods and then at the front was Mikey, revving the audience up some more. An intense end to a crazy set. WBW came to the Tron and made a load of new friends.

Kane came back for another set, and this time it was far more metallic, starting with System of a Down before moving into the likes of Pantera, although it must be said that the song which had the most participation was Axis of Awesome’s Tribute, I mean, everyone knows the words don’t they? When I first came to NZ years ago, there is no doubt that Blindspott were viewed as one of the most important Kiwi bands around, but this was going to be the first time I had seen them play, and I was really looking forward to it. Kane was doing everything he could to keep the mood energised, and there is no doubt the crowd were really up for what was to follow.

The lights went off, and soon there were chants of “Blindspott, Blindspott”, a backing track started, and the atmosphere started to change as everyone was anticipating what was to come. Those at the front cheered when they saw people come onto the stage, and those further back also started even though they could not see anything, and then the lights came up and we were into RIP (Rest in Pieces), with vocalist Damian Alexander wearing a horrific-looking balaclava and hoody and standing tall, very much the focal point. Dramatic and heavy, this is full of restraint, something they lost for Drown, just one of their hits from back in the day. Way more upbeat and dramatic, the balaclava was gone as the energy levels stepped up, with the crowd responding to every note. Their sound has gone through some changes over the years, and they no longer have a DJ in the band, but there are still plenty of nu-metal influences, with the bass and guitars often tied around the drums.

Everyone here tonight seemed to know the words to all their songs, and it took very little encouragement for everyone to singalong to Yours Truly, all the while being incredibly animated. Looking around I could not see a single person who was not moving, being taken on a journey by what was happening on the stage. They had a digital backdrop which they kept changing, adding another visual element to the musical one. Suffocate is one of their heavier numbers and the crowd reacted as soon as they recognised the introduction, and I could see there were going to be a lot of sore necks in the morning. The reaction to the material was so strong it was almost as if the guys were playing in front of a home crowd, with the introduction to every song getting a cheer of recognition followed by everyone singing along, with Blank being no exception whatsoever. The guitars spend most of their time in the lower registers, which means there is quite a gap between the music and vocals, really making them stand out, and while the bass can often be heard providing a powerful melody, the guitars provide the crunch. Many of the people here grew up on the band’s first two albums (strange to think that next year will be the 20th anniversary of the debut), and they were living every note.

The band really could do no wrong tonight, they were being treated like conquering heroes no matter what they played, with Martyr slowing it down and people still singing the words back to them. It was interesting to compare the two bands, as they both create amazing intensity, but in very different ways, with Blindspott being far heavier throughout with less contrast, creating an incredible groove within their sound. Room To Breathe saw the crowd respond to Damian as he pogoed around the stage before settling down and yet again getting everyone to sing with him. Of course, this turns into an absolute belter, and as the band lifted the energy levels and intensity the crowd were with them all the way. Lit Up followed and everyone was transported back in time, reacting very powerfully indeed. I have been to countless gigs over the last 40 years, but it is incredibly rare for a metal gig of this size to have everyone so invested in what is happening on the stage, and tonight it felt like one entity with the crowd and band pushing the other even further.

Before getting into Tonight, Damian explained that this song was written when he was in a very dark place and without music he might not even be here today. Needless to say, the song was treated emotionally by everyone, really reacting as we felt the pain it was born in. They were well into the second half of the set by now, and were slowing it down with Plastic Shadows, one of their more emotional numbers. The groove in this was immense, kicking hard, with the crowd reacting in kind and when it ended it was like a release. S.U.I.T is one song where one can see why they work so well with WBW, as even though it is heavier, there are fast-paced vocals which are like a stream of consciousness rant. The band were ramping up the intensity, with the scratching now being part of a backing track as opposed to having a DJ playing with them like they used to. But the band has moved on, moving into a more brooding metallic entity with links into many different sub genres.

The next song was written when they lost a friend, and the guy next to me shouted “Phlex!”, and then we were off into the song which has an almost reggae beat. The lights were on the audience, everyone seemed to have a phone in their hands as they videoed what was going on, with everyone singing the words with all their might. This was a real contrast to everything which had gone before and had the strongest crowd reaction to date. I have never heard people singing like this at a metal gig, and I am sure the guys on the stage were just blown away by what was happening as this sort of reaction does not happen every time. The crowd were responding to everything in sight, but what they didn’t know was that the next song was the last one of the set, Ilah (Silent War), as somehow, we had already blasted through 70 minutes. The band sounded like they had only just started with everyone locked in tight, and the vocals still powerful and strong. The intensity kept building, then when it ended, they just walked off the stage.

Even though that was the end of the set, everyone knew there were songs which had not yet been played which are integral to a Blindspott performance, so we went through the age-old falsehood of shouting for an encore while the band waited until they deemed enough time had lapsed before they came back. When they crunched into one of their heaviest numbers, Mind Dependency, the place just went berserk. The strobes were lighting up the crowd, and the intensity levels went through the roof. Of course, everyone knows all the words, and again they were matching the band, bouncing off each other. When the staccato end came, everyone cheered, knowing what was to come next as there could only be one song to close the night, Nil By Mouth. But before we came to that, a fan was pulled out of the audience as he was wearing a Blindspott shirt from nearly 20 years ago. Damian asked how old he was, and when he replied 18, he was just blown away. He asked where the shirt had come from, and the lad said his dad had given it to him so dad was also invited up onto the stage, and everyone could see just how much it meant.

Damian told us that the next song really was the last one due to curfew, but he said they would make it worthwhile and once the riffs crunched out, everyone was singing and dancing as if it was the first song of the night. Tonight, was a very special event with two bands on the very top of their form, and Blindspott being treated like hometown heroes which meant they just kept pushing even harder. This was not just about two bands giving their all, but an audience who wanted to be part of it and not just spectators. There are still some gigs to come on this tour, and if you love Kiwi metal then you need to ensure you do not miss out.


Photo Credit: Amanda Hodge / It's The Little Things
Palmerston North show 17 September 2022
Blindspott Gallery
Written by Wolves Gallery

 

About Blindspott

May 29th will see the release of the second full-length album 'End The Silence' from West Auckland’s finest metal advocates, Blindspott.

This record marks numerous departures for the band that has evolved considerably since they burst onto the local music scene in 2002 with their self-titled debut.

Blindspott’s grassroots fan-base was such that that their first album debuted at number one in the New Zealand charts. It was an album that spawned multiple hits including the singles 'Phlex', 'Nil by Mouth', 'Room to Breathe' and 'S.U.I.T'. It was a shot in the arm for the country’s metal scene, and provided the impetus and confidence that has subsequently lead to the genre now thriving. The impact the band had on the otherwise arid scene spotlighted them for bigger things. They went onto major league success throughout South-east Asia, playing to crowds as big as 70,000 in Indonesia.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Blindspott

Releases

Volume II
Year: 2022
Type: EP
Volume I
Year: 2022
Type: EP
End the Silence
Year: 2006
Type: Album
Story So Far
Year: 2004
Type: DVD
Blindspott (Limited Edition)
Year: 2003
Type: Album
Blindspott
Year: 2002
Type: Album

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