Nottingham’s Rock City is an historic venue with a rich and storied history in the local music scene and has played host to plenty of big acts as well as up-and-coming acts over the years. Tonight it’s the turn of London throwback heavy metallers Savage Messiah, playing Rock City’s Basement room but having to contend with not only one band in the Main Hall but also another band right next door at the Rescue Rooms.
What this means is that all bands concerned are ramping up the volume to frankly ludicrous levels and it shows - several people in the crowd are sporting earplugs to start with and it makes me wish I’d got some too given the obnoxious volume.
Opener The Raven Age (5) showcase the kind of polished modern metalcore that wouldn’t be out of place on the Warped Tour or similar, with higher, clean vocals and breakdowns aplenty with the kind of soaring choruses specifically engineered to incite massive singalongs. They deliver their set with plenty of energy but the mix is overloud, especially with the drums and cymbals drowning out others. The guitars are murky too with an emphasis the lower end and rhythms and riffs often get lost in the mire. This robs the songs of their emotional impact and leaves the delivery rather flat and it’s clear from the fairly static crowd that this is, sadly, not the most memorable set of the night. This isn’t the band’s fault at all; they’re enthusiastic and the live outing of brand new track ‘Surrogate’ showcasing a thrashier side of the band that doesn’t go unappreciated. As the set goes on they do well to amp the crowd up and people are clearly getting more and more interested in their noise. An A for effort from the band but the derivative songs and poor sound does little to endear the band to punters.
This clearly isn’t the case for the stars of the evening, Savage Messiah (7) who storm on to a rousing rendition of ‘Blood Red Road’ from latest offering Hands of Fate. The band are all business - albeit, heavy-as-hell, thrashy business that leaves shit-eating grins plastered across the now packed out venue. The band are clearly loving every second of it too, with the seemingly obligatory long hair flying and grinning from ear to ear themselves. It’s a refreshing throwback sound to classic heavy metal; no BS or pretentiousness, just a rollicking good time. Despite their stadium-sized sound, the intimate setting of the Basement goes down a storm too and there’s a real feeling of a close-knit community coming together. The band have a knack for crafting humongous choruses that are just plain fun and, bar the sea of black tshirts, there’s a fair variety of folks here that showcases the timeless appeal of solid heavy metal.
Despite the sound woes plaguing the venue, the band power through to deliver an all killer no filler setlist culled from across their impressive back catalogue and a couple of the newer hits from Hands of Fate. Even with the instrumental interlude the band still bring the noise and this leads into an epic rendition of ‘Hands of Fate’, a mid-set highlight. The band close out their set with the now-obligatory and not-at-all secret encore that culminates in a cheesy, pompous and glorious outing for ‘Wing and a Prayer’ from their latest LP.
Unfortunately, despite how good the band are and the masterful performance, the poor sound quality of the venue - possibly due to the band having to compete with two other bands literally next door to them - seriously marrs the evening.