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EP Review : Minor Offences – Darkest Hour

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Review by Gary Spiller for MPM

There’s something special in the Westcountry waters these days; there’s plenty of rock n’ roll emanating from these parts. From the mercurial metallers King Creature right through to the rapidly rising grungy prog-metal talent of Ethyrfield via the downright dirty blues-edged rock of 50 Year Storm it’s safe to conclude that Devon and Cornwall are mining a rich musical vein.

Alongside the waters, on the Saltash side, of the Tamar, which divides the aforementioned counties, sits a wholly unremarkable looking building that houses a most remarkable project, Livewire Youth Music. Run under the careful guiding auspices of affable Youth Work Coordinator Andy Rance Livewire is an independent youth charity that offers “support to young people through music and traditional youth work, helping steer them through the trials and tribulations of growing up.

Having witnessed, personally, the positive and life-changing effects that this incredible project has upon its attendees I was completely delighted when the debut EP from Minor Offences dropped on my ‘doormat’.

This group of Saltash and Plymouth youngsters formed back in the summer of 2017 originally playing covers eventually progressing to writing their own material. Tragically, a year later, in September 2018, lead guitarist Ed Bartlam took his own life.

Naturally devastated the band rallied and vowed to continue in his honour. This EP is a tribute to Ed and traces the journey the band have been upon since. It’s raw, emotional and packed full of energy and at the end we are all able to “Raise one for Ed”.

Opening tracks ‘Compass’ and ‘Betrayal’, along with ‘Steak Song’ complete with it’s mischievous wink in its eye, were penned by the original line up and see the band dipping their collective toe in the creative waters of metal with a good degree of success.

However it’s within the three later songs – the highly emotional ‘Early Departure’, ‘Don’t You Run’ and the remastered ‘In The Darkness’ –

that band really begins to soar. Especially so vocalist Macie-Jade Marie Hudson whose early promise and potential really shines through with a clearly evident growing confidence.

‘Compass’ is a dark edgy fast-moving thundering beast that doesn’t draw breath in its four minutes; it’s hooks are in before you realise it. Inhale, exhale and right into ‘Betrayal’ which follows in similar style; Minor Offences are a relentless force for sure.

‘Early Departure’ is a emotional, heartfelt tribute to Ed, penned in the wake of his loss; the very first song the band recorded. The entire band pour their hearts into this re-recorded performance with Macie-Jade’s vocals resonating the raw emotions perfectly.

Up next is the cheeky ‘Steak Song’ (only available on the CD version of the EP); a minute-long playful romp through a personal love, naturally as the title states, of steak. Penned by Ed this interlude lightens the mood a little paving the way for the closing two tracks.

In ‘Don’t You Run’ and ‘In The Darkness the band present the latest chapter in the, still, fledgling story. The growing confidence is evident with Macie-Jade realising the potential shown in the earlier material with an increased vocal range and power; tight as you like guitarists Cameron Snook and Josh Richardson are a powerhouse six-string duo who build upon an unshakable rhythm foundation provided most ably by bassist Tom Quadling and skinsman Charlie Rean. The future is indeed bright.

The EP was recorded at the Livewire Youth Music Project utilising equipment kindly donated by Pete Townsend, one of many well-known benefectors the charity are grateful to, and produced and engineered by guitarist Cameron Snook and Will Rogers – long-time Livewire studio and venue engineer.

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