Home Gigs Gig Review : Scarlet Rebels, Kinstrife, Electric Black – Leo’s, Gravesend

Gig Review : Scarlet Rebels, Kinstrife, Electric Black – Leo’s, Gravesend

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Review by Gary Spiller for MPM

This one’s for Tom. Sat here the day following this gig in the hours after the shock announcement of the sudden, and far, far too soon, taking of Wolf Jaw’s vocalist and guitarist Tom Leighton there’s a tangible realisation of how precious time truly is.

The processing of this awful news is difficult; we’ve lost a treasured member of the rock family. Tom was loved by all, a genuinely decent guy who had time for everyone. However he was much more than Tom the talented musician. He was family; a son, a brother, a husband and best friend to his wife Heather and father to their children Milo and Bodhi. He was a musical brother-in-arms to his band mates Dale and Karl. He was Tom. RIP good sir a star shines brightly in the skies above.

“I’m going down by the jetty

Tonight the tide is high

It’s tankers in the channel laying

Flames up in the sky

I’m going down by the jetty

(Be)fore I leave this world behind

‘Cause that oil slick on the water

Is band to ease my worried mind”

Gravesend is our chosen port of call and, although we’re upstream and on the opposite bank of the river that laps at the shores of Dr. Feelgood’s beloved Canvey Island, these lyrics somehow seem quite appropriate. Though there are no refineries here on this stretch of the southern shoreline of the Thames, there is certainly a tangible feeling of history combined with the good-honest graft of the working class that Feelgood’s gritty words convey. Sadly, the docks and industries, that once graced this area, have succumbed to, firstly the advancing wastelands and latterly a wave gentrification, of sorts with new housing and light industry sprouting up.

All that stands in this area nowadays, edifice-like, as a direct link to the working history is The Red Lion; a half-red brick, half white-washed traditional pub that, via Leo’s it’s attached venue, has over the course of over 40 years, deservedly, earned a great reputation as a live music venue under the landlordship of Terry Lee.

Whether Warren Zevon’s hairy-handed gent might have run amok in this particular corner of Kent is a point of conjecture however potential nocturnal lycanthropic activities certainly haven’t put the punters off. Far from it in fact the crowd flock from near and far. Over the last couple of years, in the most challenging of times, a quintet of rock fans have taken on the role of promoters under the Rock Cooperative moniker. They have established themselves, via hard work and graft, at the forefront of the underground rock scene and deservedly earned a reputation of putting on a great show.

This evening’s on-stage triumvirate offering is no exception with Electric Black and Kinstrife opening up for Scarlet Rebels. A musical equivalent of the perfect footballing hat-trick with each outfit offering a different perspective upon rock.

First on are Hertfordshire hard rocking four-piece Electric Black who are gathering a following with their polished yet gritty take on the rock n’ roll form. The Leo’s crowd are onside from the off and the rolling, swaggering tones of set opener ‘Silverblacktide’ sets a high bar. It’s a work in process and currently unreleased; one of four such songs in tonight’ set. A sign of much promise and potential. The wide ranging vocals of the instantly likeable frontman and rhythm guitarist Alistair Shiach are enveloped by the lead notes of fellow six-stringer Jonny Bryant. Long time musical partners this pair were joined by a powerhouse duo Ryan Trotman (bass) and Matt Butler (drums) in 2018 and Electric Black were born.

In front of a good-sized early doors crowd they roll right into ‘Gravity’ a dirty, gravelly blues-edged driving rocker with a delicious solo. At song end after receiving a very warm reception Ali looks out at the gathered throng, keen to get them onside, noting “Before we came down we were told people like their music down here. I think that they’re right!” before launching into the anthemic ‘Eagle’. This atmospheric five minutes has the mark of becoming a signature track for these Hitchin lads. Fantastic vocal and guitar harmonies atop an indestructible beat it’s reminiscent, in parts, of early Whitesnake.

Not resting on their collective laurels EB air a second new song ‘Put It Down On Me’. There’s the aggrandizing strut of Led Zep and Aerosmith within mixed in with some Black Crowes for good measure. A gritty guitar solo straight outta the delta swamplands from Jonny’s Gibson Les Paul catches the ear; the forthcoming release is going to be a must have.

Another new song, announced to be on the EP that is going to be released in November, follow. It’s a cover but how a cover version should be done; taking it, dusting it down, re-energising it and then totally owning it. Take a bow gents for this is what you’ve with this dramatic rendition of Hozier’s breakthrough hit single ‘Take Me To Church’. Taking a mid-tempo soulful track they’ve turned up the dial to the literal eleven with gritty, far-reaching vocals alongside dirty riffs and utterly filthy rhythms. It’s well-received by the ever-growing crowd no doubt with a good percentage having the hairs on the back of their neck raised too. The ever smiling Ryan joins Jonny to sit on the drum riser to give Ali front and centre for a spine-tingling ending. Amen indeed.

Rolling into ‘Homecoming’ Electric Black lift yet another anthem from their splendid debut release ‘The Calm Before’. A gentle southern edge delta bluesy intro builds up but never overflows uncontrollably. There’s clear, evident inter-band chemistry as the quartet ascend up the gears; rising vocals and an ever-powering overall delivery demonstrate an uncommon cohesion.

Sticksman Matt thunders into ‘Calendar Queen’ the fourth of the new tracks. A real head-banger with riffs and licks aplenty the band are on fire. Kilt wearing bassist Ryan ‘flashes’ a ‘bit of leg’ before powering into ‘Not Afraid To Die’. There’s a heavied up Hollowstar approach within.

The set is brought to a close with an audience selection. “Do you want wholesome or filth?” enquires Ali adding “You dirty buggers!” to the request for ‘filth’ which is precisely what is delivered in the shape of the dirty heavy blues of ‘Thrill Of The Chase’ which has a Revival Black style undercurrent; this is an outfit with much promise.

From Hertfordshire to Herefordshire a shift of just one letter in geographical terms but a complete shift in the manner of delivery from the borderland tribe, formed back in 2013, known collectively as Kinstrife. A name taken from Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings; the Kin-strife being a series of civil wars for the throne of Gondor. Mercifully there’s no feuding here this evening in Gravesend; purely a gathering of the clans to enjoy some truly hard-punching rock.

Back in March Kinstrife released their debut long-player ‘Fools & Monsters’. The quartet of Alan Kaye (lead guitar), Mike Hoskins (vocals/rhythm guitar), Dave Richards (bass) and Simon Richards (drums) have delivered a release that is deservedly held in high regard and one that is amongst my personal favourites of 2021; it’s been quite a journey for this amiable quadrumvirate to reach this point. Pre-show there’s a promise of some new material nestling alongside the well-honed tracks from the ridiculously good aforementioned album.

Taking to the Leo’s stage Kinstrife are in no mood for messing about. Powering right into the hard-driving album opener ‘Intervention’; this is biker blood hard rock delivered in a no-nonsense manner with the v-twin Gibson Les Paul assault from Alan and Mike revving like a supercharged demon whilst the rhythm pairing of Dave and Simons – the rascally Richards – forcefully coursing throughout. The gravelly vocals served up by the broadly-smiling Mike perfectly complement this shining chrome beast as it tears up the metaphorical highway not sparing the horses as the horizon is sought.

A fine Iron Maiden-ish intro heralds in ‘Any Given Day’; taking to the runway it’s soon in flight with all four engines roaring at full pelt. The coarse arenaceous vocals of expressive frontman Mike are well suited to the metalliferous output mined from a rich vein of hard rock ore. We’ll readily be “part of the remedy” as Mike punches the air during catchy chorus before Alan dishes up a treat of a solo.

“It’s a hot one tonight!” Mike observes before making a double enquiry “Is it always like this? Can we move this to Hereford?” The pastoral halcyon strains of the high-soaring ‘Unconditional’ have an inner strength that is skillfully harnessed. This is music to play from atop the highest peaks to sooth Taranis the storm god. Powerful, soaring vocals possess the strength of Thor yet contain a soulful sensitivity. A wondrous solo is wrangled effortlessly by Alan from his fretboard whilst it’s an absolute given that Dave and Simon output a powerhouse of a beat. This is a battlecry of a song, anthemic if you like, one to lead the amassed ranks out on to the battlefield.

The promise of new material is realised as Mike introduces ‘Sticks and Stones’ – “It’s gonna be on our next LP. It’s not named yet or indeed fully written” he quips. This is fantastic news; the heavy riffs of this Metallica-edged track hold much promise. A real headbanger of an intro as Kinstrife threaten to roar off up the nearby A2, tearing up through the gears of this infusion of contagion. There’s more than a touch of James Hetfield as Mike roars “From the cradle to the gallow.”

Kinstrife strike a gentler mood with Mike offering up the balladic ‘Fear’ to the enthusiastic masses. Adopting a heavied up almost Marillion-esque fashion the Hereford quartet set about unleashing this melodic demon. Drifting into classic rock realms Mike shows a different style to his vocals; there are touches of Gillan and Rodgers in there for sure and it’s lapped up. Joining forces together for an almost ethereal ending Mike and Alan appear completely in tune with one another.

As he ditches his guitar Mike gives a shout out to the other two bands commenting “Damn that’s good shit!” The crisp, dark sounds of ‘Getaway’ roll along like rumbling thunder. Chugging, chopping riffs give a classic NWOBHM feel to proceedings before set-ender ‘Make Me’ is given an authoritative yet heartfelt workout. Bassist Dave descends into the crowd to lay down the dark grooves of this classy anthem that should have a “Highly Infectious” warning slapped upon it! All too soon the seven-track set is at an end; there’s even more that these guys can offer! There’s another six tracks from the album in reserve including the fast jabbing ‘Cursed’ and the furiously galloping ‘Devils Call’. Clocking in at a full hour the round dozen tracks contained within are pure gems and a fine testament to the skills of the purveyors.

Headliners Scarlet Rebels, hailing from Llanelli, require little introduction nowadays such is their rise to prominence with the underground rock scene. It’s been a long, winding and oft bumpy road to reach this point. In fact, it’s been such a road today as the Rebels have taken 7 hours to reach Gravesend! “We came past Stonehenge!” quips frontman Wayne Doyle at the start of a triumphant set that tips the scales of time at 75 minutes. The depth of material that the Rebels possess ensures that even with this length of a set it’s a question of what tracks have to be left out.

It’s a well-balanced setlist with 8 tracks being drawn from 2019s ‘Show Your Colours’ that are countered, neatly, with 3 brand-new ones and a second hat-trick of tunes from the last V0id album ‘Keep Fighting’.

Tubthumping Gary Doyle brings in set opener ‘Not The One’ with a crashing beat in now time-honoured style. This Quo-tastic defined number is a firm favourite with the crowd and takes a deserved place at the very front of the set. Heads nod as one and ebullient six-stringer Chris ‘Hollywood’ Jones is a blur of blonde hair as he effervescently whirls around. Whilst bassist Pricey and guitarist Josh Townsend bound about manically like a pair of hyped up gremlins as Wayne, clearly enjoying the early reception, pours his heart into the words and riffs pulling the strings. The room is packed to the gunwales and there’s a raucous response to the chorus.

Rolling into the, now familiar, intro of ‘Storm’ – the first single from the forthcoming ‘See Through Blue’ album – Wayne notes “We’ve had a long day. I reckon you owe us!” There’s no doubt the debt will be repaid in full well before the Rebels head back west. All dressed in regulation black the Rebels launch headlong into the main body of the track; raw power crackles, the storm has landed. It’s a true rocker and CJ’s solo is sublime; it’s a standard high level for the Rebels. With a good degree of gusto The Rebels set about laying waste to Leo’s with ‘No-One Else To Blame’ a Welsh rock anthem if there ever was. It’s evident that a following have found The Rebels and taken them as their own.

Wayne turns to the crowd cajoling them “Get your hands in the air!” as they launch headlong into an emotion saturated ‘Let Your Love Go’. Searing CJ licks and a pounding bass from Pricey carry this 100% bona fide anthem strongly along its course.

There’s much mutual respect between the bands with Wayne giving a sincere shout out to both that had preceded them. “We look forward to working with both of them in the future” he notes prior to hitting up ‘Can I Open My Eyes’ with its high-flying chorus. Trucking along like a juggernaut heading up the highway it’s great to hear this number live and garnering a loud cheer.

Introducing ‘These Days’ Wayne thanks everyone for their incredible support for the food-bank collection initiative that had launched a couple of weeks previous. Tonight Hive Hope – a mobile foodbank that operates in the Northfleet area – have taken two cars full to the brim of donations! With a heavy dose of Manics about this track there is also a heavied up undercurrent of Soul Asylum’s emotive ‘Runaway Train’ this is an intriguing peak further into the new album. Wayne’s impassioned vocals and CJ’s oh-so-sweet solo coupled with a tight-as-you-like output from their brothers in arms ensures a deafening roar as the last notes fade away.

With a glint in his eye Wayne playfully enquires “Shall we do some more Boris bashing?” as the utterly riotous ‘Head’s In The Ground’ gives the frontman an opportunity to vent his political frustrations.

CJ leads in with ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ with Wayne leading the crowd participation before heading off into ‘Part Of Me’ and it’s proud chest-thumper of a chorus. The complete ranks of the Rebels appear highly animated and look to be having an absolute blast with riffs and licks aplenty as the rafters are well and truly tested.

Next up to be structurally challenged are the floorboards as Wayne asks “Are you ready to bounce?” as ‘Let Me In’ is tore into. It’s the Stereophonics times eleven; a thunderingly great anthem that has the place quite literally bouncing with hands in the air right on cue. It’s truly emotional to hear the entire assembled throng sing the chorus back to the lads up on stage; CJ grabs some phone footage.

Wayne is in fine form out front; a voice from the crowd requests “Go all night!” and the affable frontman quips “If I was that blessed I wouldn’t be here!”

The Rebels are a genuinely cohesive unit and demonstrate this in a powerfully energetic rendition of ‘Say My Name’ that transfixes the entire room. There’s smiling faces everywhere; the Rebels 7 hour journey to this corner of Kent has been worth every second for sure! There’s a great response to ‘Save Me’ in which the Rebels notch up party mode. CJ is a guitarist unleashed and Wayne even has time for a selfie with the ladies down the front. Gary lays down a thumping bass drum beat whilst Josh and Pricey play along like a pair of Mexican jumping beans. Leo’s continues to bounce as CJ leads the way into AC/DC’s ‘Long Way To The Top’ before the roof is well and truly lifted!

The latest single ‘Take You Home’ is given a turbo-charged outing. It’s a headlong head-banger; real live hard rocking fare for sure. “Raise your hands and we’ll take you home” rallies Wayne.

The set is closed in a roof-raising manner with the pairing of the AC/DC-esque ‘You Take My Breath Away’ and the emotionally supercharged ‘Heal’ before Wayne thanks the crowd for being “One of the best headline gigs we’ve done!”. Couldn’t agree more. The Rebels have long sought an appreciative following and a sense of belonging; that crowd has found The Rebels and they truly belong.

Photography by Darren Smith for MPM

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