Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
I was born and raised on rhyme
I was born to wait on by
I came back and saved your life, oh!
Sun & Moon – Florence Black
The fullness of the Strawberry Moon, in the smallest of hours, heralds the beginning of meteorological summer. The valleys of South Wales, along with huge swathes of the UK, bask in glorious sunshine as Florence Black gear up for the second of a brace of sold-out shows at, what can be considered their spiritual home, Crumlin’s Patriot venue.
These three Merthyr lads have taken huge strides since their last appearance here back in mid-September 2021 that’s for sure. Tonight, we celebrate the launch of their latest single ‘Start Again’ pondering upon is it really over a year and half since ‘Weight Of The World’ was released to great acclaim.
Touring huge stadiums and arenas out in Germany, courtesy of Bohse Onkelz, to being named Planet Rock’s Best New Band in ’22 the pace has been relentless. This weekend’s two intimate homecoming shows are the filling in the midst of headlining Love Rocks down on the south coast and supporting Aussie behemoths Airbourne over at Frome’s Cheese and Grain.
Further prestigious festivals are queuing up with Hellfest, Resurrection, Maid of Stone and Steelhouse this summer; making it one to remember for this hard-working trio but not before they fly out for Sweden Rocks this week. Did someone mention a relentless momentum?
Opening this evening’s proceedings, making their Welsh debut, are no-nonsense London trio Less Than Hollow. Whilst unknown to most, if not all, of the assembled Patriot crowd they soon endear themselves with a rumbustious approach to their delivery.
There’s a reason why their participation has been requested for this brace of gigs. It’s somewhat less than roomy upon the stage, with bassist Sheldon and guitarist Adam Jerome either side of Elliot Philpott’s kit, but this doesn’t detract from a rapid-paced set.
In true Ramones’ style the triumvirate rattle express-like through 11 tracks in roughly 38 minutes with a bit of friendly, if seemingly slightly nervy, chatter from Adam in between numbers. From the raw, loud energetic burst from the opening gambit of 2022’s single ‘Karma’ to the impregnable forces of closing track ‘You Don’t Exist’ LTH are upfront and in the crowd’s collective face.
Warmly received the trio rollick through their set which displays a compelling blend of metalliferous energies with pop-punk sentiment. Glasses are raised to the cartwheeling punch of ‘Expendable’ whilst the solid vibes of debut single ‘Critical’ (produced by Chris Clancy – Machine Head, Massive Wagons, and Those Damn Crows) roars from skating lore, invoking a metallic kind of Offspring.
The underpinning of the likes of Blink 182 gloriously continues with the tribalistic groove of ‘War’ and brand-new track ‘The Last Time’. The latter enveloping Sum 41 fashioned vocals in a truly metallic rage. Another new track ‘Chains’ veers off further down the metal end of the musical spectrum with a thrashy fringe with some old school double bass rapidity thrown in for good measure.
It’s short and pugilistic in nature as the tracks fly past in double-quick time. Gathering, according to frontman Adam, all the elements, no matter how bad, that shape who we are ‘Wreck My Life’ merrily stampedes along. There’s plenty in the metaphorical tank with the coarsely sand-papered Green Day tones of ‘So Much Better’ and the stirring ‘How Can I Live?’ bracketing an acoustic interlude.
There’s respect for LTH’s confidence in being able to mix things up with Adam taking sole duties for the hooky contagions of ‘Far From Over’ but slotting it in two thirds of the way in seemed to suppress the momentum built up. Nonetheless Less Than Hollow’s symphony has gone down well and certainly gained them expanded exposure.
The expectation levels now ramp up to a feverish pitch as the time draws closer for the ‘local heroes’ to take to the Patriot stage. For the next hour, or so, we are voluntarily embroiled in a seething alternate reality where, thanks to ringmasters Florence Black, the sold-out ensemble indulges in a personal escapism. It’s a two-way dynamic with both parties voraciously ‘feeding’ off the respective energies in a symbiotic partnering.
Two days previous, headlining Love Rocks’ Friday night, down in deepest Dorset, the Merthyr lads tore through the finest hour I’ve seen them play to date. I needn’t have concerned myself with thoughts about how they could better the intensity even with Tristan’s ‘motherfuckers’ count rocketing to ionospheric levels on the south coast. Back on home turf they simply went one better, one track better. A track not played, to the best of my knowledge, for a considerable period of time.
Clearly relishing the ardent fevered environs of what, is as close to a hometown gig without being right on their actual doorstep, the trio of Tristan Thomas (guitar / vocals), Jordan ‘Foz’ Evans (bass) and Perry ‘Perk’ Davies stride on to the darkened stage. Their logo gleams brightly from the depths as the shadowy silhouettes assemble as deep resonant low-end rumbles quake outwards. “Let’s fucking rock” encourages Tristan as the opening riffs of ‘The Deep End’ flood forth. Hair flies as kinetics, possessing the weight of the world, surge unrelenting. “How we doing motherfuckers?” enquires Tristan, mid-track; the raised fists pumping upwards say all that’s needed.
A furious transmission engages as the strobes flash with ‘Can You Feel It?’ continuing the delving into 2021’s debut album. It’s a balanced approach to their back catalogue with a relatively even split between choice tracks from the aforementioned long-player and the hat-trick of preceding EPs along with some single-only releases including the very reason we’re gathered – the brand-new juggernaut that is ‘Start Again’. Unlike the previous couple of nights, the current single is placed, quite strategically amongst the ‘big guns’ at the business end of the set.
The tracks that paved the way for ‘Weight Of The World’ take their time in the spotlight with the raw, rasping ‘Bird On A Chain’ as wild and ‘mayhemic’ as ever leading at breakneck velocity into the carnivorous barrage of ‘Smoke’. “Why don’t you open your eyes?” rages Tristan prior to imploring “Take a look from the other side.” Restless spirits stir, themselves spooked by the inexorable pulverisation of 2016’s ‘Ghost’. Although in their mid-twenties these lads have been around seemingly forever. Tristan roars “Scream for me motherfuckers!” as Perry and Jordan forcibly meld their detonative elements. The ram-packed crowd noisily compliant.
Wispish clouds shroud the mountainous peaks, Cath Pulag – the monstrous feline of Cymraeg legend – stalks upon high. Gazing upon the valleys beneath the ‘Black Cat’ cries out with a Celtic resonance that eddies in a turbulent, agitated whirlpool. Head tilted, in trademark style, to his right; Tristan is entirely immersed in the moment. With passionately excoriating vocals afront he nails the, now, legendary solo of this Planet Rock approved anthem.
“Gonna bring it down for this one” notes Tristan as an almost country-like fringe is added to the intro of the emotive ‘Grove Street’. Alloying a youthful reflection amidst a ‘memory lane’ of Grand Theft Auto V the Florence lads demonstrate sensitive sentimental yearning for those care-free teenage years. It’s spinetingling as the crowd sings every word, taking over the vocal duties for a glorious segment. It’s blooming marvellous as Tristan rallies “One more time, as loud as you can!”
‘Down’, craned in from the second EP, is a weighty behemoth with Perry intent upon structural damage, ferociously malleating his kit with no thought regarding future requirements, as he seeks to pummel his way downstairs. Taken around the world the Patriot is in fine voice – well this is the valleys! – for ‘The Ride’ prior to the bone crushing, conflagrant strengths of ‘Pierrepoint’ are discharged with scant regard for personal safety.
There’s a loud, raucous reply to Tristan’s enquiry “Who’s ready for the new album?” as he introduces the merciless strains of ‘Start Again.’ No quarter is requested, none is expected with this triumphant track a statement of intent ahead of the next studio offering.
With the set drawing to a climatic finale the darkening of the stage signals ‘Zulu’. Running upon an exuberantly short fuse wire Tristan nails the intro and with a high-grade rock-face explosion the band, as one, move in for the kill. Offering their collective gratitude Tristan thanks all at the Patriot, their unwavering support doesn’t go unnoticed, the legend that is ‘Breadfan’ is introduced as “A little song by a band called Budgie!”
With volcanic properties the venue erupts as the lava is vigorously ejected. With lupine majesty this howling wolf is focused with laser precision, not once deviating from its divine forward projection. Jordan raises a middle digit, aiming right at one of their loyal stage crew with a playful glint. With shades of light and dark this is pure adrenalized rock n’ roll, no question of it.
Even the Dorset sunshine cannot weaken their output, although succumbing to sunstroke Perry is unremitting in his despatch whilst his colleagues out front, Tristan and Jordan, are a constant engagement. “Fucking love you!” outpours Tristan, clearly struck by the crowd’s response throughout. It’s been one of those nights, one which will stick in the memory for a long, long time. There’s only one way to round it off.
The magnanimously noble strains of ‘Sun & Moon’ shimmer as vividly as sunlight upon the clear waters of the mountain river as it cascades and breaks upon the boulders that lie in its path. The Pink Floyd eminence is notable but its undeniably Florence Black, not even Gilmour, Waters, Mason et al could pull off this masterful creation. With stick held aloft in a horned salute Perry pounds his bass drum with aplomb, smiling broadly. The gathering goes nuts for one last time, every word sung with undeniable passion. This is the soul of the Valleys in its purest form.
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM