Home Gigs Gig Review : Nothing More – Spirits European Tour 2024 With Special Guests SiM (Silence Iz Mine) SWX, Bristol

Gig Review : Nothing More – Spirits European Tour 2024 With Special Guests SiM (Silence Iz Mine) SWX, Bristol

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Review by Gary Spiller for MPM

It’s Saturday evening and it’s the Westcountry’s entertainment capital for tonight’s entertainment. Make no bones about it it’s well and truly soaking; the descending felines and canines are doing their level best to dissuade the crowds, seeking their various pleasures, that throng the centre of this vibrant city.

A crowd bustles out front of the O2 Academy in readiness for ascendent Stateside country star Jordan Davis whilst a queue snakes towards the opulently fronted Hippodrome eager to catch ‘Wizard of Oz’ spin-off production ‘Wicked’.

As the salmon heads against the flow of the cascading river we dodge through the shoals of marauding umbrellas that seem keen to cause personal injury. To the list that includes such ‘terrorising’ objects as Prague’s trams and Amsterdam’s cyclists, so Bristol’s umbrellas are added.

For a second consecutive evening we’re being transported well outside of our personal realms of musical-based comfort and into the regions labelled unknown. Come the end of our night inside the well-appointed interior of SWX we hit the same conclusion as the previous night. Ocular organs opened and grey cerebral matter totally and utterly expanded!

Tonight will prove to be the heavy metal equivalent of a stellar nursery, a formative place of much significance. Headliners, hollering from Texas, Nothing More and their special guests SiM, all the way from Japan, are hitting the UK for a whistlestop five date tour. A pair of hard punching outfits who both have careers stretching back to the early 2000’s but are at the forefront of rock’s reinventions.

Unfortunately, due to a time-sapping combination of traffic and weather we arrive at SWX as opening band Siamese are winding up their last couple of hard-hitting tracks. Another shining example of the talent emerging from their native Denmark. Apologies to them, we’ll do our best to rectify in the future.

From what is witnessed tonight both Nothing More and SiM have built up strong, loyal, and totally devoted followings. Fan-bases that are passionate in the extreme but most importantly right across the boards in terms of demographics, it’s refreshing to see a crowd dominated by teenagers and those in their early twenties. Anyone else sense the tangible momentum in the forwards direction?

With the ferocity of delivery of a machine-gunning grizzly surfing upon the back of a blood-lusting Great White Japanese alternative metallers SiM (Silence iz Mine) detonate unrestrainedly to loud cheers emerging, onto a dimly lit SWX stage, atop an intro of wailing sirens. These are the opening warning chords for what is about to come!

Visualise, if you will, the incongruous and most unlikely scene of Anthrax headbutting Bob Marley in a headlong collision thrown together by Rage Against The Machine. If you can then you’ll then be prepared to board the rollicking heavy metal rollercoaster that SiM denote as their home.

It’s a barnstorming melding that really shouldn’t work on the face of it but with a combined ingenuity and inventiveness SiM do pull it off with considerable aplomb. Via twists and turns, heart stopping climbs and vertiginous descents the ten tracks follow are served up in a bloodletting 45 or so minutes of utterly delicious and unadulterated effervescent chaos.

The body gyrating ‘Kiss Of Death’ is a thundering beast at full pelt. Denizens of the underworld swarm to the riffage of Show-Hate whilst charismatic frontman Mah encourages “Jump, jump, jump!” from the offset. As is their very souls depend upon their ability to separate themselves from the floor so the SWX crowd, in unison, comply. Herein lies the dynamics of Welsh reggae metal crossover bunch Skindred.

The rallying calls continue “C’mon join us, join the mosh pit” urges Mah with the speedy thrasher ‘Do The Dance’, wild and furious, forming an opening puissant brace from last year’s ‘Playdead’ album. Just two tracks in and you can tell this is a truly tight quartet not to be taken lightly for sure. Alongside Mah and Show-Hate there’s the helter-skelter rhythm pairing of bassist Sin and drummer Godri. This is a truly consistent lineup that stretches back to 2009 and is responsible for five of SiM’s six studio long-players.

During demonic pumped-up pop-punk of ‘Devil In The Heart’ the first circle pit forms in tornadic fashion upon Mah’s command; alongside Show-Hate vehemently shreds a befittingly madcap solo. We’re informed, at track-end by Mah, that this is only the second time that SiM have toured the UK and that this is their first-ever Bristol gig. Given the SWX ensembles response you wouldn’t have known this; the self-proclaimed ‘reggae punx’ have stolen an overwhelming number of hearts this evening.

Taking the sounds of the Caribbean right down into the depths of the abysm during ‘The Rumbling’ whilst hard charging ‘Under The Tree’ resounds as SiM bust every sinew to lift a packed SWX even higher. It’s bonkers off the scale in its delivery, mosh pits thoroughly psyched with Mah declaring “Oh na, na, na! It’s not Japanese, it’s not English!” before taking to orbit in the rapidly accelerating mayhemic ‘Blah Blah Blah’; a track laced with reggae vibes and fringed in the realms of horror punk.

A baseball bat is raised aloft and SWX rages manically; this is the harkening signal for ‘Baseball Bat’, a raucous rallying call that Joey Ramone would be proud of! The sporting implement is wielded enthusiastically throughout.

Expressing their collective love and gratitude vocalist Mah asks, “Shall we come here [again]?” “Fuck yeah” comes a reply from somewhere in the crowd to which we are informed that SiM are planning their own headline European tour for the end of this year. Watch this space!

The metalliferous stampede ‘Red’ sees the quadrumvirate ‘Out-Skindred’ Skindred; it’s a glorious sight as hands wave, in phase, side to side. Broiling and seething a sizeable pit, the largest of the night thus far, opens during ‘Killing Me’ before the mayhem is concluded with the thrashing hardcore of ‘F.A.I.T.H.’ As it’s arcane timbre spreads forth Mah, two-handed, forms a heart symbol to pay respect to the adoring gathering. This is the cutting edge at the forefront of metal’s ever forward journey.

I’m positive that I am not in singular terms in pondering upon how on earth you follow what we’ve just experienced. Texan alt-metal outfit Nothing More display no concerns whatsoever as they emerge to John Denver’s legendary 1971 single ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’. It’s as unlikely an intro as one could imagine but it works as the entire ensemble within SWX’s inners sings along. The complete antithesis for what is about to be despatched.

Visualize a cage crammed full of ravenous Velociraptors unlocked and the rampage that ensues as these voracious beasts spill forth; the musical equivalent is what is about to hit the good concert-going folks of the Westcountry!

With a euphoric crash and bang bare-chested and bare-footed vocalist Johnny Hawkins follows the powerhouse trio of drummer Ben Anderson, bassist Daniel Oliver and six-stringer (on occasion increasing to seven) Mark Vollelunga. Oliver pumps his fist and seismic forces get to work. This is a band that, on all fronts, appears in peak condition here in the centre of Bristol.

Hi-octane dynamics flare in dramatic fashion as 110% rapture levels are achieved within the first few moments of the set-opening apocalyptic offering ‘Let ‘em Burn’ and continue unrelenting through to the dying notes, some 80 minutes later, of the volcanically infused ‘This Is the Time (Ballast)’.

Like their special guests this is a stable band lineup-wise with founding members Hawkins and Vollelunga joined, a year after formation, by Oliver in 2004. Various lineups have come and gone over the years until the addition of Ben Anderson, the ‘newest’ member, who is not far off a decades’ service himself.

They present a well-balanced setlist drawing from their last three albums; their first two – ‘Shelter’ and ‘Save You / Save Me’ – having been, in fact, withdrawn from all retail spaces as with Hawkins switching from drums to vocals it was felt that these albums were no longer representative.

The uplifting, soaring nu-metal of ‘Do You Really Want It?’ ensues being followed by the crouching tiger ‘Don’t Stop’. In the former Vollelunga bends his strings into s brand-new musical dimension, warping all known theory. The once cage raptor runs amok, free again. SWX is packed to fullness and detonative to the core. Hawkins, like Mah before, whips up the faithful into a moshing frenzy garnering a vehement response. Vollelunga, seemingly desiring a closer look, takes to the photo pit to stalk the barrier before requiring assistance from the photographers and security to return stagewards.

“[We’ve got] new album out this year!” announces Hawkins to a rapturous reception with recent single ‘If It Doesn’t Hurt’, a purging of emotions that zooms in upon the failings of a poisonous relationship, eliciting an equally voluminous cheer.

‘Go to War’, with its brief gentler glimpse, follows a darkened, brooding interlude with SWX taking a much-needed collective breather. The track, the fourth thus far from 2017’s ‘The Stories We Tell Ourselves’, is impassioned on a lofty plane. The first crowd surfer of the night goes over the barrier in triumphant tribute. “Beautiful Bristol, so beautiful” observes Hawkins. No dissenting voice is to be heard.

Oliver’s sinuous bass lines herald the emotive ‘Jenny’, a hard-rocking discussion of mental health struggles, an output that seeks the gentle caress of a strengthened cause. The unreleased ‘Angel Song’ garners a cracking helping hand from the SWX audience before the band reach the end of their fuse wire and explode coruscatingly. Wailing and screeching its artillery-like assault stirs the underworldly realms.

The savage beast is in control within ‘Tired of Winning’ prior to the dramatic ‘Face It’ born of rugged peaks sees crowd surfers aplenty respectfully, and triumphantly pay homage. This is crepuscular powerage bursting forth from the underground tomb.

‘I’ll Be OK’, dedicated by Hawkins “To anyone who’s been in the dark lately”, demonstrates the four piece’s softer side with phone lights illuminating throughout the venue. Above the crowd a lone surfer signs a heart.

With its proggish beginnings ‘Spirits’ draws one in before ratcheting up the energies into a whirling dervish. Possessing of a Bon Scott glint in his eye dynamic frontman Hawkins smiles widely as the harmonies between Vollelunga and himself sail effortlessly afront an ocean breeze.

“[This is] about my son and father, the circle of everything” notes Hawkins introducing ‘Fadein / Fadeout’ with its opulent guitar tones. Ever so rich vocals enthral and ensure total captivation. It’s a tear-jerker and the nearest that Nothing More swerve towards a ballad. There’s a wondrous connection between band and crowd, mesmerising in itself.

Chasing the Pink Floyd ‘dragon’ Hawkins voice echoes about the venue during ‘Ocean Floor’ a brief escapade into a differing region musically for the band; this band is a multi-faceted gemstone for sure.

“We are not a band who play encores. We just play the last song and give everything” emotes Hawkins as we reach the final chapter of the evening. It’s a moment that Lemmy would approve wholeheartedly of, I’m sure.

With the force of rising magma so SWX explodes with the dramatic showstopping overtones of ‘This Is the Time (Ballast)’. The band prowl, stalking ready to pounce upon their chosen prey. It’s a fervored power slam of a finale with all bar Anderson taking to the barrier with Vollelunga and Oliver flanking a madly drumming Hawkins reverting to his previous occupation with the front rows providing the lift for his temporary kit!

Rock reinvents itself continually as the road ahead snakes one way then another; it’s an age-old process that will proceed for as long as there’s a balance of musicians and fans willing to partake in the symbiotic relationship. What we’ve borne witness to over the past couple of nights strongly suggests that the highway ahead is far from nearing journey’s end; there’s a lot of miles in front.

Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM

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