Midlands Metal, Marsupial Madness and Scotland's Sign for the Norse Hordes to Ride!
Kaleb, Dionysus and The Fall of Boss Koala at The Westport, Dundee, Scotland, April 12th, 2004
by: Paul Schwarz
The only local band on tonight's bill, The Fall of Boss Koala, rather cheekily, don't appear on stage until over half an hour has passed since their scheduled 20:30 start time. But though such behaviour seems best interpreted as the result of blind arrogance or deep-seated insecurity, neither aspect seems to infect the young five-piece who finally take the stage. Boss Koala have certainly come -some- way since their not unimpressive but relatively indistinct performance at last year's Revoltfest: though playing to a more meagre audience, their performance tonight is sewn together with a melodic sensibility that before only seemed able to properly embrace the generic. There's enough noise- and metal- to balance the emo- that throbs at the "core" of Boss Koala's being; they're developing into a formidable force; but most importantly, they're finally becoming their own band.

To look at them, you'd almost expect Glaswegian gladiators Dionysus (also veterans of last year's Revoltfest) to continue the "core"-connected thread kicked off by Boss Koala; a lone In Flames T-shirt (worn, tellingly, by the band's -keyboardist-) gives only the vaguest hint of how pure (and yet blackened) a -metal- band now stands on stage. Mostly attired in combat trousers, and sporting as much short as long hair (one member is even be-dreadlocked!), Dionysus dress -- like many of their local contemporaries and demi-predecessors, from Broken Oath and Godplayer to Co-Exist and Madman Is Absolute -- in "hardcore casuals". But were you to walk in blindfolded and listen to any of the brash, thrash and death-infused "black power" -- think Cradle of Filth or Bal Sagoth, rather than Public Enemy, at their best -- that belters they air tonight, you'd swear Dionysus have at least one spiked wristband, inverted cross, corpse-painted face or at least a solitary -sword- between them: they don't. Interspersing tracks with unashamed yet characteristically self-aware comments like, "Try to imagine a horde of Norsemen riding into battle: that's what this song is about" or "This one's about dragons and stuff" in a straight-up style which simultaneously avoids pompous grandiosity on the one hand and cheap irony on the other, Dionysus elicit ever-loudening roars of approval and fond amusement from their fully savvy crowd with each can of melodious metal whup-ass they rip open. Rooted in the black/death underground by their own tastes alone, Dionysus effortlessly shirk expectations, transcending the generic in one fell swoop: probably because, where they come from, they pretty much -are- a one-of-a-kind, almost by default. Acceptance may be hard-won among "metal-metal" people for a band who eschew fashion "trends" so thoroughly, but in an era where the likes of Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall and God Forbid are crossing over big time, a band like Dionysus have a serious chance of being judged purely on the aesthetics of their -own- music and performance, outside of sub-generic category. The combination of visual and aural inputs may initially seem "wrong", but when you watch Dionysus make it work you'll quickly realise how "right" it ultimately is: your neck will tell you so the next morning!

Vibrant, technically accomplished, and yet gratifyingly give-'em-what-they-want straight in style, the melodic metal-making of Midlands-based four-piece Kaleb perfectly fits the mood of a crowd whose lust for "pure metal" -- the local parlance for the traditional stuff, a la Iron Maiden -- has already been ignited by Dionysus. Galloping, harmonising and grooving their way through a wickedly tight forty-odd minute set -- taking in six of the eight tracks from their self-released _Alive_ CD and a ripping cover of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" -- the young foursome (whose oldest and youngest members are two brothers, aged 21 and 16) successfully embrace that universalising metal spirit that flows through Eighties Iron Maiden and Metallica; but without reproducing riffs like brands ( thdarkness ). Nods to latter-day melodic metal heroes like In Flames and Iced Earth confirm how contemporary a prospect is being dealt with; Kaleb do occasionally stumble on a song-title or a riff that evidences their scene-less status or seems to somehow show them up as greenhorn upstarts; but when you pick apart the niggling scene politics of it all, you're left with a young British band who are unflinching about playing melodic heavy metal, and have the balls, skill and singer to make it work like a charm. Now how often does that happen?

(Addendum: I feel compelled to mention that my relationship to Kaleb is not an entirely disinterested one; not only does my good friend and fellow CoC contributer Adam Lineker play bass in the band, but I am also now actively and directly involved in helping them further their career. I would claim that these factors did not bias my review of Kaleb one way or another; but I thought it was dishonest not to mention these connections here.)

(article submitted 29/4/2004)

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