“Local” bands in London are ten-a-penny, but finding ones I actually like, or want to listen to more than once, or go to see live, are rather rarer. Move into the nominally industrial/rock/metal sphere than I frequent, and the pool of available bands gets ever smaller.
Nearly a decade ago, that pool of “local” bands would not have included AlterRed, I must confess. Their art-rock, quasi-performance art “electro cabaret”, as they put it,did absolutely nothing for me on a handful of occasions that I saw them live, but their fourth album In The Land of the Blind was an utter revelation to me, as they shed the artier side and concentrated on the songs, to blistering effect.
Three years on, and still on US label WTII Records (who’ve had an excellent few months with great new releases from Autoclav1.1 and Blume too), they are back with their new album, the curiously titled Trauma; Trauma Reinforcement.
To mark the release of the album, the band put on a free show at a small venue in Dalston, that actually turned out to be a) a bit bigger and more pleasant than many others in the locale, and b) surprisingly well set-up for live music. A few “scene” DJs were also involved, playing an impressive mix of stuff before and after, but the main focus was on the band, and their set saw them play the whole album from start to finish.
This show looks likely to be a unique one, too, as Vix Vain made it clear before the show that this would be her last time performing live with the band (although I understand she continues as part of the studio set-up), and the five-piece band gave the muscular new songs a hell of a lot of power.
But that power would be wasted were the new songs not so good. Opener Speed Test is the forthcoming single, and once it opens out the throttle and scorches through, it’s not hard to see why, but it is far from the only single-worthy track, as frankly all of the first three songs jostle for position as the best song played, and on the album. Dead & Cold reminds me of Godhead, to a point, but it really comes alive through Mikey’s searing vocal that lights a fire under the chorus, while Wait For The Recoil broods under chugging riff and burbling synths before kicking hard in another exceptional chorus.
What was rammed home at the show was that the great songs just kept coming. The snarl of Mad Dogs shows a political fury amid the glitchy digital treatments of the vocals, admittedly an effect that was lost a bit live (but is truly effective on record).
I must confess that there are a couple of moments that don’t really stick with me. Only Way Is Down is a forgettable, downtempo track that works neatly as a mid-session break, but I felt rather sucked the life out of the room when played live, while the lengthy closer Bohemian Class seemed far too long live, and on record it is the best part of eight minutes, dragging out the message for far too long.
The other unnecessary moment – but I’ll forgive them the indulgence – is a cover of the wildly-over-the-top Duran Duran hit Wild Boys. I’ve heard other bands cover this awfully in the past, and at least here it is obvious the band have a genuine love and knowledge of the source material. But, this song lives and dies by that spectacular drum sound, and the electronic drums here just don’t cut it for me.
The good thing is that the second half of the album – and live set – was made vastly better by the light-speed rush and anger of Breaking News, and most notably by the gloriously sweary, anthemic PS Fuck You, the unexpected highlight of the set and perhaps a song that may well get the band a whole host of new fans once they hear it. Live every “Fuck You” was spat out with astonishing venom, as if every single obstacle in Mikey’s way in the past has been avenged in one four minute whirlwind of wrath.
The takeaway? A band chomping at the bit to unleash hell, but continue moving forward while doing so. Highly recommended, on the whole.
The new album Trauma; Trauma Reinforcement is out now.