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Live review: Miss May I @ The Talking Heads, Southampton, 22/1/2018

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Packing five bands into four hours, tonight’s metalcore extravaganza feels more like a condensed festival bill than a rock ‘n’ roll night out.

Miss May I

Descending onto the Talking Heads’ stage first are the local support DEFERENCE (★★☆☆☆), whose atmospheric yet down-tuned anthems are right at home with Miss May I’s breakdown-loving crowd. The band bring unbridled energy in spades, but are sadly let down by two astronomical factors: a miniscule audience and unforgivably shoddy mixing. Playing to only a handful of metalheads (a direct result of tonight’s gig having to start a full half-hour early to fit its entire bill), this quintet of Southamptoners jam their hearts out, but ears are only blessed with the sound of growled vocals from Rob Lea and Mike Hill’s drumming. All else is indistinguishable as Deference begin their set, with this then being overcompensated for by the guitars going so far up into the mix that all else is drowned out. By the time the sound issues are resolved, these five lads are, sadly, wrapping up.

CURRENTS (★★★★☆) are one of the US’s brightest metalcore prospects, earning their stripes as they make their debut on a British stage. Despite falling victim to the same sound issues that plagued their predecessors, the Connecticut outfit shine with their blend of grooving heaviness and polyrhythmic “djent”. The sound quality becomes far more balanced as their audience builds and builds to the point of a dedicated few beginning a very early moshpit. Currents put the Talking Heads through its paces as they lay down one hammering tune after the next, resulting in a true show-stealer of a display.

Similarly, the Aussies VOID OF VISION (★★★★☆) are also making their first impression on our shores. Having come from literally the other side of the planet, the thunderous mavens from Down Under resonate with a style closer to pure hardcore than anything else on tonight’s bill. Taut riffs drive punchy songs, resulting in a half-hour strong enough to send Southampton toppling into the Solent. The band know their crowd, barking orders demanding everything from pits to jumps, and receive them enthusiastically in turn.

FIT FOR A KING (★★★★☆) bring their downtrodden franticness from Texas, giving the south of the UK a mighty dose of the brutality that the south of the US can easily provide. The growls, refrains and musicianship are standard metalcore fare, but still work the Talking Heads into the biggest frenzy it has seen all night. The crowd’s visceral and frenetic response still pales in comparison to that given to headliners MISS MAY I (★★★★☆) however, who take the stage to a roar of excited approval.

Easily the most melodic group of the entire evening, Miss May I stun with emphatic clean singing as well as raucous growls from frontman Levi Benton. The American five-piece shine with an undying charisma, delivering a set dominated by direct and rhythmically pummelling cuts from their latest opus, Shadows Inside (2017). But even as the youngsters lay out anthem after anthem like the most well-oiled of efficient machines, there is room for improvisation. Drummer Jerod Boyd lays out a solo on his kit after ‘Swallow Your Teeth’, giving a tone of sporadic light-heartedness to balance out the mammoth beatings given by hits like ‘Hey Mister’ and ‘Lost in the Grey’.

By the time the evening has wrapped up, the whole affair feels like a very dense yet cathartic experience. After five full metalcore performances have been crammed into four hours, the trip home is an undeniably exhausted one. But, all the same, Miss May I et al. gave a night of beastly heaviness, hard-hitting breakdowns and even a handful of enticing singalongs.

What more can you ask from an extreme rock show?

Miss May I’s latest album, Shadows Inside, is available now via SharpTone Records.

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