She Wants Revenge/Heretics/Cold In Berlin

O2 Academy Islington, London – 17 June 2012

"A rare London date prompting pant-wetting on Facebook"

[Live photo]

I've read lots of positive things about Londoners Cold In Berlin before tonight. Descriptions of their sound as being directly descended from new wave and post punk were reassuring. I hadn't done my usual bit of homework online beforehand (as I most often do when a support act is new to me), but no need - those descriptions were accurate. But that isn't half the story. Either by design or chance, it seems this female-fronted outfit's appeal is mulltifaceted and, depending on your perspective and personal proclivities this could satisfy goths, indie kids, coldwavers, alt.rockers, darkwave enthusiasts and more. 

This broad potential audience base is simultaneously the best and potentially the worst thing about them. It should mean they'll capture the sort of mainstream press coverage that other bands they've been playing with recently are never likley to achieve. For some, their diversity of sound influences could be their undoing, resulting in an unsatisfyingly unfocused style. Nevertheless, I expect their frenetic performances, dark outlook and rock solid live sets will win over the majority of observers. Cold In Berlin have some crossover potential but I'm not sure if they can contain their individual energies long enough to reap their rewards.

I'm getting increasingly excited by Witch house flag bearers Heretics. I was caught unawares by their superb support to Clan of Xymox in February, and their second album Wealth = Success has been seeping its way deep into my conciousness ever since. To the uninitiated, Witch house is the label originally used (as a joke) to describe occult-based house music. Indeed, this evening's gathering was, in part, down to the London Witch house Coven. The occult trappings have transformed Heretics from their pop noir debut Heretics into something altogether more significant on Weath = Success. Both albums though did get a look-in on tonight's setlist; as did the track The 9 O'Clock Service by Whiting's side project bow church.

A full complement two-piece this evening, David Whiting [photo: right] and a guy who goes by the name of Bozley, (last time around it was only Whiting on stage) Heretics are serious (though thankfully not po-faced) about what they are currently up to. The focus the Witch house label has provided right now marks them out as a rarity, even by underground music scene standards. Meaning not only have they completely overturned the idea of the so-called 'difficult' second album, but have emerged a stronger band for it. Given the fairly introspective nature of the current album, it's noteworthy how they manage to carry an audience with them. Bozley's occasional guitar adds a touch of dynamism to the stage presence, but Heretics remain, unequivocally, about the music. Sure, the Witch house tag is a convenient way to help set them apart from those around them, and it is justified, but even if it was always just one guy on stage with some boxes, a keyboard and no visuals, it is purely the sounds and the songs Heretics make that makes them something special.

Heretics setlist: Engineer, Battle, Obscurity, Roulette, Beyond Hope, Don't Be Late, Ambition, The 9 O'Clock Service (bow church cameo)

[Live photo]

[Live photo]Top dogs tonight, She Wants Revenge I didn't know from Adam prior to reading about this gig. The announcement of this (apparently) fairly rare London date prompted all sorts of gushing praise and pant-wetting on Facebook. So, engineered marketing ploy or not, my interest was piqued. A handful of online videos, that they supported Depeche Mode on tour in 2006, and contributed a track to The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack all suggesting the presence of these Americans in town was one to share.

It's always enjoyably fascinating to be at a gig when 90% of the audience are more clued up than you are. Every second of every minute of their set became a rapid lesson in observational learning. The education coming in part, of course, from those on stage, but also in part from those below them, looking back up to the band and feverishly praising not only their kind of alternative rock/darkwave but their specific delivery of it too. 

SWR's sound draws on a variety of source material, much of it genuinely alternative/underground. It is in the application of core members Justin Warfield [photo: left] and Adam Bravin's [photo: right] perspectives and abilities that results in a finished style that manages to retain an indie underpnning but comes across as if it should have way broader appeal. 

Clearly there was a hardcore of serious fans in the Islington Academy tonight. Who, judging by their vocal response alone, all went home having sweet dreams. I suspect the majority of previously undecided or newcomers (like myself) also went home with only good impressions to accompany the ringing in their ears. Personally, for all the quality attributes, it lacked a certain something, an edge. Consequently I was one of the few present not to be entirely won over. 7/10

Rob Dyer

Live footage on dsoaudio's YouTube Channel