The Unchanged are a strange band. Recorded music is thin on the ground and the band play live about as often as Kate Bush. However when they do venture out onto a stage based on personal experience they are always worth checking out, because of this I result I ended up in Dudley last night clutching a notepad and a pen and occasionally writing stuff down… here are the results.
As the opening chord of the untitled intro ricocheted around the room the entire audience shuffled forwards to get closer to the stage which is always a good sign and I have to say that the atmosphere was brilliant. The intro itself was the band in a nutshell, delicate melody interspersed with crushing heaviness. The band then flew straight into a cover of the Black Sabbath classic ‘Paranoid,’ which the audience lapped up from start to finish. The signature riff kicked in to a brilliant reaction and the all-important solo was greeted in similarly enthusiastic fashion. When done well and placed into a bands set in the right place covers can really do wonders for a gig and get the audience involved helping the flow of a performance and that’s exactly what happened here, it’s so important to get those watching onside as early as possible.
The pace then slowed considerably as ‘Unchanged’ slowly came to life. As I mentioned above these guys are equally as comfortable when bringing the tempo down as they are trying to bring down the walls with monster drums and mega riffs and this tune is definitely the former. The main vocal from Martin is a strong one and as the track is so stripped back it had to be, there wasn’t much of a hiding place. A now characteristic drum roll from Cotton-Watton signalled the tracks big finish and the response from the crowd can only be described as rapturous. The band seemed a lot more comfortable on stage than they did back in February when I last saw them and the performance as a whole benefited as a result.
‘God’s World’ opens in similarly slow and broody fashion but it wasn’t long until a Thin Lizzy/Metallica hybrid reared its head and the song took on whole different epic feel. I remember hearing this track 6 months ago and being impressed by it and I’m happy to report that my feelings haven’t changed.
Before going into the opening part of ‘All We Have Known’ frontman Martin jokingly suggested that this was the time for everyone to go and get a fresh pint from the bar because this was going to be a long one. This song is effectively three different songs rolled into one sees the band head firmly into prog-rock territory. In fact the only thing missing was a Rick Wakeman solo part way through. Part one is all about melody and a brilliant blend of vocals, part two is an all-out hard rock assault on the senses and the final part is like nothing else you will ever hear at a rock gig. It’s a funk/rock/blues fusion and as unlikely as that looks on paper it really worked. I like my bands to have more than one trick in their locker and this was further evidence that these guys have that versatility.
The set was closed out by two covers but never being a band to do the obvious the covers in question couldn’t have been much further apart on the musical spectrum. First up the penultimate track was a cover of ‘Superstition’ by the legendary Stevie Wonder. I have to say that the band more than did it justice and once again cemented themselves as one of the funkiest most versatile rock bands on the unsigned circuit right now. This wasn’t the sound of a rock band making a funk/R&B track fit them but a band switching their style up to fit the track. The audience danced for the duration as they and the band enjoyed every minute.
I said above that the last two covers were very different and I wasn’t lying… The final track was another Black Sabbath cover but this time the band opted to smash out a rendition of ‘War Pigs.’ The riffs were awesome, the rhythm section which plays such a huge part in the original held it down impressively and the vocals were delivered in fantastic fashion. Martin left the stage at one point to join the audience and revel in the hard rocking brilliance that was coming from the rest of the band. It was a brilliant way to finish what had been another great performance.
There really wasn’t anything to dislike about what The Unchanged did on that stage last night. The next step in the bands development needs to be to get together more original material as that is what will take them to the next level, getting known as a covers band would be doing these guys a serious disservice. But that’s another discussion for another day, as last night the band went home happy, the audience went home happy and this reviewer also went home happy… you can’t ask for more than that.