Being the professional that I am when I go to review a band live I’ve normally done a bit of research and at least listened to the band’s music, but sometimes life doesn’t work out like that and the result is a completely different experience.
I knew April Black were a rock band but to be honest that was about it. This means that as they took the stage instead of having an idea of what they might sound like or any kind of expectations my mind was a completely blank canvas.
Based in Stafford April Black are Amy Star (Vocals) Andy D (Guitar) Laura Cockram (Guitar, vocals) Matt Jones (Bass) and Jamie Duddy. (Drums) See I did get round to doing a bit of research eventually. The band describes themselves as ‘Sexy, roaring rock and roll’ and I can safely say that they definitely lived up to that billing.
The band were late arriving at the venue because of serious traffic issues and still seemed a little flustered as they took the stage but as the first Black Sabbath esqe guitar riff thundered around the room that was quickly forgotten. That first track Trickster set the band’s stall out and showed what they are all about; they are just a proper rock band. It’s all about lots of big riffs and great vocals both of which are right up my street. Only At Midnight is a proper old school metal tune with the driving force being a seriously strong bassline. Regular readers will know that I’m a sucker for quality guitar work so the Thin Lizzy style duelling guitars here also scored big points with me.
The audience interactions were pretty smooth as the band flew into zombie anthem Fight Or Flight which turned the pace all the way up to what could only be described as frenetic. The pace changes in the song itself were great, as things dropped right down as the guitar solo began before the accelerator was pressed once more. Darkside was characterised by a brilliant gravelly riff which fit the whole feel of the song right down to the ground and for the first time on the night the drums took control and pushed the song forward.
The set fled past the halfway mark and so far the performance had been great fun but for me there was one minor niggle. Front woman Star while nailing every vocal seemed maybe a little self-conscious. I just wanted her to really get lost in the music and really let herself go, it kind of felt like she was holding back a touch. I don’t know if I imagined it or if it was just me being a harsh critic again but I just felt that there was a little more to come from her. It must be said though that the whole band were a little compromised as not for the first time on the night their sound was too big for the room. Big badass rock bands like April Black need a bigger stage otherwise they sound cramped, this isn’t the band’s fault it’s just sadly a fact of life in a smaller venue.
The battling guitars made another appearance on Hide And Seek which again was just another cracking rock tune but the guitars weren’t the only thing that were blending beautifully on stage. On a few songs, some more than others, Star was sharing vocal duties with Cockram and the results were fantastic. The guitarist wasn’t quite taking the lead but was doing a bit more than backing vocals and it worked incredibly well, especially on Here Comes The Succabus. It’s not something you see all that often but I really liked how it worked out. It gives the band a bit of something extra to help them stand out, plus the two female voices just naturally blend together very well.
Penultimate track Lady Luck was probably the highlight of the set. The band looked more at ease by this point as they smashed out another slice of quality hard rock complete with cracking guitar solo. This track probably has the strongest chorus out of everything that they played; it’s definitely the song which got most stuck in my head. The brilliantly titled She’s A Murderer closed things out in pretty heavy fashion as the riffs packed a real crunch, and even the bass got time to shine which I always like. It was a strong note to finish on.
The opening slot at any gig is always difficult because people are only just turning up and really getting into position so I imagine it can be difficult to really get in the zone and do your thing but I liked what I heard from these guys. I think they are maybe a little rough around the edges and like I said I want to see Star completely lose her shit for want of a better phrase and just let herself go in her performance but neither are massive issues. The vocals all round are great, the riffs and the rhythm section all come together well and the result was a really enjoyable performance.
I think that there will be more to come from these guys and I think they’ll just keep getting better and better with every gig and the stage will become like a second home for them. All the tools are there and for me April Black are definitely ones to watch.
All photography comes courtesy of RM Photography aka Rich Moss aka Frontman of the awesome rock band Stone Broken.