by Rowan Blair Colver
A typical August Tuesday in Sheffield sees a few familiar faces out and about on the rock scene, many of whom choose the Dove and Rainbow as their regular haunt for its classic real ales, decent lagers and ample top shelf but most importantly for the ultimate dedication they have for what it means to rock. Being a traditional pub with a long served history of rock and metal, the adequate stage provides a brilliant setting for local and touring bands who want to raise hair, pulses and pints.
On this particular Tuesday evening, the bill was a little less typical. All the way from LA, via many cities in Europe before hand, we were treated to the musical mastery of two fresh, talented and hard working bands. Choosing to start much later than usual, the night kicked off around ten to ten. The bar was filled with more than a few handfuls of people, being on a work night didn't stop everybody. It was well worth the wait.
The Ambivalent took to the stage first and opened up the show with a set of powerful heavy rock music that shook the venue to attention. It wasn't long before the front of the stage was gathering bodies and we all enjoyed a selection of catchy and familiar sounding material. The edge they carried was with the fusion of almost dirty grungy guitar sounds with technical keyboard playing which created a unique balance of brilliance and energy.
They were all enjoying themselves, and for me that is a true sign of band quality. The music came from their place of contentment and with their obvious rehearsal efforts and professionalism this formula is what allows them to tour Europe and beyond knowing themselves on the right path.
Following from the formulated mayhem and groove brought by The Ambivalent, a short DJ session filled the time it took for The Maension to set up their stage. A few people went out to catch a crafty cigarette while others queued at the bar for the next round. Before the atmosphere had completely returned to normality, the stage became the centrepiece for what was to be an awesome set.
Fronted by Mark Maension, a truly charismatic Italian guitarist and singer with predator style bright purple dreadlocks, The Maension took the level up one more notch. Their stage presence was awe inspiring, with each member owning their space and sound with confidence and style. The tight and intelligent bass from the left hand side carried though the pounding thrashy drums perfectly while the guitar simply ripped through everything in melodic claps of thunder. On the right of the stage came the punchy riffs from Skye, the keytarist. An unusual instrument for a metal band, with the only time I have seen one used before in this genre being sporadically with Children of Bodom. She totally dominated the keys and synthesised pads while standing tall and forward like any great rock guitarist, a great combination of sound and delivery.
It was getting late but I didn't notice and I don't believe many others did either. Controlled excitement and safely expressed musical aggression kept the energy high, while psychedelic undertones gave everything a much more interesting edge than what we may have expected. Dressed well, rehearsed and polished beautifully then delivered with an excellence comparable to stadium bands, I truly enjoyed my evening. A pleasure to see these artists perform in a local and intimate setting, perhaps in the not too distant future they will be booking the Academy just up the road and round the corner. They deserve to as they clearly put in every ounce of their person to achieve what is so far a truly awesome musical experience.
Check out their websites for more info and future dates.
The Maension Official Site
The Ambivalent Reverb Nation page