Live Review: The Black Hounds – Wolverhampton

Live Review: The Black Hounds - KK's Steel Mill, Wolverhampton
16th March 2024
Support: Nameless, Straight For The Sun, Arms to Oblivion
Words: Matt Noble
Photos: Tim Finch

Wolverhampton based groove/heavy metallers The Black Hounds recently dropped sophomore record 'All Kingdoms Fall', with a launch show at KK's Steel Mill in their hometown to 'officially' mark the release. With a live bill drawing from a range of bands from DC Sound Attack, their management roster, there was already a large number in the venue by the time Nameless took to the stage, whose high-octane opener set the place alight early on, with frontman Jordan leaping around the stage with boundless energy from the word go. Coming across almost like a bouncier Slipknot during the swaggering 'Devil In Us', they save their heaviest moments until the very end, with the brutal, hardcore-tinged 'Finger on the Pulse' really getting the crowd going.

Nameless bring a lot of variety into a nu-metal inspired sound, with some moments of real heaviness, though the seductive, groovy 'Shapeshifter' has hints of Deftones and shows even more of what they can do. Amid crisp vocal highs, gritty gutturals, and a powerhouse drum performance, Nameless really leave the crowd wanting more! Time constraints only give them a short set, but they could easily headline these sorts of events at their current rate.

Next up is Arms to Oblivion, a blistering groove metal outfit from Suffolk in the West Midlands for the first time. Like Nameless, they've got 90s metal influences, but more in the vein of the vintage crunch of Machine Head and Sepultura-esque grooves. For intensity, they bring in a few thrashy sections from time to time, though there's plenty of melodic undercurrents in their set. They're very tight and well rehearsed as a unit - even with the drummer dropping a stick a couple of songs in, it feels as though they barely miss a beat, and if you didn't catch the stick almost hit their bassist as it flew out you wouldn't have known anything was wrong!

Frontman Burton engages the crowd, getting them to clap in time before a song, and with witty but genuine stage banter to lead into 'O.H.M.S.'. He boasts soulful cleans and powerful screams in his vocal performance, with the rest of the band showing a clear sense of fun camaraderie throughout. Though the vast majority of tonight's crowd are uninitiated with Arms To Oblivion, they do leave with plenty of new admirers in tow. It's a heavy, watertight and fun set from the groove metallers that'll hopefully see them back soon...

Straight For The Sun, on the other hand, are well known in the Midlands by now - as evidenced by a loud cheer going off as soon as their intro tape plays. High octane opener 'Villains' gets the crowd going and singing along to its chorus very early on in the set. Musically, they've got big hooks and choruses within a melodic modern heavy rock sound, mixing alt metal and post-hardcore influences into a tuneful, high-energy setlist. Each of their five members has the chance to shine individually, though the sum of its parts is far greater. And with a bombastic, exuberant stage presence from all, the overall sense of performance and entertainment is very strong from Straight For The Sun tonight.

They surprise their faithful with an airing of a new song, which is pretty upbeat and has some nice dynamic changes, though well-established favourites like 'Sirens' get the crowd dancing and 'Scapegoat' sees a good few singing along. Cal is quite the frontman, pointing, grinning, and clearly enjoying the moment. He conducts the crowd to do as he wants seemingly with ease, teaching them the hook to closing track 'Walk' before it's played. The crowd participation makes for a memorable set - though the instrumental work is also great, particularly with the pounding drumming and Pauly's tasteful guitar leads. Most of all, the band are having fun, which makes it fun for the rest of us. Top marks.

Photo Credit: Tim Finch Photography
The evening, though, belongs to The Black Hounds, whose new album 'All Kingdoms Fall' has enjoyed critical acclaim and a run of dates in England and Wales that culminates in tonight's show. A big, open chord rings out in darkness before The Black Hounds take to the stage to a sea of excited cheers. They launch into the melodic 'Foundations', which opens the new record, which boasts an epic heavy metal riff as soon as it's out the gates, setting the scene for what's to come. A lot of their sound harks back to the uplifting, majestic Iron Maiden influences, though in a much more modern context. The Killswitch Engage-esque breakdowns and aggressive passages prevent the sound from coming across as dated or overdone, and the harsher vocals from Connor synergise well with Ant's cleans.
The crowd are clearly loving it, with the faster parts of their set really energising the room. The likes of 'Breaking The Cycle' has all sorts of melodic sections and bouncy riffs that go down a storm. Led by Ant's commanding frontmanship, splitting the crowd in two for a sing-off towards the end, it's a hell of a performance from the headliners. Ant's vocal style, in particular, is full of precision, charisma and character. He shows he's more than capable with all sorts of vocal styles, from falsettos, Bruce Dickinson-inspired highs, and even some low throat singing at the start of 'Tyrant'. It's a brilliant night of fist pumping heavy metal anthems, ending with 'All Kingdoms Fall' and 'Colossus', two uplifting, potent and heavy bangers full of choruses and breakdowns alike. Tonight is memorable and fun all round, ushering in a new era for the band.
Photo Credit: Tim Finch Photography

Photo Credits: Tim Finch Photography

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