Plenty of new ground broken for your correspondent on this night; I’d never been to this venue before despite the fact it’s in my own city and on the occasion I chose to come, it was to see three bands I’d never clapped eyes on before. EBGBs is a small basement venue set below the Heebeejeebies bar (hence the double pun in the name, intended to evoke thoughts of famous New York club CBGBs as well as being a reworking of the main establishment’s name). The stage is tiny and you find yourself ducking under arches to get to the bar, but it looked ideal for a night of rock/metal. Headlining the event were the Czech outfit Alia Tempora, or at least some of them, but we’ll get onto that later.
First band up were Forlorn Hope; a local quintet who, despite the Pantera and Alice in Chains t-shirts sported by two of the members, were a traditional Heavy Metal band whose songs were all concerned with great historic battles of centuries gone by. That might evoke fears of a Merseyside Manowar (!) but any thoughts of that were soon dispelled (no furry nappies, thankfully) when they started up. There was plenty of humorous banter, mostly from vocalist/guitarist Chris Simpson, but when they struck up they meant business. If you like Heavy Metal as it was before the cookie monster took charge, and like it was when twin lead guitars were the order of the day, you will probably enjoy this lot. The frontman had this small but enthusiastic crowd punching the air and chanting all through their set, he comes with an impressive vocal reminiscent of NWOBHM greats of days gone by. Ones to look for again in future.
The next band were Equinox, another local group who were driven along by their female drummer Jess Stanley. She hit the tubs HARD throughout their set, so much so that the kick drum used by all three bands was starting to fall apart! The rim on the front kept falling off, so when it was spotted by singer Daniel Moran, he just unhooked it from the kit, untangled the wires and lashed it off the back of the stage! The youthful-looking singer turned out to possess a mighty roar, dare I say it but he reminded me at times of a certain Sebastian Bach. He also had quite the sense of humour, at one point running off the stage to buy a Forlorn Hope EP while guitarist Paddy Cummins noodled away on an extended lead solo! They were performing with a stand-in bassist, introduced as Chris Jones (‘he’s in about nine bands at the same time’, remarked the singer) he was impressive, almost acting like a third lead guitarist with his fancy fills. I was very impressed with this band and hope to catch them again very soon.
I’d given Alia Tempora the old ‘youtube test’ of watching three of their videos in advance, that was all I had to go on prior to this gig. I was therefore a little surprised to see only three of them appear on the stage; drummer Patrik Macháček and one of their two guitarists (Štěpán Řežníček) were all that accompanied singer Markéta Morávková for this set. To the side of the drumkit was a laptop, so the absent members’ parts would be coming from that device while the remaining members played around those. It turned out the reason for this was because their other guitarist Radek Žák is currently in hospital, forcing him to sit out their run of UK dates (this being the first of those). Presumably that was also why they were lacking a bass player too, as that role is filled by his brother Pavel. With what amounted to only half of a band on the stage, that made it almost impossible to assess these as a live act and so instead, with due respect to the guitarist and drummer, it amounted to a self-contained performance from Markéta Morávková who had to carry the whole thing along.
Straight away the illuminated mic stand she had on the stage made me think of another symphonic Metal band who are now one of that genre’s leading lights; that impression was only reinforced watching this singer do her stuff. Her stage moves – the hand gestures, the poses, her habit of crouching down while holding the mic stand – were all straight from the Charlotte Wessels playbook. She is a self-confessed Delain fanatic (their guitarist Timo Somers even appears on a reworked version of ‘Mockingjay’ from Alia Tempora’s album ‘Digital Cube’) and must have studied the Dutch singer’s act closely, she has it all completely down. Her voice is also reminiscent of the Delain frontwoman’s, though more akin to how she sounded around the time of ‘Lucidity’.
Musically, the band have more in common with Lacuna Coil with syncopated drum beats and numerous electronic embellishments, though one thing which wasn’t on disk was the backing growls from Štěpán Řežníček, who cut a rather menacing figure with his muscular build and scowling expression. A true ‘beauty and the beast’ dynamic then, with the singer charming those who’d stayed around for their performance – including two members of Forlorn Hope who were headbanging away in unison all set!
For a fiver to see these acts, about whom I knew little to nothing beforehand, this was a very good night. The local groups are definitely on my list from now on, but I really need to see Alia Tempora again with their complete line-up to get a proper idea of what they are about. As it was, although they made the best of a difficult situation, we only got to see half a band live. I do like their music though so let’s hope whatever caused the hospitalisation of Radek Žák doesn’t keep him out of action for too long, so that he can resume his place in the line-up.