Every so often, a band comes along that makes all others seem like they should up their game. Judging by Lower Than Atlantis’ performance at the Birmingham O2 Academy, such a statement couldn’t be more applicable. Riding high on the news that they’d just sold out their first ever headline tour, the Watford four-piece delivered such a solid slab of rock-based energy, that I’m surprised the venue didn’t crash down around them.
Supporting LTA on their January tour were Marines and Sights and Sounds, both of who made a significant impact on their waiting audience. While Marines had the unenviable task of playing first (in a venue where the lighting technician seemed to be having a prolonged nap), they soon grabbed the audiences’ attention and heads were nodding in no time. Hailing from Suffolk, this Smiths-esque indie-rock outfit played a solid set of mixed tempo material that just begged for repeated-listening. While each member proved themselves to be accomplished musicians, it was vocalist Tim Hyland who stole most of my attention. Possessing a deliciously gravelly tone to his voice, Hyland was able to completely change the entire mood of a song with only a slightest of alterations in the tone or dynamics of his vocal performance. Overall, I found their set to be extremely enjoyable and rather charming, if I dare say such a word. While there proved to be a few issues with vocal pitching in places, they were soon rectified and no doubt, once some professional recordings are laid down, these small blips will be all but eliminated. Definitely a band to keep an eye on.
Canada’s ‘Sights & Sounds’ were next on the bill and quite simply blew me away. More of a showcase of musical triumph than a bog-standard support slot, one could have thought that they were to headline the evening. Providing a vocal dynamism that’d make any ‘alternative’ singer green with envy, Sights & Sounds acted as a defibrillator to a dead crowd. While they were by far the oldest performers of the evening, the Canadian quartet created atmospheres that even Lord of the Rings couldn’t replicate (for we all know, LOTR films are the atmospheric litmus test of the modern world), which they swiftly tore apart and drilled into the stage around them. Their set was heavy, delicate, fantastically layered, powerful and when necessary, simplistic and animalistic. Their sonic assault effectively grabs you by the throat from the off and is unrelenting in its barrage until the very last note. While comparisons can be drawn with groups such as Your Demise and Comeback Kid (some members of CK play in Sights & Sounds, so a comparison is rather futile in that respect), Sights & Sounds very much have an identity of their own. With an album (2009’s ‘Monolith’) readily available on the web, you’d be a fool not to own a piece of it.
While Sights & Sounds left me with my jaw on the floor, it was swiftly kicked up and crushed by the destructive force of Lower Than Atlantis’ mosh pit, which started up with impressive brutality from the very first bar of ‘If The World Was To End’. Lower Than Atlantis fans, regardless if they came in at the shoutier-than-thou, Bretton-era, Far-Q or World Record, were not to be disappointed. Armed with a well-structured set that covered all previous musical guises, they expertly blasted out recording-quality performances- covering both rabble-rousing crowd-favourites (‘I’m not Bulimic’/ ‘Beech like the Tree’) and more sentimental, slower paced album tracks (‘Another Sad Song’). Throughout the evening they showed themselves to be not only capable of championing any genre, but also professional (in every sense of the word) musicians and songwriters. While many of LTA’s lyrics are little underwhelming, their song writing talents are second to none- an enviable trait that’ll no doubt continue to shine in their already sky-rocketing career. In a very unexpected turn of events, vocalist and Twitter-grump Mike Duce paused mid-song to challenge one lucky (or unlucky, it depends on how you see it) audience member to ‘down a beer’ in under five seconds. While the young lad in question seemed to fail slightly in his endeavour, the whole stunt worked rather beautifully in stirring up an inclusive, fun, party-atmosphere; an atmosphere that lingered until the final notes of ‘Deadliest Catch’ rung out over a sweaty, breathless, battered and bruised audience. With LTA poised to release their fourth album in the coming year, one can’t help but feel that their days of playing small venues will be far behind them the second that CD hits the shelves. Lower Than Atlantis are original, accessible and damn hard working, and through that, they deserve every success in the world.