Have you ever arrived at a venue you’ve never experienced before for a band you have experienced before, looked around, and felt the tug of worry that the room might not contain what’s about to transpire? This narrator felt such a niggle at Dingwalls in the infamously quirky Camden Town on the 2nd February. In a venue as underground as you can get without actually being underground, the inky shadows of Dingwalls cloaked a stage utterly cluttered with the tools of tunesmiths, leaving little room for the imminent bulls-in-a-china-shop we were all gathered to witness: RavenEye.
Swamping the stage first, though, were kooky songstresses The Franklys. A refreshing breeze of edgy femme, The Franklys jabbed their way through tracks like “Castaway” that knocked on punk whilst keeping firm footing in garage jive. Meanwhile, “You Go, I Leave” employed the disconcerting haunt heard within the realms of The Arctic Monkeys’ Suck It And See, with star-of-the-set lead guitarist Fanny Broberg blazing a trail of voltage with the same kind of incontestable confidence seen in School of Rock’s Dewey Finn.
Next up, second band on the bill SKAM took a sharp turn down a NWOBHM-inspired alley, boasting bone-shuddering emissions that dripped with mercury-molten Diamond Head-alike riffs in the likes of “The Iron Cross” and “Take It Or Leave It”. Although frontman Steve Hill’s vocals were perhaps overly submerged by the brawn of the instrumentation, in much the same way as the thick dry-ice mist of the stage engulfed the crowd, SKAM afforded the Friday night exuberance that the hounds were baying for.
However, these hounds would never be fully gratified until the appearance of the beloved headliners RavenEye. Fronted by blues rock’s very own Peter Pan, Oli Brown, jagged rock juggernauts RavenEye unleashed the kind of snap, crackle and pop found only in Satan’s bowl of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies. Opening with “Hate”, RavenEye stunned with a delectable amalgamation of crunchy grunge, lead-heavy doom and the alluring moans of the blues.
A distinctive characteristic of RavenEye is their command of heavy rhythm – mesmerisingly pendulumic, and with drops from dizzying heights, tracks like “Out Of The Rain” and “Madeline” knocked the room with all the tumult of an iron fist. Mouth-wateringly gnarly, it was Aaron Spiers’ bass in particular that fleshed out the live sound enough so that it could slither into every murky crevice of Dingwalls.
The significance of the sound waves produced by Spiers and drummer Adam Breeze was further emphasised with the presence of new track “You’re A Lie”, which saw Brown discard his guitar to one side to allow for a bass-and-drums-and-vocals-only performance. By no means did the enormity of the texture suffer here, nor did Brown’s conviction in performance, as accentuated by his impish parkour off of Breeze’s bass drum.
However, under all the crunch of their grunge lay the beautifully withered vocals of Chris Cornell eternalised in the vocal chords of Brown, laced throughout the lonely tones of “Supernova”. The band of brothers, each unified by their bird feather necklace ornamentation, also participated in a tenderly vulnerable rendition of “Eternity”, which saw Spiers and Breeze don acoustic guitars and delicate harmonic vocals.
Following this stark paradox to the previous anarchy, the set (which RavenEye refused to disrupt by going through the traditional motions of the encore façade) returned to its raw, incendiary power with final tracks “Hero” and “You Got It”, the latter of which saw Brown elatedly crowd surf, before exclaiming that this was the “best gig he’s ever had”. Although his used-and-abused mic stand may beg to differ – RavenEye’s performance was as close to The Who as you can get without the necessity of purchasing new equipment. Amazingly, this narrator can confirm that Dingwalls successfully accommodated the sonic boom of RavenEye – but only just.