Max Raptor + Dark Hearts + Captain Horizon + Romans @ HMV Institute, 4th May 2011


Tonight I am at the HMV Institute in Digbeth for what can only be described as a Midlands mash up — four local bands hailing from such varying genres it makes for a truly intriguing combination.

In all honesty, opening band Romans, confuse me – appearing to have a slightly schizophrenic style in terms of apparent influences (vocals are reminiscent of ska/punk, bass has a distinct Chilli Peppers flavour and on the odd occasion guitar riffs could have been mistaken as emanating from a G‘n’R song).

With sound control levels suffering in general during this (and the next) set — the volume was far too loud for requirements and distorted the overall sound — it was difficult to distinguish whether these guys were actually any good. So with a degree of curiosity and in the interests of a fair review, further research revealed they are not half bad – tracks which stand out on their band websites are ‘Rome Sweet Rome’ and ‘Something Biblical’.

Captain Horizon on the other hand are recognisably rock-orientated and this band seem keen to indelibly etch this on your conscious – with solid bass playing and grand guitar work which is only just overshadowed by powerful vocals from Steven Whittington.

Once more though, musical clarity is almost damaged by distortion — as before, I checked out their website and a mass of material on You Tube to be absolutely confident in saying these guys are very good (mirroring my initial thoughts anyway!). ‘Poker’ is a great tune, ‘El Nibre’ is brilliantly brutal, ‘Anxiety Breaks Us All’ is inspired and I am pleased to say there are more high quality offerings in their back catalogue.

Although on first appearance Dark Hearts style is very tricky to explain in conventional terms, there is none of the aforementioned confusion. This band seems to have harnessed their diverse musical tastes and blended it together to develop, dare I say it, a fresh new sound all of their own — a sort of sludgy, sexy, almost blasé Rock and Roll groove with dynamic dual male/female vocalists giving it all a contemporary twist.


With ‘Down By the River’ resounding round the venue, the vibrant interaction of vocals between Andy Page and Toni Woodward is not so much a sickly-sweet agreeable harmony as an all-encompassing allegiance. Though, proof this band are not just a fascinating frontman/woman show is evident with displays of drubbing drums betwixt gritty guitars on ‘Don’t Want to See You Round Here’ and epitomising that R&R groove on final track ‘I Don’t Need Your Love’, verifying their rank in the proceedings. Admittedly they experienced amp feedback at points throughout their set; nevertheless, it was still the most lucidly sharp, resonant and competent performance of the evening so far….


Headliners Max Raptor might have been perturbed by the room emptying off after Dark Hearts set; however, seemingly undeterred by a room now barely containing 30 odd loyal punters these local lads emerged bounding with endless energy from the onset, thrusting forth with some firm favourites ‘Obey The Whips’, ‘Ghosts’ and ‘The King is Dead’. The enthralled crowd chanted along to ‘The Great and The Good’ with effervescent enthusiasm and the likes of ‘Beasts’ and ‘The Alarm’ were well received.

Like an unyielding, well-oiled machine pumping out punchy anthemic punk songs one after the other, it is easy to see why these guys are headlining. Frontman Wil leads the revolution in shaping the songs so we are left in no doubt of its genre and each member of Max Raptor show off their technical talent to a point where I can find no fault – producing an extremely confident and enjoyable set.


Somehow, in summing up tonight’s gig I feel compelled to liken it to being placed up front on an old rollercoaster for the evening – with a slightly rickety start, followed by a long, slow climb up a slope of anticipation before being dropped from a great height into an unexpected but exhilarating loop and ultimately swiftly gliding through one thrilling turn after another…..and now, alas, it is time to collect our things and go home!

Review – Amanda Jones
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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