LIVE: Hit The Deck Festival @ Nottingham (26/04/2015)

Date: April 26th, 2015
Venue: Various Venues, Nottingham

After a stint at its second home in Bristol yesterday, Hit The Deck Festival has returned for yet another year in its original home of Nottingham, though has been cut down from seven stages to just four over the twelve months since it last came about. Still, with a headline slot from Skindred on the cards, the smaller dose could still carry the same punch.


Post-hardcore quintet When We Were Wolves are the first to storm the stage at the main stage. Commencing to a near vacant venue, vocalist Mitchell Bock claims “I wasn’t expecting to play to anybody”. Their short set contains tracks from their most recent ‘Heartless’ EP, including its title track and opener ‘Dying On The Inside’, as well as older material. The Welsh rockers do little to excite, however, as they fail to differentiate themselves from the vast quantity of bands on the day situated in the same genre. [KH]

IDIOM – 8/10
With previous slots at Download, NASS and Bloodstock, alternative metal outfit Idiom are hardly in unfamiliar territory. Blending new unreleased material with hits from previous EPs ‘Movement’ and ‘Same Old Songs’, their setlist remains exciting and unpredictable. Uniting the audience to yell “fuck you” in unison, the band are extremely engaging and bring an end to what was a lifeless start in the main hall. [KH]

If you’ve ever wondered what a band fronted by Samara Morgan of The Ring would sound like, then look no further than Belgian outfit Oathbreaker. Caro Tanghe’s hair veils her face from start to finish, looking like the doppleganger of the aforemntioned well dweller, but her piercing shrieks are enough to raise every hair on your body. It’s a shame that everything seems a bit sluggish and lacking the punch that it very clearly holds to potential to throw in your face. [ZR]

The last year has been extremely kind to Castlefold rockers Allusondrugs, touring with the likes of Lonely The Brave and Marmozets, as well as performing at Leeds Festival. Their signature sound of grungy, alternative rock communicates well in a live setting, unleashing the singles ‘Am I Weird?’ and ‘I Should Have Gone To Uni’. [KH]

Finally, lately it seems like things are all coming up for Hundredth after all of the effort they’ve put in. They’ve bagged a new deal with Hopeless Records, they’ve got new album ‘Free’ on the way, and they’re also getting bumped up a few slots on the festival circuit, and, rightly so. Vocalist Chadwick Johnson is pacing about from one side of the stage to the other belting out screams that barely miss a note, and his bandmates supply the punishing, crunchy metalcore backdrop to the likes of ‘Ruin’ and ‘Unravel’ that have secured them as the strong underdogs that they are in their scene so far. [ZR]

Crashing in with some hard, electronic thuds, rap metal quintet Hacktivist instantly get the crowd jumping and were able to initiate the biggest mosh pit of the day so far. A surprise cover of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s ‘Niggas In Paris’ is well received by the crowd and is adapted well to the band’s idiosyncratic style. The set also sees powerful deliveries of singles ‘Rage’, ‘False Idols’ and ‘Elevate’. [KH]

Bringing a bit of groove to the main stage, London djentlemen Monuments are slowly but surely pushing their way to the top of the djent league table. Vocalist Chris Barretto is on absolute top form, hitting soaring cleans and animalist screams like it’s the easiest thing in the world. Axe-men John Browne and Olly Steele run up down their fret boards like no one else can who’ll be hitting any of the stages today, and the distorted bounce of ‘Quasimodo’ and others are an absolute treat to the ears. [ZR]

Toronto heavy hitters Cancer Bats certainly raise the bar and turn up the heat on the few bands that are yet to follow. After catching an audience member lose their phone in the brutal mosh pit unfolding before him, vocalist Liam Cormier encourages the audience to turn off their phones and to embrace the moment. Cormier announced “this is a song we can all get down to” before unleashing their signature cover of Beastie Boys classic, ‘Sabotage’. The band also delve into new material from most recent album ‘Searching For Zero’, performing the tracks ‘Satellites’, ‘True Zero’, and ‘All Hail’. [KH]

Rock City’s main hall at this point is crammed with excited, with young fans eagerly anticipating the arrival of Steel City’s While She Sleeps. The crowd are hooked from the start, with many fans clambering onto the shoulders of their friends in an attempt to surf the crowd. Bassist Aaron Mckenzie throws himself backwards into a sea of waving hands and at one point appears to be lost as the audience try to carry him away. Highlights included performances of new track ‘Brainwashed’, ‘This Is Six’ and ‘Our Legacy’. [KH]

Ragga metal has never been done before or since Skindred to the level that the Welsh outfit have. Almost 20 years into their career and album number six scheduled to drop later this year, it’s a relief to finally see the newly expanded to five-piece genre fusers claim a festival headline spot, and tonight proves just how fit they are for the part. There are few frontmen out their who are as charismatic, humourous, and talented as Benji Webbe is; a true showman. Along with kicking out great hits from across their entire backcatalogue, including ‘Ninja’ and ‘Trouble’, Webbe also helps command the Hit The Deck crowd to follow his every command, like his own Skindred army. The inclusion of a few covers into the mix helps whip them into shape too, with ‘Sad But True’ and ‘Duality’ getting the heads a-banging and ‘Jump Around’ getting the room a-bouncing. Of course, it’s the closer of ‘Warning’ that sticks out as a burning highlight, seeing everyone pull the shirts off their backs and swinging them in the air to do the Newport Helicopter at Webbe’s say so, which alone is a sight that just has to be seen. Now that Skindred have finally proven their worth as headlining material, don’t expect to see them away from this position for long. [ZR]


Phoenix horror punk trio Calabrese take to the stage, making their Hit The Deck debut. With a career stretching 12 years and a back catalogue consisting of 6 full-length LPs, the band have a lot of material to choose from, pulling material ranging from 2007’s ‘The Traveling Vampire Show’ to most recent ‘Lust For Sacrilege’. The delivery of these songs, however, lacks energy and enthusiasm, and fails to live up to high expectations. [KH]

YOU BLEW IT! – 7/10
Emo revivalists You Blew It! were the first to perform out of current touring buddies A Great Big Pile Of Leaves and The Early November. Rock City’s crowded basement is treated to tracks from recent EP ‘Pioneer Of Nothing’, as well as favourites from previous LP, ‘Keep Doing What You’re Doing’. [KH]

Unfortunately, we were unable to catch and review this act.

Unfortunately, we were unable to catch and review this act.

Currently out on their first UK tour, Top Shelf Records’ A Great Big Pile Of Leaves succeed in creating a bold impression overseas. Although their stage persona may be a little reserved, it’s certainly made up for by their signature mix of summery vibes and glittering, guitar melodies. Amongst the set highlights are tracks ‘Snack Attack’, ‘Alligator Bop’, and ‘Pet Mouse’. [KH]

Unfortunately, we were unable to catch and review this act.

With a sound that has previously been described as a mix of aggressive hardcore and post-rock, Brighton’s Black Peaks certainly boast an exclusive sound. This, unfortunately, doesn’t translate quite so well into a live setting, sounding somewhat uninspired and sluggish. Vocalist Will Gardner is far from top form, struggling to master the tricky falsetto sections in single ‘ Glass Built Castles’. [KH]

Being no stranger to the Hit The Deck stage, Aberdeen/Bristol trio The Xcerts provide a welcomed break from the brash screams and shouts of the Cancer Bats and Black Peaks. Rock City’s basement is looking admittedly bare as their set clashes with the likes of Devil Sold His Soul and Rolo Tomassi. Vocalist Murray Mcleod declares his love for all the women in the room before entering ‘She’, taken from their latest release, ‘There Is Only You’. [KH]

Failing to live up to the hype surrounding them, New Jersey emo rockers The Early November produce a career spanning set, which sadly is terribly mediocre. Hits ‘I Want To Hear You Sad’ and ‘Tell Me Why’ come across as lethargic and tired. Awkwardly, tour support acts You Blew It! and A Great Big Pile Of Leaves both manage to deliver more engaging and distinguished performances. [KH]


They may not be the hottest name on the bill this year, but they’ve certainly got some of the hottest moves of anyone who has played at Hit The Deck Festival to this day. Their pop-rock tracks have got a great kick that make you want to tap your toes along from start to finish and, though crowd participation is almost non-existent despite the band’s efforts, that doesn’t stop frontman Charlie Kerr from darting around the stage like a kid who lives on a diet of nothing more than E numbers. [ZR]

DEAD! – 7/10
Southampton punk rockers Dead! are steadily climbing their way up to the big time, and with sets like today’s it’s easy to see how they’re achieving that. Imagine a slightly more poppy and less gothy I Brought You My Bullets…’ era My Chemical Romance mixed with a bit of Young Guns and you’ve pretty much got these guys ticked off. Be sure to keep your eyes on Dead!, because they’re everything but. [ZR]

Netherlands native Tim Vantol comes aboard the Hit The Deck Festival bill with a few friends in tow to delivery his upbeat, high sprited folk and acoustic jams to a crowd who are more than prepared for a bit of a singalong. Indeed, it’s almost the perfectly catered drinking music that isn’t celtic punk, and numbers like ‘If We Go Down, We Will Go Together!’ manage to pull in some great paricipation from the crowd that smacks a huge grin on Vantol’s face. A definite highlight. [ZR]

Remember those original American Pie films? Remember Kevin, the guy who went out with Tara Reid’s character? Well, his actual name is Thomas Nicholas, and he’s got a rock band. His inoffesive rock-by-the-numbers offerings may not be the most exciting or innovative, but he certainly proves he’s not just an actor at heart. Not only this, along with a surprisingly great voice he’s not afraid to make and take a few jokes about his American Pie days. Definitely not an act to dismiss so quickly. [ZR]

AS IT IS – 8/10
Transatlantic pop-punks As It Is grace the stage with a set crammed full of gems from their recently released debut, ‘Never Happy, Ever After’. Singles ‘Cheap Shots & Setbacks’ and ‘Concrete’ unite a packed room of young fans in chanting along. The set concludes with the recently revived favourite ‘Can’t Save Myself’, a staple in the band’s catalogue. [KH]

DECADE – 8/10
Representing the UK grungey alt rock scene and representing a pretty solid hybrid of Basement and Hundred Reasons, Bath’s Decade manage to pull in pretty sizable crowd into the Rescue Rooms venue for the early afternoon. Avoiding material from their EP and sticking with the path they’ve gone down with last year’s debut full-length ‘Good Luck’, songs like ‘British Weather’ and ‘Callous’ have quite a big chunk of attendees singing along, and with a peek into a new track, album number two could see these guys skyrocket. [ZR]

With only three UK dates left of their farewell tour, there’s understandably quite a lot of pressure for the Michigan four-piece to deliver a show to remember. Fortunately, The Swellers give it everything they’ve got and provide an excellent set of fan favourites, including ‘Got Social’, ‘2009’ and ‘Fire Away’. The room fills with boos and cries when frontman Nick Diener announces Hit The Deck as their final festival. Fortunately, the sorrow is short lived before the band propell into arguably one of their strongest hits, ‘The Best I’ve Ever Had’. [KH]

MC LARS – 8/10
Welcome to the one and only rap set of this year’s Hit The Deck Festival. Of course, it’s DIY advocate and inspiration, MC Lars. Equipped with nothing but a laptop, a microphone, and a Nintendo video game cartridge necklace hanging from his neck. His new Game of Thrones themed single ‘Dragon Blood’ gets the room bouncing along, and bringing a fan onstage to help with ‘Mr. Raven’ with a raven puppet on one hand is a great personal touch. With hits like ‘Signing Emo’ and ‘Download This Song’ also in tow, MC Lars is a true player. For real. [ZR]

Despite being almost 15 minutes late to the stage, former My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero and his bandmates (who together become Frank Iero And The Cellabration) finally throw their guitars around their shoulders and break into a bare bone punk rock band that his former successors always drew influences from. Delivering a live show that’s far more volatile than the slightly more subdued recordings from debut album ‘Stomachaches’, it’s quite refreshing to see Iero delivering music akin to that which inspired him to help drive MCR to an almost full Rescue Rooms. Sure, the chance of Frank Iero reaching the same level of success with this outfit is slim to none, but with this more direct and intimate punk rock project, we definitely get to see more of what he’s about. [ZR]


Bringing a bit of local talent to the Stealth venue nice and early, Nottingham’s own An Empire Will Fall may be one of the heaviest bands on the whole line-up today. The dual vocal work from Michael Hussey and Rhys Targett is a somewhat impressive albeit regular approach nowadays from many bands within similar genres, and though a lot of the mix is overpowered by either the chunky buzzsaw guitars or the inhuman shrieks of either frontmen, a bounty of breakdowns are delivered. [ZR]

ASHES – 4/10
Past their ‘The Poison’ period, Bullet For My Valentine have struggled to hit that peak again, despite their ranking up the festival and touring bills album after album. Maybe it’s just they’ve become less and less relevant. So, it seems odd to see a band like Ashes come to the forefront, who sounds like they’re trying to take the BFMV sound in a bit more modern territory but not hitting it at all. What’s worse is at one point Jonny Meaney and Sam Farrelly try to harmonise, but totally fall shy of the mark. Maybe just an off day, huh guys? [ZR]

ZOAX – 9/10
Say hello to one of the most exciting up-and-coming live bands that the UK has to offer today: Zoax. A lot of this has to do with the charismatic and charming frontman that Adam Carroll, always dressed to the nines onstage and not afraid to get scuffed up with the crowd. A lot of it also has to do with their alt rock delights like ‘Burn It To The Ground’, which all act as a precursor to what will undoubtedly be a fantastic debut full-length that’ll shoot them to the front ranks of their peers. Don’t worry Zoax, there are plenty listening. [ZR]

It’s not that an exaggeration to say that Leeds based four-piece Brawlers could well be the future of British pop-rock, if not at least one of the prominent bands to shape what it will become. Sporting his almost trademark bright red beanie, frontman Harry Johns is nothing short of a musical maestro, holding a past in Dinosaur Pile-Up and Martyr Defiled, all three acts being very different to one another. The rest of the band are throwing themselves around the stage with him, playing cuts from their recent debut ‘Romantic Errors Of Our Youth’, and easily setting themselves out as one of today’s highlights. [ZR]

A Dead Harts show is far from a timid experience, and is instead one that grasps you by the scruff of your neck, looks at you face on, headbutts you a few times, throws you to the ground bleeding but ready to get up and do it all over again. Today is no different, even if the crowd stand around like they’re watching a Wimbledon match. Frontman Bax gets into the midst of things to try and rile things up, but even this alongside tracks like ‘Cult For The Haggard Youth’ fails to get things going. Dead Harts put everything into their set, sadly they don’t get everything in return. [ZR]

The Birmingham heavy hitters that are Oceans Ate Alaska have been making considerable waves over the past few months; signing a deal with the respectable Fearless Records and putting out their debut full-length, ‘Lost Isles’. It’s a shame that today they can’t quite hold up to a standard where all of this great success that’s thrown their way makes perfect sense. Frontman James Harrison’s vocals are a little lacklustre, the guitars and bass all get mixed up in a muddy mess, and already the band seem like they’re going through the motions. Not a great sign for an act who are still so young. [ZR]

American trio City Of Ships are one of the more unknown acts on today’s line-up, so it seems rather strange that they’ve been sandwiched right in the middle of proceedings and, as a result, performing to an almost empty room. The lack of attention definitely doesn’t deter them, but the problem here is that their slightly grunge tinged rock is, well, pretty beige and dull. The fact that some people pop in for one song or less before heading back out isn’t the greatest sign either. [ZR]

JUNIUS – 5/10
Equipped with their own stage lighting that helps create an ombinous feel alongside their broody slow tempo rocks, Junius sounds like Brand New’s lazier, grumpier and darker brother. Their self titlement of “Morrissey Metal” sums up what they have on offer pretty accurately and, though enjoyable for the first song or two, it soon becomes hard to work out when one song ends and the other begins, and thus attention is broken pretty quikcly. Maybe with a bit more spark, Junius may be onto something.

Though they’ve been pretty quiet for a while, the Rolo Tomassi is slowly building up to its usual roar on the approach to releasing fourth album, ‘Grievances’. It’s a shame then that this evening’s set is plagued with technical fault after technical fault from start to finish. James Spence’s keyboards are the main catalyst to the constant speed bumps, consistently cutting out. Thankfully, the rest of the band plough on for the most part, still bringing the pleasantly turbulent ‘Party Wounds’ and ‘Ex Luna Scientia’ to the table, but with the Steel City outfit’s potential far from present here, it’s a shame to see it shackled by something beyond their control. [ZR]

Given the job to close off the Stealth line-up for this year, ambient heavy hitters Devil Sold His Soul always seem to be the band who are just about to break it into the big leagues, but for some unknown reason it never happens. Whatever it is, sets like this should finally brush them into the big picture with their peers. Frontman Paul Green is finally starting to seem comfortable in the ranks with his bandmates, and song like ‘Devastator’ and ‘VIII’ sounds as ferocious and apocalyptic as they do captivating. The closing one-two of old numbers ‘Darkness Prevails’ and ‘Hope’ really hook in those in attendance line and sinker, and if there’s any justice in the world, the next album will finally see DSHS stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the genre’s elite. [ZR]

Written by Kieran Harris [KH] and Zach Redrup [ZR]