A Pale Horse Named Death – Transport League Live at Birmingham O2 Academy 3

First on the bill are local act Eradikator, a band I’ve caught on a couple of previous occasions at other events. They play an attractive style of Thrash, though there are maybe twenty or so in for the start of their set, with that number growing steadily through their set to around triple that by the end. It’s certainly likeable and ably played with those in – even though most hid at the back – seeming to enjoy the thrashy grooves laid out. The 30-minute set goes without a hitch and provides a good, fast start to the evening.

Transport League, a band I admittedly have not previously encountered, take to the stage, with vocalist Tony sporting a White Zombie shirt – the band that my own promoter and DJ name comes from, so I feel a spark before they even begin. When they do, this grows bigger still as their sound is highly reminiscent of early Clutch, which they create with aplomb and a certain amount of ease. The crowd has grown a touch further and people are quite quickly swept up by their memorable hooks and driving bass lines, with a good level of humour found in both the lyrics and bits of chat as guitars retune between songs. They will have certainly picked up some new fans today – they certainly did in myself.

Headliner time and as welcoming as Sal Abruscato and the boys in APHND had been prior to the gig during my interview and chatting afterwards, it was time for their game faces and something a touch more sinister in their doom ramblings. Sadly, through zero fault of the band themselves, it was not due to be a gig to remember. The band’s discomfort to a man is clearly visible by the lack of relaxation from any of them – they were more tense than when I saw them during the first tour several years previously. Sal had to repestedly ask for his monitors to go up as he cannot hear himself, something that becomes more apparent as the set progresses, to the point Sal pushes the microphone stand over after repeatedly asking the incompetent sound technician to make what should be simple fixes, yet poor skills from him lead to feedback and several other issues.

Erik’s basslines disappear almost entirely from the ear for the majority of the gig, as his sound is constantly reduced, even when he tried to remedy this by turning himself up on stage. New guitarist to the fold Joe barely has his guitar register for half of the songs – never more blaringly obvious than when the guitarists have a jam off against each other at the end of ‘Cracks In The Walls’ and only one side can be heard. We keep losing Sal’s vocals and his guitar at various points, when a quick and simple layout change to the stage would have fixed this, leading to the act of frustration mentioned above, before losing his monitors altogether makes his job all but impossible. The band themselves put a lot of effort in and must be commended for doing so, against the odds stacked up against them by the incompetent staff member, who in turn quickly disappears from ciew and hides at the end of the gig. The set gets cut a touch shorter than had been initially planned and we get no encores, as both the band and the audience have had enough, with the crowd eventually getting behind the band after some cajoling. A night to forget for A Pale Horse Named Death and the audience tonight, after enjoyable opening sets from the support, though they all come out to meet the fans who stay after, thanking them for both coming put and staying despite the horrendous sound issues. Another sign of quality from the band, despite what may well have felt like sabotage from the sound desk.

WORDS BY DJ ASTROCREEP