Skindred, Therapy? and Black Spiders @ Newcastle Academy, April 12 2012

A tour built around shots of rock’s favourite tipple always appealed long before the identity of Jagermeister’s brand ambassadors was revealed.

But once retro metal mob Black Spiders, legendary agit rockers Therapy? and reggae metal troupe Skindred were confirmed as the main event’s big hitters this quickly became a must-see gig and it never failed to live up to the pre-show hype. 

Black Spiders have been going about their business with an endearing zeal for some years now – as far back as March 2009 RUSHONROCK hailed their performance in support of Darkness offshoot Stone Gods as ‘brilliant’ and the angst-ridden arachnids just get better and better.

Using three guitars in the finest tradition of the mighty Maiden, and yet still sounding more like the natural heirs to Black Sabbath, the effervescent quintet rip through a slew of fan favourites and revel in delivering a raucous version of Kiss Tried To Kill Me.

But it’s not all good. A big fan of mid-song banter – and always keen to promote his band name at every opportunity – frontman Pete ‘Spider’ Spiby does tend to grate after a while with his fist-pumping challenges to those out front. Cue blank faces and exits to the bar where many Spiders’ virgins and Therapy? fans were concerned.

The contrast between Sheffield’s rising stars and Andy Cairns’ veteran post-punk trio could hardly be greater. Where the Spiders make full use of their triple axe attack, Therapy? live by the old adage that less is more – or at least that’s what you’d think. What followed was the loudest set the Academy has heard all year with Cairns viciously extracting every last note out of his trusty guitars.

Opening up with the classic Teethgrinder was a masterstroke – as was a little reminder that Ulster’s finest have made Newcastle their second home of late. Recording their last two studio albums on Tyneside and signing to the local Blast label, Therapy? have struck up a special relationship with the Toon.

The new tunes culled from A Brief Crack Of Light – including latest single Living In The Shadow Of The Terrible Thing – clearly have a place within a back catalogue bulging with classic, singalong, alt-rock anthems. But there’s an argument that Therapy? will never better the brilliance of Die Laughing, from the UK top five album Troublegum, in terms of fusing pop sensibility with a heavy riff and seriously edgy lyrics.

Still worth watching 20 years after Teethgrinder burst into the UK singles charts with a nasty efficiency, Therapy? continue to push the boundaries and punish the eardrums. Those looking for the highlight of the night found it right here – courtesy of Cairns and his talented cohorts.

So to Skindred. RUSHONROCK‘s first taste of the Welsh reggae-metal crew was on Download’s main stage last summer and it’s fair to say Benji Webbe and his boyos blew the roof of their temporary Donington home that day.

Made for bigger stages – and yet only recently progressing from the club circuit – the band’s unique ‘Tom Jones meets The Prodigy doing Inner Circle’ approach is as intriguing as it is intoxicating.

Webbe has the vocal range to nail just about any tune he wishes to tackle but remains at his best whipping the masses into an arm-waving frenzy with chantalong classics World Domination and the blistering Destroy The Dancefloor.

Visually and aurally Skindred offer something different to just about every other act out there. And different is good. Energy levels modelled a nuclear power plant and a professionalism worthy of their top billing on the Jagermeister tour make the Newport quintet a quite thrilling watch.

With 2011’s Union Black throwing up their best work to date it’s clear Skindred are on the brink of a major breakthrough. In creating a band that’s very cool and just a little bit crazy, it would be foolish to underestimate Webbe’s feat.

Simon Rushworth