RSH5@Newcastle O2 Academy 2, May 27 2015

Two returning heavyweights, plus a plucky young contender – what was not to like about this fearsome bill? Well, plenty, if the rather weak turnout was anything to go by.  Ok it was a rainy Wednesday night in Newcastle, but come on, these bands deserve more support. 

Palm Reader certainly should have had a much larger audience for their sweaty display of punchy, intelligent metallic hardcore. It’s a wonder the Woking boys are still standing, given their recent exploits (five gigs in one day, anyone?), however scrawny vocalist Josh Mckeown is a livewire, and put everything into his performance. The young quintet has matured significantly in the last year or so and are building up a formidable reputation.  It’s easy to see why.

But if you’re really looking to have your head caved in and your internal organs turned to mush, then Raging Speedhorn are your boys. In 2014, the Corby mob returned to the fray after seven years away and thankfully, are now making music again. And it’s great music too, as new single Halfway To Hell, aired in all its adrenalin-soaked, Sabbathian glory, shows. Blending in perfectly with Speedhorn’s earlier material, the song’s infectious groove and brilliant, Iommi-worshipping outro flowed into every corner of the Academy 2.

Of course, many fans had turned up to see vocalists Frank Regan and John Loughlin spar over oldies like Super Scud and Thumper and they weren’t disappointed, as the pair stalked the stage, trading verses and wringing every last drop of aggression from Speedhorn’s sludgecore assault. They’re also contrasting characters, Loughlin a steely eyed pitbull seemingly looking for his prey, Regan a more jovial (if no less intimidating) frontman. It makes for great entertainment and gives the six-piece a live presence few bands can match.

Will Haven, unfortunately, couldn’t maintain the momentum. That’s not to say their delivery was poor – the Californians’ dense, abrasive metal/hardcore was certainly full of vigour, and vocalist Grady Avenell strained every sinew over the monstrous Carpe Diem and I’ve Seen My Fate. New tracks like The Comet, from the recently released, critically acclaimed new opus Open The Mind To Discomfort, were undoubtedly well received.  The problem? A sense of disconnection between band and audience, with barely a word said by the act to their fans, plus a slew of overly long technical breaks between songs which sapped the energy from a potentially explosive set. Add to that a sound which obliterated the subtleties of Jeff Irwin and Anthony Paganelli’s guitarwork, and you had a headline slot which fell slightly short.

Will Haven aren’t exactly regular visitors to Tyneside and ardent fans wouldn’t have felt dissatisfied by this appearance. Live and on record they remain a powerful band forging their own, awkward path through the heavy music scene. It’s just that on this Wednesday night, they were outdone by a bunch of noisy oiks from Northamptonshire. Raging Speedhorn are well and truly back.

Richard Holmes