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02 Academy 2, Islington, London, England

August 25th, 2014

Rage Sadler and Dan Mailer (Kaine)
Pic: Neil Arnold

It was around 20 years ago that as a forlorn teenager I was told by Noise Records that San Francisco Bay Area experimental thrashers Mordred were no more. With Scott Holderby leaving the band, and their fourth studio release The Next Room opting for grungier nuances before an amicable split, I never thought I’d experience the same highs as the 1991 and 1992 London Marquee shows, and yet here we are again in 2014 – coming full circle – with a UK tour. The word “surreal” just doesn’t do it justice.

Unfortunately, Brighton rockers Furyon had to remove themselves from the bill due to frontman Matt Mitchell hemorrhaging one of his vocal chords. However, East Anglia metalheads Kaine were able step in at the last moment and proved to be a worthy replacement.

Kaine were impressive and the perfect band to get the sweat dripping and heads banging. Their brand of melodic, progressive metal with thrashier touches resulted in a number of memorable numbers, bolstered for this show by three excellent guitarists; Rage Sadler on the rhythm – who also provides lead vocals – with Anthony Murch and newest recruit for this tour Saxon Davids on leads. The band also features a sturdy drummer in Chris MacKinnon, and an exceptional bass player by the name of Dan Mailer, who also shares vocals.

Having formed in 2009 and with two releases (2012’s Falling Through Freedom and 2014’s The Waystone) under their belt, Kaine took to the stage like young masters, churning out some excellent New Wave Of British Heavy Metal-influenced material in the form of superb tracks such as ‘Solidarity’, ‘Resistance’ and ‘Quality Of Madness’.

Admittedly, the band had more hair between them than the entire audience put together, but age most certainly didn’t hinder the crowd when Mordred took to the stage at 9:20 pm.

By this point, the venue was packed, merchandise was flying off the stall and the San Francisco rockers – armed with touring drummer Jeff Gomes – literally carried on from where they left off in 1992, to the same rapturous applauses and gasps of hero worship.

Scott Holderby and Art Liboon (Mordred)
Pic: Neil Arnold

Frontman Scott Holderby, clad in black and hair slick, addressed the crowd with wild and wide-eyed appreciation; the sextet thrashing into ‘State Of Mind’, fully armoured by the distinctive guitar chops and licks of Danny White and James Sanguinetti, who with rather emotional ease rolled back the years under those sizzling stage lights.

‘Spectacle Of Fear’ introduced itself via Jeff Gomes’ drum avalanche and that distinctive Bay Area chug which kept the hardcore headbangers in attendance more than happy. But for many it was the jerking, soulful, hip-hoppin’ experimentalism that so many craved. The quirky lick of Danny White’s string caress gave us the unexpected glory of ‘Fragrance Of Vagrants’ (which appeared as ‘The Vagrant’ on 1992’s Vision EP). As a story of homelessness it ached of cosmic funk; Scott Holderby’s soulful croon as versatile as ever and comforted by Aaron “DJ Pause” Vaughn’s stabbing scratches and, of course, Art Liboon’s mesmerising bass slaps.

From 1991’s mercurial In This Life opus Mordred gave us a veritable feast of treats, the best of these being the epileptic streetwise groove of ‘The Strain’, the epic ‘Killing Time’ and above all the psychedelic twists, turns and downright spasmodic frenzy of ‘Esse Quam Videri’, where the crowd didn’t know whether to breakdance or mosh! DJ Pause took the mic with great comfort for the rap injection but he truly shone with the slamming ‘Close Minded’; a smörgåsbord of heavy thrash chugs and hostile raps which had the crowd bobbing up and down and giving Mr. Holderby a run for his money in the showman stakes.

Elsewhere, it was a case of the band showcasing the sort of material that made them light years ahead of their time. The cover of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Johnny The Fox’ is something they’ve made their own since 1991; lyrically, it suits the boys down to a T. The fleeting ‘Every Day’s A Holiday’ is equally joyous with Holderby barking “I work up a sweat” as he bobs up and down like a maniacal jack-in-the-box, while the soundtrack to our lives – Liboon’s constant jarring slap bass and DJ Pause’s ice-cool samples and scratch breaks – litter the progressive spray of ‘Reach’ and new track ‘The Baroness’, which is spattered with Scotty’s punchy tones.

Of course, the best tunes are always saved until last according to some, but in Morded’s case ‘Falling Away’ is simply sublime; the soaring guitar chords – resulting in more cascading droplets of sweat from Danny White’s cap – and those unforgettable snippets of “Get on down” via the nimble fingers of DJ Pause. “Take me away from here” echoes Scotty, but we know he wants to stay on that stage forever, surrounded by friends who in union are dancing, moshing, bopping and rocking within a sea of sweat and electrified energy.

Danny White (Mordred)
Pic: Neil Arnold

Sanguinetti and White have to be the most underrated double axe-team in metal history, providing metallic grooves aplenty, and with the stirring crunch of ‘Sever And Splice’ and the tumbling bass introducing ‘In This Life’ rounding off what can only be described as the perfect night, one can only hope that as the goose bumps die down the band will realise just how much they’ve been missed on these shores.

Back in 1991 I heralded Mordred’s legendary Marquee show as the great night of my life, but while many are quick to get caught up in the moment I can safely say I was wrong, because some 23 years later I’m finding myself saying it again. Without a shadow of a doubt Mordred will always be the coolest band to grace stage, vinyl, cassette, disc and ears, and while they may also be the finest band to never make it big, their cult status is preserved forever in the memories of those who once again were privileged enough to cram themselves into the O2 Academy 2 tonight. It’s been emotional… very emotional. If only every day was a bank holiday like this…

Neil Arnold