Amidst Deansgate Locks’ swish and swanky bars, across from The Comedy Club’s polished exterior, tucked unassumingly beside the train station lies Rebellion. It’s location is excellent, if not a little out of place – lest we forget how uncouth and untrendy heavy metal music is to the mass populous. But alas, defiantly it stands. It breathes a welcomingly fresh lease of life into Manchester’s rock and metal scene – swish and swanky itself but in a comfortable, unpretentious manner – offering another place to drink and mosh ’til day break alongside our usual haunts.
Opening in November 2013, its unique layout combines an intimate gig venue with a relaxed drinking environment, allowing you to experience the best of both worlds: Something that very few City Centre venues can boast. The sound too is superb. Its sound system is literally built into the place, meaning that tonight’s bands have a perfect setting to prove their worth, of which they have by the bucket load. Every last minor detail has been meticulously thought out, every possibility envisaged. Enlisting help from friends with an extended experience in sound and acoustics, the result – through hard work and hard graft – is something they can be resolutely proud of.
And so it’s Saturday night. A train rolls by on the tracks above me en route to Picadilly as I walk up to the entrance where Ainars Gruznovs, Rebellion’s owner stands relaxed, half-leaning on the door frame. He welcomes me in with a cordial handshake and a warm smile – not a pleasure extended to all punters, I must add, we’d met up a week or so beforehand to sort out press arrangements for a handful of upcoming events. The bar is moving into it’s second full year with an ambitious momentum. Now that difficult first 12 months have passed by, a pitfall so many new bars fall victim to, they are turning their focus to hosting more gigs, having bigger and more established bands play here as well as offering a good Samaritan’s hand of to support the local scene. It’s an ethos shared with mutual affection by Manchester Rocks, this city has a glorious cesspit of amazing bands to show off and this is one such place to do exactly that. Tonight’s bands for instance flaunt the city’s wealth of female fronted metal bands.
“I want Rebellion to be the place where bands want to have after their after-show parties, I want this to be the place everyone talks about,” Ainars would later tell me. His ambition is towering, but the deliverance with which he speaks gives you the sense that he may very well be able to manage it. There’s a confidence in the air around Rebellion, good vibes resonate from all around, entwining with the smoke that billows from cigarettes in the tranquil and snug smoking area. It’s a Saturday night and right there in that moment there’s no place I’d rather be. Even if does sound like a vomit-inducing cliché.
Originally intended to be a tri-pronged attack of female fronted, metallic battery, headliners Incassum were forced to pull out late on with vocalist Sharleen Kennedy suffering from illness. As a result both remaining bands were bumped up a slot with progressive-tinged Awaker making the most of their extended set time. They produced a punchy set centered around Kamila Schmidt’s Jekyll and Hyde vocals and Luke Michniewski’s dexterous guitar work. Kamila fluctuated between honey coated melodies and razor sharp, barking growls in an instant and did so astoundingly well. Pleasantly surprised faces at these brutally executed changes spread across the tightly packed crowd while Michniewski, equally as multi-faceted, churned out meaty riffs and intricate fretboard runs.
As a unit they were solid, tighter than a corset on a sumo, but the real magic lied in Kamila’s confident, commanding presence which turned their performance into something altogether more spellbinding. Their sound, no doubt bolstered by the venues kindly acoustics, was bang on. For me, too many guitarists cannot resist the urge to whack up the gain and crank up the volume, leaving clarity by the wayside. But not Awaker. Luke Michniewski’s tone is light on the drive, all the while rich in clarity and with enough bite and menace to have an impact on tonight’s crowd.
While there were a few creases in their set to be ironed out – after all this was their first set after a two year absence from the live circuit – there were far more redeeming features to their set than hiccups. Thoroughly entertaining, solid musicians and performers, expect to see Awaker rattling many more speakers throughout the year.
Step forward My Wooden Pillow to close the night’s proceedings. Founded in 2005, their uncompromising sound, a mixture of Cannibal Corpse aural assault and vocalist Michelle’s melodic allure speaks for itself. And it speaks volumes too. A romping 72 Hours kick starts their set in a guttural fashion before The Line is the first of all four songs taken from their new EP, Uncomfortable to get an airing tonight. Packing an aggressive riff thicker than a farmyard’s worth of pig shit, the rhythm section builds powerfully around it, with Michelle’s demonic vocals glaring through the mix. The guitar may be a little too bass heavy at times with some of the intricacies of their riffs and grinding snarl lost somewhere in the ether, but few can argue with the brute force of it all.
This is a solid set. They all play with brimming passion and fury and by the time they leave the stage, there isn’t a missing gap in your desire for more live music. Incassum may have had to drop out of the bill, but MWP bring enough savagery with them to make up for their adsence. In short, they know how to entertain.
They end with a quick one-two of Decapitalist and My Wooden Pillow. The former is hellishly heavy, the latter flashy, upbeat and a damn fine metal song that should see them reap rewards this year – thoroughly deserved ones at that.
After their set, bands and fans mingle, drink, smoke and relax. It really is a great atmosphere in Rebellion. I don’t think it was too late when I stumbled out of there, but it’s so easy for time to fly by in there. What a good night.
Words: Phil Weller
Photos: Michelle Adamson (Awaker) & Jo Spooner (My Wooden Pillow)