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Lowdrive/Shadow Smile/Firegarden/Apollo's Heart –

Corporation, Sheffield, Friday 10th December, 2021

Now it's early doors and there a good few in here already. Word must have got around how good the opening band, Apollo's Heart. Straight away they looked and sounded familiar. They used to be called Kickstart Friday who I recall being really impressed with after seeing them a couple of years ago at a venue, funnily enough on the same bill as tonight's headliners.

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Although pretty young they come across really professional and obviously have got a few gigs under their belt already. They simply ooze with pzzazz and a mass of freshness whose musical and vocal approaches are like a melting pot of Led Zeppelin and Budgie all in one with their own unique twist on the top.

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They call their style 'Classic Rock on Steroids' which is about right to be honest with highlights being cuts like 'Supermarine' with its intriguing vocal improvisation meets the the guitar melody section or 'I'm No Fool' with the exquisite arrangement throughout with a bit of Heepness in there. This is retro fantastico!

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Up next are Firegarden who seem to be having some technical issues going down with the leads and guitar tricks. When the three guys get up on stage you would not realise it since Mr. Mann appears to settle into the set with pure ease, every time appearing to miniaturise his Fender Stratocaster because of his tall and stocky body frame.

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Seeing Jake play up close is like experiencing a younger version of Ritchie Blackmore but without the ego getting in the way of the performance whilst Ashley Tuck (Drums) and Chris Heald (Bass) are the perfect mould and foil as the rhythm section of the band but that would be a bit of dis-compliment to refer them to that alone, since both stand up in their own right as precision presences and top-tier musicians.

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Highlights in the 4 song set include the opening 'Crabs' with its Malmsteeen meets Progness fury or the racing Purplesque '80's Sci-Fi Space Battle' that also has the odd flavour of Uli Jon Roth and early Di'Anno Iron Maiden in there. Here's to a brand new album in 2022!

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Shadow Smile are an energetic bunch with the combining talents of Connor McGovern (Vocals), Ciaran Frost & Adam Smith (Both on Guitar), Ethan Goebel-Todd (Bass) plus Joe Fletcher (Drums). Mr M is a vibrant frontman with a strong shouty but great singing voice too who have an up-to-date metal sound with elements of nu-metal and old schoolness power too. Slick, tight and grab the room full here pretty quickly.

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Standouts include the moderately tempo'd 'Digital God'; the brutal thramming and pulverising 'Left Hand Path' with its bawly bits and grinding distortiveness or 'Nameless' with the echoey, chanting backing tracks. They must have impressed a few because they've now managed to wangle themselves onto the bill of Rockin' The Bowl 2022.

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Well for me, it's been a long time coming seeing Lowdrive headline their own show – unless I have missed out on any elsewhere in the past... but this is definitely their premier top of the bill show at the Corporation after playing various other dates in the past as a support band.

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The local stoner rock gods who have put their work in over the years are as you can imagine playing to very much a packed audience in the small room who may even be here on the strength of their recent Don Valley Bowl Show on the main stage.

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Ambling onto the boards, they certainly mean business with Frontman, Andy Sawf sporting an original NCB Work Jacket which he took off early on and orange-tinted shades with the other guys fitting onto that smallish space perfectly – I am of course talking about John Hodgson (Guitar), Satio Von G (Bass) & Mat Washington (Drums) before you ask.

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Their doomy grooves prove very addictive with stonking examples tonight being 'Into The Light' with it's winding rhythm and stomping riff; the moody, grinding and bass-heavy 'Left For Dead' with its raw throaty chorus section.

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Then there's the evil 'n' honest blast that is 'Into The Fire' with the coagulating guitar work and crashing chords; the throbbing ballsy greatness of 'The Last Stand' and encoring with the Southern Rock meets later Beatle sounding 'Reflection' which is worth mentioning more-so due to the beautiful psychedelic pink Fender Telecaster that John is playing which he's had for a few years – hope he brings this baby out more often!

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Lowdrive are a band who have the ability to turn their cultured flock onto an embryonic boiling and blistering furnace of spitting hard-edged rock that engulfs every ounce of their available senses. This allows them to escape any shit they are dealing with in their everyday lives which forcefully channels their energies into every note, passage and resonance they encounter throughout the bands epic package of songs.

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After this killer performance, I wholeheartedly look forward to new music on CD which should greet our hands and stereos some time in 2022!

By Glenn Milligan

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