Live Review: Butcher Babies – The Cathouse, Glasgow 19/04/2016

Glasgow’s Cathouse Rock Club – famed, ironically, for being almost too small to swing a cat in – was the scene of a triumphant (and hopefully deliberate) celebration of women in heavy music last Tuesday night. Three bands – one local, two international – and four amazing frontwomen came together to prove that, no matter what you look like or sound like, talent WILL get you a foot in the door of the music industry.

First up, Scots Splintered Halo took to the stage. With the band members wearing anonymous masks, attention centres almost exclusively on vocalist Evilyn, who paces the stage looking for all the world like a female Marilyn Manson, albeit a sexy, PVC-clad one. Her voice proves to be just as bewitching and very versatile as she slips between almost childlike creepy lisping to enraged roars, angelic clean singing and reptilian screams throughout their short set. Despite suffering from a chest infection, she soldiers on, declaring that that band has “never cancelled a gig, ever”. Musically, they sit somewhere between the gothy pop rock of New Year’s Day and the emotional wallop of Bad Pollyanna, with just enough venom in Evilyn’s vocal to stop it veering too close to pop, which she proves by lashing the audience with her screech. It’s a combination that goes down very well with the growing crowd, who are completely captivated by her.

With the room nicely warmed up, it’s time for Canada’s Sumo Cyco to take to the stage. Like Splintered Halo, they are female fronted, but that’s where the similarity ends: frontwoman Syke Sweetnam may possess a voice that’s as astonishing as the gothy Evilyn, but their styles – both vocally and sartorially – are almost polar opposites. Belying her petite size and cute Forties pinup look, Sweetnam’s performance is at once powerful and cajoling – rather like Gwen Stefani at her most rocking, but with added fire. Her coquettish stage persona makes her a giddily entertaining figure; the crowd simply can’t take their eyes off her. Sound wise, Sumo Cyco are a rather genre-busting mix of styles, from industrial to pop, dance, and modern metal – a bit like In This Moment’s most recent output, but with added elements, such as reggae (check out their covers of both Skindred’s ‘Move Mountains’ and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Give It Away’ for an idea); if you crossed the aforementioned ITM with Stefani’s No Doubt you’d be somewhere close. However you may care to describe them, tonight they presented the crowd with an energetic and ridiculously entertaining set.

A darkened stage heralds the arrival of the stars of tonight: ladies and gents, it’s the Butcher Babies! (screams of excitement!). Racing onstage they immediately display the ‘Duracell bunny’ levels of energy they are famous for, headbanging in tandem, covering every inch of the stage and unleashing some truly astonishing screams (Heidi) and roars (Carla). With an “Are you guys ready to party?!” from Heidi they begin – and literally do not let up for a second.

While there’s no denying how visually arresting both of them are (at times their demands for crowd activity go unheeded as the men in the room are simply too busy gawping at them), Butcher Babies put on one hell of a performance, both vocally and physically – and when they sing together, arms slung around each other, it’s simply magical. They each have their own distinct onstage persona: Heidi is the chattier of the two, and more likely to get visibly lost in the music, while Carla is rather catlike, slinky and intense. The rest of the band keep up superbly, supplying the music at an energy level that is nothing less than essential, full of machine gun riffs, chugging grooves and the occasional blastbeats and breakdowns; this is metal as modern as it gets, pioneered by two powerful and mesmerising young women.

Covering music from their albums and their EP of cover versions, the biggest crowd responses are reserved for recent single ‘Monsters Ball’ (huge singalong), their giddy cover of ‘They’re Coming to Take Me Away’ (almost homicidally gleeful), and the stripped back clean vocals in the heavily emotional ‘Thrown Away’ (which Heidi speaks about in our interview….head over to DGM TV), proving that they are certainly no one trick ponies. Utterly captivated, the fans – particularly the young metalhead girls at the barrier – sing along passionately (and wipe away a tear or two during the latter number, no doubt).

After a brief pause Butcher Babies return for their encore, asking “Do you want some more?”, to which some wag in the audience responds “Obviously!”, to general hilarity. Still giggling, they launch into ‘Magnolia Blvd’, followed by a medley of a few tracks from debut album ‘Goliath’, and finally ‘Axe Wound’ – not before Heidi apologises to Carla for almost bumping her offstage with an ill-timed hip thrust (“You went back, I went forward – it happens!”). Astonishingly, Heidi hops off the barrier where she and Carla are perched and sings in the crowd for the last half of their final song, with the ecstatic crowd forming a circle pit around her and headbanging with her. What a way to end a show!

Tonight was truly a showcase for ‘girl power’, without a Spice Girl in sight. The three bands, and four blisteringly talented female vocalists, took all of the naysayers’ opinions about women in heavy metal, and blew them to the fucking moon. There’s absolutely no doubt that the industry is a richer place because of it. More of this, please!

Butcher Babies Set List

National Bloody Anthem Blonde Girls All Look the Same The Butcher Gravemaker Igniter Jesus Needs More Babies For His War Machine Mr Slowdeath Monster’s Ball Dead Man Walking Thrown Away They’re Coming to Take Me Away

ENCORE Magnolia Blvd Medley Axe Wound

Review: Melanie Brehaut

Images: Ritchie Birnie

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