Panic Room had originally intended a more extensive tour in November and December 2013. But the band’s decision not to book any further live dates until they had a new lead guitarist in place meant that they ended up putting the tour back until the new year, leaving the two already booked dates as their last live appear appearances of 2013.
The first of these took place in Shildon, a replacement for an earlier show in Darlington cancelled due to the unfortunate closure of the rock club. The replacement venue, Shildon Civic Hall is a typical modern multi-purpose arts centre, and despite the remote location still managed to attract enough of the faithful to make a decent crowd.
Laying out the hall with tables and chairs was probably a mistake. In theory the high stage should have meant people could stand at the front without blocking the views of those seated further back, but in practice it meant that almost everybody remained seated, which did rob the gig of a bit of energy.
Panic Room invited Winter in Eden, a band with a strong local following, to open the show, and by the number of t-shirts in evidence Winter in Eden’s fanbase swelled the crowd quite a bit. For those not familiar with their music, they could be described as “Nightwish with a British accent”, with a very impressive vocalist in Vicky Johnson, and more emphasis on lead guitar than many of the Euro symphonic metal acts.
Though marred slightly by poor sound (I thought they were a tad too loud), they put in a an energetic performance drawn heavily from their second album “Echoes of Betrayal”. The band have been in the studio recording their third album, and played one new number from it, sounding like an interesting progression of their sound.
For Panic Room fans the two big questions were “How was new guitarist?” and “What were the new songs like?”. After the departure of founding lead guitarist Paul Davies at the beginning of the year, the band played their spring tour with Morpheus Rising guitarist Pete Harwood standing in, who did a remarkably good job. This Shildon show marked the début of Adam O’Sullivan who joins as a permanent member of the band.
I think Adam made a good enough first impression. He’s still finding his feet to some extent, and probably needs a couple more gigs to grow into the role, but he’s clearly got the chops to do the guitar parts justice. He takes an interestingly different approach on some of the newer material, with volume-control atmospherics. One thing I noticed was he doesn’t play slide at all, which makes some older numbers, such as the cover of “Bitches Chrystal” sound a little different.
As for the new songs, they played no less than five numbers from the forthcoming album “Incarnate” due for release early in the new year. It’s difficult to judge new material on one listen, given Panic Room’s sophisticated and layered sound, but all five new songs sounded good, and they don’t sound like retreads of things the band have done before either. There are some classic Anne-Marie soaring melodies, some out-and-out rock, and some interestingly different arrangements that seem a step back from the wall-of-sound approach of SKIN.
Panic Room’s final gig of 2013 is their annual pre-Christmas show at The Robin 2 in Bilston on December 1st.