Vex Red : Bristol Fleece & Firkin

A "mesmerising" NME 5.0 gig...

Let’s get one thing straight. Aldershot’s [a]Vex Red[/a]

are not — repeat not — a nu-metal band. Forget the Ross Robinson connection for a moment, and consider these facts. Singer-guitarist Terry Abbott will take the stage tonight barefoot, wearing a skinny tie, a hair-band and lots of make-up. Having draped his mic-stand in flowers and fairy lights, he’ll play most of the gig with his eyes tightly shut. He’ll also accuse us of being “a bunch of wild animals”. These are not the actions of a Fred Durst wannabe.

[a]Vex Red[/a]

are in truth a vaguely gothic glam-metal band, and quite an excellent one at that. With two extraordinary singles and a solid Robinson-produced debut album under their belts, they arrive at this NME 5.0 show oozing confidence. Or rather, Abbott oozes confidence — because tonight, we barely notice that his band are there at all. Presumably, the Abbott-free instrumental ‘Cause And Solution’ is intended as a reminder.

The gig gets off to an amazing start, with the slow-burning opener ‘Venom & Vision’ segueing into ‘Sleep Does Nothing For You’. “You said you’d help me,” screeches Abbott at its climax, repeating the words with a mixture of glowering rage and wide-eyed panic. It’s mesmerising.

‘Itch’ is even better. As one of the best debut singles of 2001, it still offers the most conclusive proof yet of [a]Vex Red[/a]

’s potential. To follow it, the band rip into ‘Clone Jesus’ and ‘The Closest’, mustering a ferocity barely hinted at on the recorded versions.

As with [a]Smashing Pumpkins[/a]

and a href=””>Nine Inch Nails

, the searing angst in [a]Vex Red[/a]

’s music can occasionally give way to outright pomposity, and their egotism certainly gets the better of them a few times tonight. ‘Bully Me’ aims to be an epic ballad, but ends up sounding turgid and overblown. Likewise, the B-sides that follow it — ‘Fast Cars’ and ‘Tired’ — fall somewhat short of their mark. But they quickly recover, and recent single ‘Can’t Smile’ manages to unite the sensitive goths in the audience with the beered-up moshers — a neat trick that hints at the complexity of this band’s appeal.

Not a nu-metal band, then. But very possibly the best new rock band in Britain.

Niall O’Keefe