Empire State Bastard is the brainchild of Biffy Clyro frontman Simon Neil and former Oceansize man/Biffy touring guitarist Mike Vennart, rounded off by Bitch Falcon bassist Naomi Macleod and legendary drummer Dave Lombardo. And tonight on this wet and windy night in Cardiff, they’re live at Y Plas. Anyone expecting radio-friendly, Biffy-style bangers will probably be a bit disappointed, though – Empire State Bastard are visceral, heavy, metal, and absolutely brilliant, but a million miles away from the arena-rock anthems of Neil’s day job.
Even within the first few seconds of the set opener, recently-released B-side Tired, Naw?, it’s very clear that Simon Neil fronting ESB is a completely different beast to the one who fronts Biffy. Putting everything into his vocals, Neil is unleashed, writhing and jumping around – which also gives us the chance to see the mighty Dave Lombardo smash away at those drums.
It cannot be understated just how good Lombardo is – the man is an absolute machine, especially during Blusher and The Looming, doing things to his kit that just do not compute with 99.9% of other drummers. It also cannot be understated just how impressive a live band these bastards are: note-perfect in sync with each other, Macleod and Vennart bouncing off each other’s playing while perfectly complimenting Lombardo’s backing.
While Neil thanks the crowd with a “diolch yn fawr!”, Vennart also gets the rare chance to speak to the room when Neil experiences a bit of technical difficulties: a self-deprecating, “Hold on, we’re sprung a leak! … no-one ever listens to me anyway!”. Tonight, each cut from their debut album gets aired, along with some cheeky new material – the best of which is the mega sounding Corpse In The Chateau.
As revealed in Buzz’s recent interview with Vennart, the band are already working on album number two (which could possibly arrive before the next Biffy album); if they end up back in Cardiff, go see them. You won’t regret it. Do wear earplugs, though: these bastards get LOUD.
Empire State Bastard, Y Plas, Cardiff University Students Union, Thurs 9 Nov
words JOSHUA WILLIAMS