Soil, Evile & Breed 77 at Sub 89 (Reading, UK), 6 June 2012

One of the very few Download Festival warm ups outside London. London’s loss is Reading’s gain.

This show was billed as a warm-up before England’s famous Download Festival for tonight’s headliners Soil. At the same time there were roughly ten-thousand Download warm-up shows taking place in London. But here at one of the best venues in this part of the country, the crowd and bands were in excellent voice.

Gibraltar’s greatest kicked things off in predictably excellent fashion. Breed 77 is preparing for their Download show in a strange way. By the time you read this it is very likely that Breed will have finished, given their early slot. But as a warm up to their acoustic set at one of the country’s biggest rock and metal festivals the Breed guys play a full-on electric show. Their impressive acoustic shows have been going down a storm but with amps cranked up is where they truly flourish.

Despite being left one man down at short notice thanks to guitarist Danny Felice's back problem, the remaining “stressed” band members, including guitarist Pedro Caparros, didn’t put a foot wrong. Those new to Breed wouldn’t have noticed the slightly simplified guitar sound and the older fans just didn’t care as they rocked out to the likes of World’s On Fire and The Cranberries’ classic Zombie.

Quite why Evile is not playing on one of the mainstages at this year’s Download remains a mystery, especially when the likes of Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth are performing; the boys from Huddersfield would fit right in. Looking young but assured they deliver to the Reading crowd yet another near-flawless set made up of their heaviest and thrashiest songs mostly from the albums Infected Nations and Five Serpent’s Teeth. Cult (that’s an ‘L’) and In Dreams Of Terror inspiring some awesome hair windmilling in the crowd.

It’s about time heavy metal had a new, true eccentric. This odd-shaped hole is filled by lead guitarist Ol Drake with his jerky movements and darting, starey eyes – of course with exceptional guitar skills. Ben Carter is a big lad and his drums must rue the day that he chose them such is the brilliant battering they receive.

With all the rain and fetid standing water at Download the only chance you will get to see Soil is wherever Ryan McCombs is screaming his lungs out. The band is clearly having lots of fun together, teasing each other almost all night on the Reading stage. A McCombs-original era greatest hits set is performed with the likes of Halo, The One and Unreal getting loud singalongs. McCombs’ between song banter is hilarious and he regularly sits at the front of the stage to take a breather engaging the crowd with his “i’m too old for this shit” joking, when he wasn’t breaking a ceiling light with his mic stand.

Tonight he and his band bound onto the stage. After leaving the band in 2004, McCombs rejoined his bandmates last year as they celebrated the tenth anniversary of breakout album, Scars. I saw them on that original tour and when they open here with a charging Breaking Me Down it’s like those seven years apart never happened.