LIVE REVIEW: Employed To Serve, Palm Reader, Cathouse, Glasgow, 10/03/2020
With this looking set to be one of the last tours before the widespread cancellation of many live events due to the ongoing pandemic, we knew we couldn’t miss the chance to catch Palm Reader and Employed To Serve playing Glasgow’s Cathouse.
It cannot be overstated just how underrated a band Palm Reader are. They blend angular, abrasive technical hardcore with classic post-hardcore in a way that lets them create songs that are as furious as they are effecting. It means that almost every single one of their tracks is a masterclass in emotional devastation; in the best possible way.
Few bands can match the energy, aggression or technicality of the band’s performance. Somehow they can almost effortlessly balance a cathartic performance with an almost recital level attention to detail. This band deserve much more attention than they ever receive. 9/10
There is an argument to be made that there is too much of a good thing. Employed To Serve have been pretty ubiquitous on the UK underground scene for the past couple of years. Barely a metal or hardcore tour goes by that the band aren’t on. Not without good reason, since the band released their latest record, Eternal Forward Motion, they can barely move for rave reviews, magazine features and Instagram story tags.
If you’ve seen Employed To Serve a lot lately, the band aren’t offering you much differently. The set-list is largely similar, and they’re playing to their strengths. What is apparent though is that every one of these endless tours has made the band stronger. It’s like a gym routine. You do it over and over and every time you lift a little bit more. Which is helpful when you’re throwing about riffs as gargantuan and heavy as Employed To Serve are.
The additional element to the band’s abrasive, in your face, ferocious performance is a light show. It’s a small amount of production, but it shows a bit of ambition beyond a lot of their peers. They’re trying to highlight their dynamics and throw stark contrast between where they pummel and where they give you the smallest amount of space to breathe.
In total honesty, there’s nothing to really criticize in the band’s performance. They’re an incredibly tight unit, even with a fill-in drummer, and they bring a set that is as hard as it is sophisticated. The slightly rawer material of The Warmth Of A Dying Sun still has a little bit more bite than the tracks off the newest record, which are designed for much bigger stages, and in venues like this, that kind of thing hits better.
If there’s any chink in the band’s armour, it’s that some of the turbo-macho and aggressive stage banter feels a little cliché. Its sincerity shouldn’t be doubted, but it does feel pretty simplistic when paired with the band’s classy song-writing and sonic sensibilities.
It’s clear from the incredible response of the audience that Employed to Serve are well-loved. The floor barely stops spinning and choruses are screamed back so loud they can almost be heard over the ravenous volume the band play it. All that being said, the best of responses and the tightest of performances can’t hide the fact that the room tonight is severely underpopulated. Possibly a sign that cult status rather than areas lie in the future of this band.
That would be a shame for both of the band’s on tight’s bill who are two of the finest examples of heavy music anywhere in the world. Possibly just underappreciated in their own time… 8/10
Words & pictures: Calum McMillan