Flats’ new Black Sabbath influences are apparent immediately as they kick off their set with a bleak, dirgeful track, rife with an oppressive, leaden sound. The track is slow – a clear break from Flats’ fast, anarcho-punk work. The group still sounds aggressive and heavy, but heavy in a different, almost literal way. This is not necessarily what I was expecting from the group, whose forth-coming single and back-catalogue is fast, frenzied, and rarely exceeds two minutes in length. However, this slower work does add a new depth of pace and aggression to their live set, albeit aggression of a more laboured, dark kind.
They rip through their set at a break-neck speed, switching between faster tracks and slower numbers with seamless agility. Drummer Samir is clearly accomplished, capable of quick tempo changes and complicated drum fills and patterns. He works well with bassist Craig, who together are a solid, stampeding rhythm section; the group’s metal influences can be heard directly through their varied, complex and exotic rhythmic structures. Bass and guitar work nicely together too, with the bass often taking a thundering lead, accompanied by nasty little pinches from the guitar. Luke certainly can master the axe though, creating licks to rival Toni Iommi himself, both in sound and style.
In a live setting though, it is lead singer Dan Devine that pulls the most focus. He sound quite demented at times, fusing post-hardcore and death metal guttural screaming. The lyrical content of Devine’s work ultimately fades into insignificance within the context of this delivery. I do not want to belittle or ignore the lyrical content in itself, because it obviously has a meaning that is fuelling his angry fire, but the literal sound of the vocals gives off a definite air of surly teenage aggressiveness and undirected anger. Devine does not completely loose control with his vocals though; he seems to concentrate on honing the full pelt of his vocal chords, making them as loud and snarling as possible. The delivery is high reminiscent of a teenager screaming at its mother, making a point of shouting as loudly as possible so that every syllable hits you square in the face.
Flats are certainly an aggressive sonic force, but they deliver appealing music too – they are not just raw emotion without a solid musical foundation. Their diversification into slower, heavier tracks is a nice addition, but for me the faster tracks are the most successful in their set. The upbeat tempo leads to more hooks, virtuosity, and a beat that your rhythmic capacities can grab onto. The more punk driven numbers also have a real energy and vibe that transfers well to the audience. I guess that is the difference between punk anger and metal anger – one is based in belligerence and one is based in despondency, and that vibe definitely transfers to the audience. For me therefore, more of the hard, fast tracks would be great. However, I must say the group’s whole set had palpable power and aggression and many interesting aspects and musical references. Flats are clearly a musical force to be reckoned with.