Live Review: Employed to Serve - The Wheatsheaf, Oxford 04/11/2017

Having performed brutally all year round, at countless festivals and a tour with Milk Teeth, Employed to Serve have left no prisoners at their live shows. The Wheatsheaf was no exception, as we caught them when they played in Oxford on their recent run of tour dates. 

After running a little late to the show I managed to catch the last fifteen minutes of the opening set. The moment I entered the room it was looking pretty packed out, and within that minute of passing the door to the stage I could already see this night turning out to be an incredible and sweaty night. First up were local band Resolve, I've been checking up on these over social media for a while now so I've been waiting to catch them live. Resolve surely opened the show in a phenomenal way, the energy they put into their set and the vibe the crowd were giving off was absolutely insane. From the last part of the set I did catch, the crowded room were moving their heads to the beat of the drums. Resolve, had one of those sets that really stood out for me and for someone who is usually a fan of more chilled out pop punk seeing a heavy show is something unusual, nevertheless it didn’t prevent me from tapping my foot along to the music. In the short space of time I had to catch these guys, the round of applause they received as soon as they finished a song was nothing less than deserved. In my eyes resolve certainly put Oxfords Hardcore Scene back on the map, and it was way more than overdue and honestly seeing an opening band perform to a crowded room and with the amount of energy, and the exceptional performance they had portrayed tonight was not something to be missed. Even when I left the room I could hear the crowd complimenting on the killer opening set this band had just performed.

Resolve - Wheatsheaf - Oxford - 04.11.17

Next up were Oxford's own hardcore band MSRY, the last time I saw these guys I play I ended up leaving with a busted nose, so if that doesn’t explain how hard a show they put on I don’t know what will, nonetheless that didn’t prevent me catching them live again. Over the years I have had the pleasure of seeing the band develop their musical talents. Tonights set was absolutely incredible. The set consisted of heavy riffs, strong vocals, with a high amount of energy from the four piece.

MSRY  - Wheatsheaf - Oxford - 04.11.17

After their recent release of their EP MSRY I was certainly excited to see just how “miserable” the band were intending to be, however the set was the complete opposite, the amount of times I turned around I would find the fans headbanging away to the beat of the drums. If I could point out a part of their set where the band weren’t bouncing around or the crowd were moshing, it wouldn’t have really been as much of a hardcore set. I couldn’t doubt any part of MSRY’s set and I’m not one to say that because I can, but honestly in that blink of an eye, the vocalist was jumping off the stage and performing into the crowd as much as he could and crowd interaction is a big part of a show for me. Knowing the show these four put on, I definitely expected some part of it to end up with the vocalist ending up topless. Every track the band performed during their time on stage constantly received an even bigger round of applause from the crowd in the room, one of the highlights of the set was a cover of Cancer Bats, and holy shit, did the band own that song and perform it like it was their own, fans were singing along with the band and honestly it was a high note for them to close their set on. This is a band I would highly recommend catching live or taking a listen to if you get the chance, especially if you like the heavier side of music.

Next to grace the stage were Slabdragger, now after following in the footsteps of the two previous bands, the crowd were ready for this performance. Slabdragger had a perfect balance of both clean vocals and heavy riffs and it worked wonderfully. With the notes they were playing getting heavier as the set went on, it was nothing unexpected with the heavy show being put on tonight. If the unclean vocals didn’t make me jump at times I would be lying as it was a moment I had unexpected. From what I saw and heard of Slabdragger tonight the band liked to have a speed up of chords and heavier vocals to end each song and in the mid of the moment when there would be a minute of silence the crowd would cheer. Honestly from start to finish of the set the mosh pits appeared to be never ending, I don’t think I found a second where Slabdraggers set didn’t bring me back to the time of when I first saw a metal band live and I loved that feeling. The constant energy the band provided was absolutely insane, the drive and passion they bought to the stage and room was absolutely exceptional.

Slabdragger - Wheatsheaf - Oxford - 04.11.17

Lastly to perform were headliners Employed To Serve. I’ve not witnessed a female fronted hardcore band in a long time so that definitely bought some excitement to the show for me. The headline slot was definitely more than deserved for this band that’s for sure. Employed to Serve definitely provided one hell of a show which consisted of technical riffs, along with some heavy breakdowns, and some of the best vocals I’ve heard in a long while.

Employed To Serve - Wheatsheaf - Oxford - 04.11.17

Is it really a hardcore show if there hasn’t been at least one person sustaining a head injury from moshing so hard they hit part of the stage, but that didn’t stop the show in the slightest, it was a very quick check over and the show carried on as normal. Who doesn’t love seeing a few of the fans in a small and intimate show crowdsurfing and enjoying every second of the headline set. With a few fans taking their few seconds to claim their spot over the microphone and sing the lyrics back to the band. Employed to Serve put on a killer set, and it didn’t matter whether you were massively into hardcore bands or not there wasn’t a part of their set that could be avoided (I tried to find a safe spot in the room but failed every time and only came out injured, because standing on the edge of the room was great until the wind of the pit caught me) Honestly with how this band performed, had a copious amount of crowd involvement, and how incredible they sounded, I would certainly see them again in seconds.

Review and Photography by Heather Lowe