Novelists, The Word Alive, Elwood Stray and Ashen – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham – 23/02/24

Camille Contreras of Novelists at Ready Rooms in Nottingham. Photo by Carrie-Anne Pollard

It’s only been a handful of months since Novelists announced Camille Contreras as their new vocalist – a position that has been male dominated for the past 10, years since the inception of the band. What better way to cement her position than bringing the fire across Europe and the UK, bringing label mates – Ashen and Elwood Stray – and The Word Alive along for the journey.

Early stage times tonight means as we make our way to the door, first support Ashen are announcing their final song. From the very little we hear, the chunky guitars and vocals give a nostalgic nod to noughties nu metal, while still delivering something fresh and exciting.

Next up are German quintet Elwood Stray, who burst onto the stage with ‘Free Falling’. Mixing hardcore and metal, lead vocalist Maik Nehrkorn takes his place centre stage. The crowd isn’t quite as rowdy as you’d want, but that doesn’t stop the band putting their all into every song. ‘This is our heaviest song’ Nehrkorn politely informs the audience, who finally show up during ‘Trespass’ – albeit in a rather lukewarm fashion. ‘Seasons’ hits with that melodic chorus, while set closer ‘Uncertain Me’ is catchy as hell. The crowd may be sleeping on Elwood Stray, but the band take it in their stride, playing a stellar set.

Final support comes from the only non European band on the bill tonight, The Word Alive. A force to be reckoned with, it’s quite apparent from the get go that a lot of the audience are here for them. Opening with the soaring ‘Strange Love’, their set is heavily skewed towards most recent album Hard Reset. The sprinkling of fan favourites throughout, most notably, the incredible ‘Trapped’, means anyone who is here to see The Word Alive – the first time they’ve graced these shores in several years – is kept happy. That being said, the crowd themselves are still making a disappointing show of things. This venue can be the craziest, sweatiest venue you’ve ever been to, so it’s unfortunate that the bands tonight don’t experience that level of connection. The Word Alive round out their set with ‘One Of Us’, another choice cut off Hard Reset which they have only started playing live this tour. All in all a great performance from this highly experienced band.

Last but certainly not least, an electro beat thrums through the venue. The sizeable logo that has been nonchalantly plastered across the back wall lights up, and Novelists arrive. In an instant they fill the stage, which has been cleared of every last monitor, mic stand and riser, giving shiny new vocalist Camille Contreras space to figuratively and literally take up. Recently released ‘Prisoner’ shows off Contreras’ range, the gruelling shouted verses blending perfectly with the beautifully sung chorus. The rest of the band are in their element, the duel guitars of Florestan Durand and Pierre Danel make light work of the fretboard throughout the set.

Back to back blistering balladesque tracks ‘5:12 AM’ and ‘C’est la vie’ bring the vibe to a more relaxed place, but it isn’t long before Contreras declares ‘we’ve done our soft songs, now it’s time to go hard’. The band are on top form, each member practically radiating energy and passion. Sometimes a shake up at the core can lead to crumbling, but Novelists prove that at other times it’s exactly what you need to move on to the next stage in your career. This tour has solidly cemented this new incarnation of Novelists, and I for one am excited to see what comes next.

Words and Photos by Carrie-Anne Pollard

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