Live Reviews

SiM / Graphic Nature – Islington Academy: Live Review

Straight from Download, Japanese metal/punk/ska band, SiM head down south for their first UK headline gig, playing a sold out show in London

SiM is a Japanese band that was formed in 2004, the letters stand for Silence iz Mine (which was also the title of their first album). Fresh from a performance at this year’s sweltering Download festival they are stopping off in London for a sold-out one-off show (titled as The Rumbling in LDN and only their second UK performance!) before returning to Japan for a couple of festival appearances and then heading out in August for an extensive tour of the US. The music is quite a mix if truth be told, ranging from metal to punk to ska and even pushing it to reggae. The recorded work even has some orchestral touches although there is none of that in evidence this evening.

Clearly the band is doing something right though, with this evening’s show sold out well in advance of the gig and in Japan they have enjoyed chart success (if that means much these days) with many of their releases, along with millions of listens on the online streaming platforms.

Before SiM this evening though, we have support from Graphic Nature who bring a bludgeoning slice of Nu Metal to the stage. The name comes from a Deftones song and the sound of the band is also reminiscent of Deftones. Taking to the stage around 8pm the venue is already packed to the rafters, certainly as busy as I have seen it in the last few years. And despite the air conditioning blowing away, the temperature is on the rise.

Graphic Nature has a pretty brutal sound, a backing track of drum and bass, merged with the live instruments works incredibly well, although I am a bit old school in that I do like to be able to distinguish the live playing from playback and am not keen on too much playback to be honest. Like I have already said though, it works well for Graphic Nature and the integration between live drums and the fast drum and bass with heavy subbass working a treat. It also gives them a sound which, while definitely taking its cues from nu metal, also sets itself apart and allows them to grow and experiment going forward.

The band (apart from singer Harvey Freeman) are all in coats with hoods, all part of the image, although they must be melting with the heat in the venue and especially on the stage. The lights are low and there is a lot of haze. The songs match the music with themes around mental health, grief, sadness, frustration. All quite dark but it is great that these once unspoken taboos are now out in the open and no longer buried.

The crowd reaction is electric too, fuelled by a great atmosphere, for Bad Blood the audience is instructed to crouch down, dutifully, most of the venue does and then as the song explodes from the stage the crowd jumps as one into the air. Freeman resembles a demented yeti for much of the set, and cuts a pretty scary stage presence (no bad thing for a frontman in a band like Graphic Nature!) The band play a short but heavy-hitting set, with songs like Killing Floor and Headstone as stand out tracks, very well received, I don’t think it will be long before we see these guys playing larger venues and seeing further success.

So a brief pause to remove and replace the drumkit, place setlists and towels and a general tidy up and soon enough the lights go down and SiM take to the stage one by one. It is clear from their first footsteps onto the stage that they are extremely happy to be playing here this evening and overjoyed with the crowd reaction and energy. Each member walks on to rapturous applause and by now the crowd are well and truly up for a good time.

Infact, the crowd can barely contain themselves, such is the expectation this evening. Singer Mah barely has to do anything, clearly everyone in the audience knows all of the lyrics and is singing along to all of the songs so he barely needs to sing himself on some! It is great to see a band feeding off of the crowd and the crowd feeding off of the band, no truer case than this evening where the synergy and energy flow is very evident.

The songs range from pretty heavy punky-influenced stuff to out and out ska and even “proper” (well, sort of) reggae. All played very well, and complimented by good sound in the now rammed venue. Mah waves his arms, the crowd follow suit, Mah dances, the crowd follows suit, Mah sings, the crowd joins in. It is rare to see an audience that is so plainly really into a band. He teaches the odd Japanese phrase to the crowd, gets them to repeat! The whole band look like they are savouring their second UK gig ever and their first UK headline gig. Starting with Light It Up from the Beware EP has the audience bouncing up and down like a single entity. Diamond from the intriguingly titled ‘Thank God, there are hundreds of ways to kill enemies’ is next up, once again with multiple opportunities for audience singing!

The Rumbling is greeted with much cheering, clearly a favourite. Both SHOW-HATE on guitar & SiN on bass whirl around the stage while Mah takes centre stage on a riser so everyone from the front to the back can see him. GODRi on the drums holds everything together with some solid drumming. Mah is clearly relishing the experience, he grins and smiles, chatting to the crowd between songs. Who’s Next mixes in a ton of styles, chunky metal mixed with an infectious punky chorus & vocoded vocals. Devil In Your Heart changes gear with some supercharged ska and a chorus that gets stuck in your head on first listen!

At one point Mah quizzes the crowd about their favourite songs and what they would like in the setlist, citing when he saw Radiohead many years ago and how they never put requests into the set because they were playing for themselves not the audience. This kind of falls a bit flat and he quickly reiterates that he is joking about not putting requests into the set! Gunshots has the whole room dancing and set closer Baseball Bat” sees him wielding a bat around on the stage while voicing the lyrics “….can I smash your head with a baseball bat?

SiM briefly leave the stage before returning for a 2 song encore. Mah says they have a new album coming out in September so they will then be embarking on a world tour and that they will be returning to the UK soon. This is obviously greeted with much applause and I’m pretty sure it will be not just a single date in London but a series of dates across the country and no doubt in larger venues too. So, an enjoyable evening, a band that clearly has a very loyal following matched by their enthusiasm and energy which is mirrored from the stage. A ton of well written songs that defy genre pigeon-holing and did I already mention the boundless energy of the band? Next time SiM is playing local to you I would definitely recommend giving them a listen and prepare to be impressed!

SiM have a new album scheduled for release in September 2023 and will be embarking on a world tour to promote it, details will be published on the SiM website, here.

All concert photography by Graham Hilling. You can check out more of his work on his website, here.

SiM: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Graphic Nature: Website / Facebook / Instagram

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