Review by Harsharan Hoonjan
‘I’m not sure if we are seeing rock stars in Enemies Of The State, or if they really are just normal people that play music once in a while.’
Kris Tennant (Lead Vocalist), Joseph Carney (Bassist), Glenn Holburn (Guitar), Gary Dillon (Guitar), Garry Curran Jnr.’s (Drums) progress as Glasgow’s most politically charged band has escalated in what feels like a blink of an eye. Because it really does look like we’re witnessing a breakthrough with this lot.
Since releasing debut album, Awakening, it’s charted at number 9 in The Ayrshire Album chart. Jim Gellatly is playing, “Open Your Eyes”, as one of his breakout tracks on his drive time show this Friday (5-7pm on 7th November). And the band will make their debut television appearance on STV’s Riverside Show on 1st December.
I can’t believe it was only six months since interviewing Kris and Joe (and former member Sean), in that time the lads have just blown us away with their extraordinary dedication and skills! Going strong since 2012, their ambition and drive this year alone has left me wondering how I’ll ever be able to provide a full account here.
Because this is a band that gives a massive amount to their fans, not only do they offer inspiring messages of power, hope, and love, they also do things like give away their album for free, play gigs for free, travelling to Bathgate, Dunfermline, Perth and beyond, they even let relative outsiders like myself in on their debut video – thank you so much guys, it was a great experience! Naturally the Voice team want Enemies Of The State to win BIG, because these guys give more than they take, and I think it has shown in all 7 performances I have attended this year.
For instance, EOTS’s 1st official music video to the track, “Open Your Eyes”, was unleashed at the beginning of October, and gained a fantastic response. Although surprisingly, not one member of the band is actually in the video! Letting the song and story take its own course, the result is fresh, uplifting, and inviting, while stimulating your grey matter – a key ingredient to every EOTS song.
Which leads us to the full monty, also known as EOTS’s debut album, Awakening. The lads have spent countless evenings working on this, while getting out their music video, working full time jobs, trying to maintain a social life and still managing to raise awareness for causes/upholding collective consciousness (Kris Tennant on Facebook certainly puts the “vocal” in Vocalist). Luckily, we were able to get hold of digital copies 24 hours before the album launch night. What we received was a 9 track jewel which can also be yours for free. There is an option to donate as well. I have found it was definitely worth contributing money to.
Broken down, each member has worked to deliver outstanding riffs, which layer into each other beautifully. These are set off against a finely timed sharp drum beat, I also hear pronounced slick guitar and bass lines that slide in to create an appealing twist. The vocals complement each of the other instruments to full effect, but the power behind the dynamic vocal range means that everything is slightly on edge, and altogether this creates an electric sound. Without the words this is a brilliant listen. With the lyrics and key messages in place, however, the value of the songs double, triple, quadruple. To pay nothing would be sacrilege on my part, I just couldn’t see any other way than to pay a bit more than what the album was likely to retail at. It’s definitely a true testament of their “time, effort, love, anger and passion” – Enemies Of The State, Facebook (October 16th).
Here’s a link to their free downloadable album which can be yours in minutes:
The long awaited album launch took place on 18th October in Audio, and tickets were flying out for this. Thankfully, I was able to get in on the act, and soak in their massive night. Let me try and give you an overview of what it was like.
Audio, situated on the corner of Midland Street Glasgow is an urban style live music venue, spacious and open plan, the bar is straight ahead as you go in, the stage is to your right, and it’s large, a good size for bands like Enemies Of The State. The venue is also minutes from Central Station and the staff are accommodating, the sound engineer let me share his booth for a few photos which was in vain, in the end – but he didn’t even know me. The sound quality is amazing, with no white noise/interference, or echoes.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the bar staff were prepared for the place to be literally packed, despite that they did an awesome job in keeping us gig goers happily fuelled. By the time trendy young outfit The Lapelles finished their set (funky plectrum throwing too cool for school band), the place was half full. When The Bawlers rocked on stage it was close to three quarters. Once they completed their slick songs, and Arctic Monkeys styled performance, the shape of the audience altered. Most of the room was locked in place, ready for some power and light from Enemies of the State.
But our wait was interrupted by a video playing on the white screen on the back wall of the stage; it showed images of oppression, scandal, a news item, a documentary, a political message of sorts. It would soon be replaced by the band’s name in lights. But for those first few minutes an intrigued audience observed with one eye on the video, and another on the side opening for a glimpse of an EOTS band member.
After what felt like ages, I met with a photographer who had battled Saturday night traffic coming in from Edinburgh and making it just in time He showed me a shot of his previous gig at Usher Hall for a world famous singer – I was thinking, we are about to see local winners tonight, and this man clearly knows what these guys are worth, excitement ensued.
Cheers broke the anticipation as Kris, Joe, Gary, Glenn, and Garry came on, this is the night the lads and their fans have been waiting for. Swaggering to the mic, Kris started by thanking everyone for showing up, he then asked who had downloaded their album. A few hands went up, he responded with,
“Just 5 people, we’re sh*te!”
Surveying the audience, about 7 – 10 rows deep, and seeing the front row figures pressing up against those coveted metal railings – a look of hardly washed over my face.
He introduces the first track, and begins powering out, “We Are The Awakeniiiiinng!..”
On starting though, Joe’s amp stalls, but there is a fierce look in his eyes, as he prepares for damage control. Kris shoots a look of “what?!” whilst slamming through the vocals, but it’s alright in the end, sorted within about 60 seconds.
Familiar guitar riffs, drums, and eventually the bass, make me feel like I am not reviewing this night, simply taking some photos for friends. Although it’s clear throughout their epic set, that they’ve come a long way from the first time I saw them. They’ve fine-tuned their craftsmanship, their notes, chords, beats and lines are strong. The rhythm and tension in each track is perfectly punctuated with high octave vocals, ensuring the band shine on a massive scale, they definitely sound stadium ready.
Joe fills in the audience after the song, telling us about the amp problem:
“There was a wee problem in the beginning, but, we got there in the end”.
Kris with a cheeky smile responds:
“Who needs a bass player anyway, just f*ck off!”
Some fun banter, if slightly awkward for all of 3 seconds for anyone who doesn’t know any better. But the band look keen to smash the rest of the tracks, and the audience don’t appear to be all that bothered. Like me, they clearly enjoyed the eagerly anticipated title track. After that, we just wanted the lads to keep going – more please!
Icarus was next, solid guitar and thick bass lines pulsated through the speakers, I absolutely adore the riffs on this and Awakening (and most of their songs, they are smartly done). With hand sculpted to mic, and using guitar as a weapon, fingers strummed ferociously. Bopping head up and down to the melody as he played, Kris returned to the mic, blasting out:
“Love is my religion, truth is my god, my head is my church…I’m a head case, I’m going to hell, lock me up and put me in a dark room cell…
…You’ll learn one day, it’s all a monopoly.”
This is it! The boys have arrived, and are banging. The crowd, are clearly hooked as well, eyes are hanging on them, what a result. At the end of that track, I’m sure I hear EOTS chants coming from the room with smile filled expressions. It’s no wonder, these guys have delivered so much, and they’ve only played 2 songs. There are at least 8 more to go (unfortunately, one track, Atlas, just missed the digital album).
Enemies Of The State continue to pound out a rapturous set, which leave its members exhilarated, and this in turn creates a domino effect on their off-stage supporters as well. At one point the band pause for effect, the crowd then step in and start chanting:
“EOTS, EOTS, EOTS”
Kris is ready to finish the track off, before letting the audience win “Nah keep it going.” Once they stop, he hones in on the mic and the band finish, this is led by another fantastic response.
Definitely a band to watch live, what a reaction they have on you, whether you see them once or 7 times in 6 months. They continue to produce high impact performances, which blow your ears, and magnetise your eyeballs, creating a thrilling vibe. I’m not sure if we are seeing rock stars in Enemies Of The State, or if they really are just normal people that play music once in a while.
Kris Tennant goes on to dedicate two tracks to family and friends whose names he calls out. The first dedication was “No Time For Tears”, a personal favourite. It has been on Sound Cloud (as have a few others) for a while now, and has been played at every live performance I’ve been to. The dedication added a nice personal touch, making me nod and sing along. It’s a top track, one of life-changing proportions. In fact the majority of the album contains such songs. I would even consider them to be anthems that can prepare you for the gritty reality of life. And serve a reminder to remain strong in moments of weakness.
The next track was one we’ve not heard live before. Sand, Wood or Stone is a ballad, and as Garry Curran Jnr described on Facebook, “a heart-wrenching song” (Facebook, 18th October). I feel it’s an extremely poignant melody that can sting the eyes of dads, and families, who will relate to the sacrifices involved in working your hands raw to provide for, and keep a roof over your family’s head.
Kris sang this solo, as the other members went off stage. This track is number 6 on the album, and was dedicated to three dads in the audience. Hearing this live for the first time, there is a different kind of intensity to it. Kris’s voice flows through the mic like lyrical tears. An empathetic feeling is created, and as he peers into the crowd cocking his head to one side, pouring out the words, the audience lock into his portrayal of this story. Huge rounds of applause signal that this track is definitely a winner.
Glenn, Garry, Joe and Gary return to join Kris on stage:
“The troops, my troops” Kris says, as he wipes some sweat off his forehead.
Next up was Julius Caesar, and after that slow number we were in for a thumping. This song was dedicated to two particular individuals…
“This one is dedicated to Obama and David Cameron” – Kris
Starting off with funky riffs, Kris’s vocals rip through, tearing across political lines to address these world leaders, and their underhand tactics in the face of the current social and economic climate. This is a song that will truly awaken you! It punches you into the present, and it sounds like a modern Robin Hood song. Taking the limelight from the rich, ignorant and powerful, and giving back light, power, and strength to the most vulnerable who will appreciate the hope that’s laced within this track.
The sharp vocals, and swearing pack a lot more than the words written below can depict.
Although here are a few lines taken from Julius Caesar:
“There’s no humanity in the corporatocracy”
“The sun won’t always shine on you, like you want it to”
“Do you need a reality check?!”
“You’re buying and selling dreams you can package in a box.”
There’s a loud hailer on stage, and I’m pretty sure this is the song it’s for, but Kris picks it up and jokingly uses it more as a visual prop, than actually talking into it.
At certain moments in the set Kris collapses and sings on his back. We have some more humorous stage antics from our favourite frontman, which includes launching into the crowd. He also sings posed with arms held high and with his weapon of a guitar by his side. Kris appears to be in his element. The hard graft certainly seems worth the effort, as the audience are lapping it up.
Coming closer to get a few stage shots, I meet some of the family, and a loyal friend of the band, who also stars in the video. Coincidentally, the next song is, “Open Your Eyes”, the people in the audience get a mention, while I hide behind my camera, snapping up more of the band. Glenn is playing in a cool, I’ve been doing this all my life way, Garry is singing and drumming enthusiastically, Joe is giving it his all; he really is belting out bass and backing vocals with vigour. Gary Dillon who only joined the band in August this year displays a modest yet focussed disposition. Kris is still firing out the lyrics left, right, and centre. Together they look like a solid unit.
Open Your Eyes is definitely better live especially now, because there is a relatable video. It’s a huge feat for the band, and I think the audience are really mirroring their success when they perform it. There are a lot of content smiley faces, with friends and family singing along. Kris takes this opportunity to get near the audience, ducking down and offering the mic to best friend, dad, loyal supporter, and video star Grant Shaw. His contribution is fleeting as I don’t hear his words, but I see his face, he appears to be creasing up from ear to ear, paired with dancing eyes.
The set ends with, “No Tomorrow”, it’s an epic finish, as they smash out another favourite. Each member of the band was concentrating on their instrumentation, and delivering the most powerful sounding songs they could muster for their monumental album launch night. I pause to watch, putting my camera away for a while to witness the band’s energy; yes it’s still as strong as the first track, Awakening. They are still bouncing, they might look a bit moist at the end, but they are still working off the love in the room, the appreciation, applause and recognition. Words are being sung back to them, and now and again, an adoring audience member will let out a scream.
I just can’t help wanting to gloat, but this band is ours, the people’s band. That’s why I think we (Voice of Scotland) love them. As a matter of fact and we find this out later, Kris tells us, that love is the album’s central theme.
“The album is about love, there’s not enough love in the world, and we just need to remember to love each other more.”
There you have it, the mystic of the band is somewhat dispelled for new fans, safe in the knowledge that the anger, passion, hard hitting vocals, beats and bass all come from a great place. Enemies Of The State’s name may mean business, but it’s comforting to know that here in Glasgow is a true hero of a band that just wants to spread a little musical love our way. In the only way they know how, in a style that makes us think, because they mean it, and they walk the talk. Yes, Enemies Of The State, I think you might just be the awakening. And with that, we look forward to celebrating your future success in the coming months and years. Congratulations on a brilliant debut!
What are you waiting for?
Go ahead and download your free copy of Enemies Of The State’s debut release, Awakening, here:
It’ll be worth your time and your ears.
Also, here’s a list of EOTS’s exciting up-and -coming gigs, which will end 2014 for them on a record high:
15th November: The Green Room, Perth.
1st December: Appearing on STV’s The Riverside Show.
NEW SHOW ANNOUNCED
5th December: Supporting Scottish legends Big Country at The Classic Grand, Glasgow
29th December: Headlining King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut for their showdown of the year, with another rock star band, The Mona Lisa’s, and PJ Molloys Make Your Mark Winner, Oskar .
Point to note:
Unfortunately I missed out on getting a copy of EOTS’s set-list; therefore, I was unable to go through the songs in a linear fashion. The band reported they had signed all copies for fans at the end of the gig while I was packing up, so there was not one left to spare…
It is likely the order of events and songs may be out of sync.
Those set-lists will be worth gold in about 5 years’ time – wonder if I can bribe someone…
1) Enemies of The State’s album is FREE to download, and you can also donate to it (hint hint…)
2) Their debut video, Open Your Eyes was released weeks before the launch, it gained positive reviews, but not a single member of the band is in it.
3) They are producing a physical copy of the album, Awakening, which will include the song, Atlas, which just missed the digital download version.
4) They smashed their album launch in Audio on 18th October.
5) Jim Gellatly will play Open Your Eyes on his XFM drivetime show from 5-7pm on 7th November.
6) The band’s first mainstream television appearance will be on 1st December, tune into the STV Riverside Show for that.