Employed To Serve returned to Cardiff for the second time this year to deliver a fantastic headline set at Clwb Ifor Bach. Having established their ability to tour with French metal titans Gojira earlier in February, the Woking band further demonstrated their brilliance. Abrasive cuts such as ‘Void Ambition’ from the 2017’s album ‘The Warmth of a Dying Sun’ brought an immediately high pressure, with every second capitalizing off the weighty, gnarly crunch of each track. The cohesion between all members for these tracks is made even more impressive when considering that three members of the band have changed since the album’s recording. This line up change incited by the pandemic would have served as the epitaph for lesser experienced artists – but ringleader Justine Jones and guitarist Sammy Urwin evidently managed to cultivate the perfect progression moving forwards with the addition of three proficient new members, consisting of guitarist David Porter, drummer Casey McHale and bassist Nathan Pryor, all of which delivered a supremely engrossing performance.
Diving into the Woking band’s latest release, 2021’s excellent album ‘Conquering’, unleashed the next tier of heaviness, slugging out chunky, supercharged riffage whilst leaning into melodic components more than ever before. Bringing these tracks into full bloom onstage was nothing less than an awe-inspiring showcase of the band’s latest evolution, with their newest incarnation sporting an eagerness for displaying the groovy potential of metal whilst tearing devastatingly corrosive breakdowns. Monstrous anthem ‘Exist’ brought a raucous stomp, following on from the frantic, grizzly charge of ‘The Mistake’. The album’s wide breadth, dipping into a variety of metal-subgenres and exploiting each one for its purest elements, made the band a deliciously exciting act to witness on stage. Classic 2019 track ‘Eternal Forward Motion’ brought a delicious kick of hardcore fueled riot to the mix, with the band shifting from bulky, tumultuous verse sections to complete silence in between, breaks that helped accentuated the brash antics of the band stunningly before Jones bellowed the iconic chorus line ‘There is no time to worship yesterday‘. On the other side of the sub-genre spectrum, the incredibly menacing ‘World Ender’ channels doom metal influences, swinging the album into an even more entrenched state of madness. Its live performance shook the crowd instantly.
Easily one of the crowning aspects of the show, and undeniably one of the finest staples of ETS’s sound, are Jones’s vocals. Her cries ascended into the highest echelons, whilst also digging into the most diabolically thrilling guttural trenches. It’s an awe-inspiring blend, one that manages to garner the best of both worlds whilst always sounding clear and weighty. Alongside this, backing vocals from Urwin make an incredibly compelling mix. ‘Conquering’ saw the guitarist take on more vocal responsibilities, with the primary hook of ‘Exist’ being founded on the call-and-response dynamic between Jones’ cries and Urwin’s roars. The duo’s vocals are thrilling to witness together, and equal a sound monumentally larger than the sum of its parts. Final track ‘Mark of the Grave’ was the culmination of this dynamic, with Urwin leading the verses stoically whilst Jones swooped in with fierce screams. The interplay between the two was excellent.
Her cries ascended into the highest echelons, whilst also digging into the most diabolically thrilling guttural trenches.
Joining Jones on vocals for the catastrophically heavy track ‘I Spend My Days’ was Pupil Slicer’s Kate Davies. Having delivered a whopping set bursting with the band’s finest tracks earlier on in the evening, the crowd was extra lucky to witness a fantastic performance from both Jones and Davies. This wasn’t the only collaboration for the evening, however, as earlier on in the set Jones also brought on Going Off’s vocalist Jake Huxley, who much like the band’s name suggests, went off like a live wire on stage. ETS’s set would have already been a masterclass in live metal music without featuring guest vocalists, but the welcome addition of Davies and Huxley made for an even more enthralling show. It also made abundantly clear that Jones and company enjoy collaborating with other musicians in the metal and hardcore scenes, which is always a delight to see at gigs.
The band appeared surprised, and were very grateful, for the overwhelmingly jubilant responses from the crowd throughout the night. The evening was full of cheers, applauses, and even masses of ‘Oggy oggy oggies’. It was an ecstatic experience. After declaring it to be the best Cardiff gig they’d played yet, Employed To Serve shouldn’t have been so surprised at the warm reception. This is a band at the top of their game, elevating the brilliance of their albums to astronomically high levels whilst live. If you need to get your fix of metal music and desire the most cutting-edge band on the scene, look no further.