The amount of buzz around Hot Milk this year has been insane. They’ve been grabbing headlines following show-stealing sets at festivals such as TRNSMT and 2000 Trees, and anyone who sees them live seems to become a convert.
I made the conscious decision to not listen to any of their recordings and have my first exposure to them in person. If they’re half as good as I’m told… this should be the way to find out. Tonight they’re gracing The Warehouse – the smaller upstairs venue – of SWG3 and if they release the same amount of energy as they seemingly have done at previous shows… it’s most likely going to be a ruckus.
The show is opened with an anxiety-inducing bass wave played through the speakers and a very interesting band by the name of Modern Error. I say interesting because getting these guys into a box for the purposes of recommendation is tricky. At first I thought “easy… old school post hardcore” as they had big parts of the classic British screamo sound in that first track.
Then they throw me a curve ball with real industrial synth parts and some real ferocious vocal snarling. What you get is Funeral For A Friend meets Nine Inch Nails meets Deftones meets the heaviest and least pop Finch songs. They don’t have a bass player and we all know how I feel about that; but the lush-sounding backing tracks fills that gap.
Main support Witch Fever cause a bit of a cacophony as they set up and tune their instruments through the amps, raising the questions as to whether this was an intro or not.
It was not. Once the show started, we get a very atmospheric stoner metal with bursts of what could almost be nu metal guitar work. Lead vocalist Amy has a huge streak of Zack De La Rocha about her once the sludgy bass driven phrases kick into a higher gear. There’s an impassioned anti-genocidal call to arms around the current crisis around Palestine and Israel to an approving crowd early on.
The tempo then picks up with more energy in the songs from then on. A little bit less sludge but a lot more anger. If I had to nitpick, I’d love Amy’s voice to have a bit more growl about it. Even if just thickened up through the PA as it can seem a bit thin compared to the extreme detuned instrumentals.
The second Hot Milk jump on stage, I get the hype. Well-polished anthems that draw from pop punk, alt metal, and dance rock are fired into a crowd that you’d think had filled a room five times the size. The stage presence is instantly beyond impressive as front people Hannah Mee and Jim Shaw bounce around and leap from a front stage riser with the confidence of a band that’s been in arenas for decades.
Every fan knows every word and isn’t afraid to drown out the headliners with their own singing. Hot Milk are obviously thrilled with the reception they’re getting which only serves to fire them up more.
Musically, we’re getting the emo, pop punk and metal of Silverstein, Ice Nine Kills, and Stand Atlantic – but heavy electronic backing which fans of Pendulum would be very happy to hear. There’s a darkness to the songwriting like the aforementioned INK or Motionless in White but not as over-the-top or dramatic.
It’s certainly not as heavy as those bands either… the “pop sensibilities” are strong with this band. It’s not horror rock, but you know there’s an interesting book collection in the home of these guys. It’s a perfect Venn diagram of all these influences with Hot Milk slap bang in the middle.
Back to stage presence and you’re not going to find a band at this level – or two levels higher – who have a presence like these guys. I would call them a four-piece, but they’re billed as a duo.
I reckon this is because of the shared figurehead status of both Hannah and Jim. Both could front different bands and be just as appreciated… but combined they’re greater than the sum of their parts. Like a to and fro akin to Taking Back Sunday but more defined and distinct. Hannah is all over the stage and your eye can’t help but be drawn to her. If Jim wasn’t tethered to a mic stand he might be just as mobile, but I doubt he’d have the excitable energy of his counterpart.
For some songs, Hannah picks up second guitar duties and proves she’s not one of these girls that just wants to be Hayley Williams. Her playing is solid and she wields her guitar like any rock star would while still jumping around the stage. The authenticity is amazing.
Discovering these guys at one of their live shows was a good call on my part. There’s a difference between being impressed by a random song popping up on a playlist curated by the algorithm of an evil corporation, and being blown away by four people playing music in front of you. Tonight I got the latter and I’m not going to forget it for a long time to come. If you’ve not already caught this train, I recommend you do the same.
Photos by Catching Light Photography