Newer bands paying their dues at smaller shows is hardly a new occurrence, but it feels as though Max Raptor have been doing it more than most. Case in point – the final show of this tour supporting their self-titled second album, with the Live Rooms sparsely populated, especially for a Friday night.

Even the local supports – bands who are likely to have at least some sort of a hometown following – play to a mostly empty floor. Having said that, openers Mida [5] don’t exactly make the greatest opening gambit. Their smooth, ’90s-flavoured pop-rock is alright for what it is, but it gets incredibly repetitive, with more or less the same melodies and vocal cadences recycled song after song. The more understated, acoustic-led vibes of The Traveller make for a solid change-up, but it’s really nothing to write home about.

By comparison, Sustinere [6] fare slightly better. They plow the same riff-rock furrow as the likes of Royal Blood, but there’s a stiffness to this duo compared to their exponentially-sized counterparts. It makes their bluesy leanings feel a bit stagnant by comparison, but when they hit their stride they improve hugely. Frontman Rob has a solid level of power in his vocals that mostly compliment the riffs well, and while it does tend to feel a bit clunky at times, there’s enough here to suggest that Sustinere could still break out into the wider world.

 Fizzy Blood [7] are the first band of the night to really grab attention though. The Leeds quintet definitely have the most defined sound of the night, a melting-pot of Stranglers-esque post-punk and the swagger of modern day Arctic Monkeys with a few macabre Danzig-isms. It’s certainly ear-catching, and the presence of the band do nothing to dull that. There’s a real personality in frontman Benji’s vocals on the likes of I’m No Good, and though the crowd is disappointingly sparse, there’s enough in terms of both style and substance to earmark Fizzy Blood as ones to keep an eye on.

That same piece of advice has been given about Max Raptor [8] for the last few years, but clearly very few have heeded it. A crowd consisting of a rather spread-out cluster is people is often not conducive with a successful show, but Max Raptor have turned these preconceptions on their head. In many ways, it shows just how much of a punk band they are, not entirely in sound but in ethos. Wil Ray spends as much time off the stage screaming into people’s faces as he does on it, and the few who are present really make the most of it. It helps that the songs are great as well; their new album hasn’t exactly gone off with the bang that it should, but live, their material feels combustible and vital. Damage Appreciation kicks things off on a high point with its simplistic riff and massive gang chorus, and Old Romantics definitely has a future as a live favourite. Older material doesn’t slouch either – Obey The Whips and England Breathes prickle with an incendiary anxiousness, and closer The King Is Dead descends into the most chaos this venue has seen all night. In terms of defining sets – those handful of shows that will shape a band’s live oeuvre for years to come – this really isn’t one of them, but it’s enough evidence for how Max Raptor have been so criminally for so long. Hopefully that changes soon.

Words by Luke Nuttall

PHOTOS: Max Raptor @ Live Rooms, Chester – 29th April 2016
PHOTOS: Fizzy Blood @ Live Rooms, Chester – 29th April 2016
PHOTOS: Sustinere @ Live Rooms, Chester – 29th April 2016
PHOTOS: Mida @ Live Rooms, Chester – 29th April 2016

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