LIVE REVIEW + PHOTOS: Nova Twins – Academy 2, Liverpool – 23/02/2023

Not even two weeks before this show, Nova Twins were up in two categories at the BRIT Awards—Best Rock / Alternative Act and Best British Group in general. If you’re unaware of how insane that is, keep in mind that the BRITs are the sort of industry circle-jerk that rarely deigns to give this side of alternative music the time of day, yet chooses to platform a band whose mainstream reach thus far has fallen between very limited and nonexistent. Of course, they didn’t win either award—when pitted again acts with commercial footprints the size of The 1975’s and Wet Leg’s, why would they?—but the mere act of a nomination itself would suggest that whatever’s been brewing in the Nova Twins camp for the last few years is about ready to go off in a major way.

It’s hardly news to anyone in the know, mind, but if rock’s newest prospective overhaul to the mainstream stage is to go ahead, Nova Twins are fitting candidates to lead the charge. From their aesthetics, to the grime and forcefulness of their production, to the fusion of punk, garage-rock, hip-hop and alt-metal that’s proven ridiculously cool all the way down, it’s not out of line to bestow them with that honour. What’s more, they’re going about in such an admirably grassroots way, now on a tour of venues they’ll soon outgrow that’s effectively an addendum to one they did just a couple of months ago, and bringing along a pair of similarly combustible risers with them.

With that in mind, there’s really no adequate excuse for why similarly huge opportunities shouldn’t be beating down Uninvited’s door in the coming months. Outside of a relative stiffness onstage that kind of betrays how new they still are, they come with buckets of promise right out of the gate, and a sound that’s really encouraging to see accompany it. There’s a bit of indie, a bit of punk, a bit of fuss-free rock—nowhere near as stylised as anything else on this bill—and with a distinct streak of freshness running through it all. They cast the silhouettes of a band primed for the jump to radio-readiness, with big hooks and melodies in droves, and a quiet confidence and simmering power keeping it all tied together. Don’t be surprised to hear more of Uninvited very soon; they feel like some of the most consummate up-and-comers around right now.

As for Witch Fever, their reputation has been built up and cast in stone for a fair bit right now, as a revitalisation of punk in its progressive ethos and chasm-deep currents of dread and resonance. That’s the opening vibe with I Saw You Dancing, as the buzzsaw guitars jam with the ever-looming, ever-stalking rhythm section for one hell of a note to lead on. It’s no secret that Witch Fever know full well the value of some doom-y snarl in their punk, which arguably translates live even better than on record, both in how visually arresting the band are, and simply how throttling this sounds. It’s great stuff from front to back, anchored by Amy Walpole up front who has her varying dimensions of punk cred on lock (she’ll climb into the crowd for some carnage while also speaking on the murder of trans teen Brianna Ghey). On top of that, when her vocals bring the spectre of something even more sonorous and sinister on Congregation, it’s a good note for the extent to which Witch Fever can take their work. They’re completely their own thing, unique as a unit from really anything else in punk right now, and they’re rocketing forward with it to frankly ludicrous degrees.

Perhaps it’s akin to where Nova Twins themselves were at the same earlier stage, though right now, there’s a considerable difference. Witch Fever drill deep into what’s almost a visceral human horror in their music; Nova Twins, meanwhile, operate on a lot of flash and volume, and a sense that they want all eyes on them at all times. And hey, neither of those are bad ways to be. If anything, it’s a testament to the breadth the scene is covering right now, where even for two acts that, once upon a time, couldn’t have felt more diametrically opposed, there’s a connection and crossover in appeal that’s incredibly easy to see. Because on a purely primal level, Nova Twins feel just as punk as anyone else. They’re marching to their own beat—that’s been a given since day dot—and doing it with a swagger and bottomless, overflowing confidence that, even on a stage in a room as small as this one, makes them stand a hundred feet tall.

That’s the kicker, ultimately—they’re a band for whom subtlety plays minimally into their whole enterprise, but that’s far from a complaint. As they come on to sub-bass hits and strobe flickers, they feel big and flashy and important, a mood that never goes away even once. That aforementioned swagger feeds into a lot there, particularly on a song like Cleopatra that’s effectively all bass and drums (one of multiple times where Amy Love throws off her guitar altogether), and sounds phenomenal for doing so. There’s not much variety to the strains of hip-hop they use—something which only becomes more apparent in their regularity—but the charisma and stage presence that both Love and Georgia South are so immovably embedded into make for easy workarounds.

There’s a bluntness to how Nova Twins go about things that ultimately supercharges a lot of those thrills. The guitars and bass pound and rumble as much as possible, as if to reiterate in their own way that, yes, this is still a punk show. Thus, there’s a surplus of thick, ceiling-caving groove moulded into punk that’s snarling and on-the-fly; amid the flash and aesthetic beats a heart tied to this sort of grime and grottiness, a juxtaposition that Nova Twins portray in a way that makes a lot of sense. At the same time though, they’re perhaps missing some of the space and electricity offered by, say, a big festival stage, and that is noticeable. It’s understandable to want to keep that tether to your roots taut, especially when it’s proven so beneficial, but maybe for the ambition that Nova Twins are displaying now, it’s the environment that lets them shoot for stars further away.

Still, that’s to negligible detriment overall. At no point does it hinder the abilities of a band whose leap from strength to strength can even be remotely denied, nor does this feel less impressive for scaling things back. Nova Twins simply have that lightning in a bottle wherever they go, a combination of punk kinship with street-level bravado and stride that’s virtually unparalleled in rock today. In itself, this mightn’t be a show for the books, but as a piece building towards the next phase of Nova Twins—the phase inevitably seeing them grow further and their conquering radius expand—it’s hard to deny all the same. They’re unequivocally at the crest of the zeitgeist, and they’re going to be squatting there for a long, long time to come.

Words by Luke Nuttall

Photos by Faye Roberts (Instagram)

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