notes from the coast: English Dogs. Key Club. 02.24.12

I have to say I really hate all ages shows. As a kid of course I appreciated them, and when I was unemployed it really didn’t matter, but now that I’m old (and employed) I have to say it’s just plain annoying. Last night was the second show in a row where I had to miss most of the undercard bands because of an early start. And the lineup was pretty exceptional with underrated thrashers Havok and one of my favorite meat-and-potatoes punk/thrash bands Toxic Holocaust setting the mood. But a 6pm start?? Unacceptable!! I figured I’d at least get to see The Casualties, and even though I’d never really heard them and am not really a fan, I thought it would be cool to at least catch their set. But that didn’t happen either. You know why? Second reason I hate all ages shows: Lots of kids. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate kids, but when I have to wait in line for a half hour with a bunch of kids who weren’t even alive when English Dogs originally broke up and I have to miss all of the bands, it gets me even more annoyed. What’s even worse is that I had a pass and didn’t have to stand in line, but I didn’t know that until I actually talked to a security guard who ushered me right in. Can you say, “feeling stupid??”

Anyways, enough of the old man rant. As crabby as I might seem, I was just really fired up to see one of my favorite original crossover bands ever, English Dogs, and was just a little bummed because I knew I would be missing most of a great show because of work. But the main point was to see the Dogs play as I’d never had the pleasure before. When I finally got in I was overwhelmed with the size of the crowd! It was wall to wall punks, young and old and I quickly grabbed a shirt and found a good viewing spot.

If you’ve never heard English Dogs, I will tell you that you need to go and listen to Forward Into Battle. I’ve always felt that some of the best crossover bands came from a punk background. Some of my all time favorites like Corrosion of Conformity, Suicidal Tendencies and The Accused certainly did, but I always felt that the Dogs were second to none. They flawlessly blended the aggression of punk and mixed it with excellent metal guitars all while keeping the hardcore sound intact. A lot of this was helped by the addition of vocalist Adie Bailey whose throat shredding delivery was perfect for crossover, but mostly I would say their formula worked because of the abilities of guitarist “Gizz” who added a whole new dimension to their sound by bringing all the furious, crunchy metal riffs to the Dogs sound while showing a serious ability to pull off a technically shredding solo, something almost impossible for a hardcore punk guitarist back in those days. It was this ability that made them stand out to me and all these years later I was ready to pay my respects to one of the great, highly underrated bands of my youth.

Over the years the reformed English Dogs have been busy with many side projects and various incarnations of the band, but tonight we got most of the classic Forward Into Battle era members including the most important parts of that sound, Gizz on guitar, Adie singing and original drummer Pinch. The anxious, snarling crowd started getting rowdy as the band slowly built the anticipation up with the epic, opening strains of “Forward Into Line”. Then the over-eager crowd erupted when the familiar metal riffs of “The Final Conquest” rang out. I watched with a bit of surprise as the band sounded extremely tight, Adie’s vocals sounding strong and edgy while Gizz was in fine form, cranking out each metallic riff with machine-gun precision, like his life depended on it. Pinch pounded away like a beast with Ryan and Craig Christy (brothers?) holding down the airtight rhythm section. The band looked in excellent form for a group that hadn’t played together in who knows how long, but looked like they never left. The crowd went berzerk as the band launched into each classic from Forward Into Battle. Songs like “Ultimate Sacrifice”, “Nosferatu”, and “Brainstorm” kept the stage divers in full flight all night long. Later on in the set, the band would delve even further back into their catalog with songs from the excellent To The Ends of The Earth ep. This got everyone rabidly frothing at the mouth as the band launched into classics like “Ambassador of Fear” while the intensity of the pit came to a head with the delivery of “The Chase is On”. With the night coming to a close the band ended their mind-blowing set with a song that set the tone for the night in the pit called “Survival of the Fittest”, but as soon as they left the stage the crowd simply would not let them get away that easy. The chanting rang out over and over until they had no choice but to come back with an encore of 1st album classic “Psycho Killer” that got a bunch of guys from the other bands coming out to help deliver the Dog’s final sermon for the night.

Playing the full Forward Into Battle album and To The Ends of the Earth ep was a treat that I wasn’t expecting to see performed live, ever, and English Dogs killed it. They thanked the energetic crowd for ‘getting them’ even when England never really did, back in the day, and they played like they meant it, delivering a truly inspiring performance that proved to me that this band deserved far more credit than they ever got. This was true crossover done to perfection, and I enjoyed every moment of my trip down memory lane. Hopefully there will be more to come from these lads in the future, as they could still blow doors on most of these new-school D-Beat bands coming out nowadays. But whether or not they do is irrelevant, they are here right now playing their asses off so I just would like to say, “Welcome back English Dogs, it’s been a long time and oh how we’ve missed you….”