Beneath the glow of neon and spotlights, the small stage at the rear of Angel’s Rattlesnake pub is cluttered with equipment and the splash of a vodka and lime knocked over by the guitarist of the preceding act.
From the back of the room, near the bar, three men in black jeans and plain black t-shirts make their way to the stage. Moments later, there follows the sound of mechanised drums and a wave of synthesised echoes and then drummer Phil Boulter begins his stoic assault, a cascade of guitar noise following.
Hailing from Southampton, three piece industrial rock band Broken Links have a sound rooted in the dying days of the ‘90s, the trace of a vivid anxiety regarding our relationship with the world around us snaking through the structure of their material.
Comprised of aforementioned drummer, Boulter, bass player, Lewis Betteridge, and guitarist and vocalist, Mark Lawrence, the band has a presence that quietens the audience and draws onlookers into their presence.
The easiest comparison is early Filter and whilst such a comparison is warranted, a far more fitting analogy would be Exile periodGary Numan – the heavy atmosphere, the carefully timed programming and melodic chord progressions.
It is obvious that despite being the last band of the night, Broken Links are a group that command attention. Whilst visually a very minimalist band, there is something appealing in the shimmer of polished guitars and the aesthetic of their uniforms of black.
Somewhere between the aesthetic portrayed by famed Cyberpunk author William Gibson and the style of Sisters of Mercy frontmanAndrew Eldritch, Broken Links have a catalogue of highly produced and well-crafted tracks, and as the second song begins it is hard to doubt either their dedication to the cause or the command of their material.
This is music to be played on a grander scale
Yet if the band excel in the music they make, there are also signs that perhaps aspects of their set are too structured. With such a tight performance there is little room for breaking away from this pattern.
The biggest danger here would be in the band becoming too much like Muse.
Whilst at present there are echoes of acts such as Skeletal Family, The God Machine and ThouShaltNot in the music the band make, there is a sense that if the present atmosphere of the band – that same mesmerism that quietens a restless audience – were to mutate into the overproduced nouveau stadium rock of Muse or The Killers, it is possible that the band might lose the atmosphere that makes them so engaging.
As the band launch into new song, Blood on the Motorway with its discordant solo, and a slower fourth song with a haunting guitar refrain and opening bass line reminiscent of The Cure, it becomes apparent that the band’s catalogue of songs will grow in atmosphere and scale as they continue to refine their stage presence.
Whilst there might still be something missing from their set, it is obvious by the time of their final song that Broken Links are a group within reach of their goal.
Well defined from start to finish and offering an atmospheric performance, Broken Links are certainly a band on the cusp of surpassing the sum of their influences.
You can catch them live tonight at The Retro Bar in Manchester and tomorrow night at Lomax in Liverpool.