Over the last 15 years, Metalheadz has forged a unique place amongst drum & bass labels. Boasting a back catalogue of cold, beautiful music that often leans toward the epic, few other imprints within the genre have carried such gravitas or held wider cultural importance through the years. With the instantly recognizable Goldie at the helm, Metalheadz today continues to put out music that retains shelf life in a genre plagued by throwaway tracks. All of which made the prospect of a "15 year Metalheadz anniversary" party at Warning in Cambridge intriguing, to say the least.
Featuring a line up including Goldie, Doc Scott, Commix, D Bridge and Marcus Intalex, I was interested to see how music of such complexity would be received at a night known for promoting drum & bass at the opposite end of the spectrum. Like Metalheadz, Warning was founded in 1995, but has trodden a very different musical path. A monthly Saturday night at Cambridge's cavernous Junction club, Warning have focused on the commercial, "jump up" end of the genre, placing as much importance on the MC as on the DJ, and generally programming music that eschews subtlety in favour of impact. As a result, the night commands devotion amongst a notoriously young, very male and somewhat "refreshed" crowd across the South and East of England.
On arrival, Hype was playing in the main room and trod broadly uninspiring territory, playing crowd pleasers from his own Tru Playaz imprint. Tracks such as Hazard's "Machete" and Fresh's "Novocaine" flew by in a blur of testosterone and wobbly bass and we decided to venture to the newly opened theatre arena next door to catch Marcus Intalex. The Soul:r boss wound his way through a superb set; fluid, subtle and powerful. Tracks such as St: Cal's "Henshaw Dub" and his own majestic "Astro Dance" elicited cheers from the (significantly older) crowd in this arena, with the crystal clear sound contrasting with the muddy boom of the main room.
Photo credit: Warning
D Bridge took over at around 1 AM, and played a set which perfectly displayed the area that has emerged between drum & bass and dubstep. D Bridge's selection drew heavily on his own productions and those of Exit Recordings co-conspirators Instra:mental. "No Future," from the latter, sounded particularly well-placed tonight; the clipped, staccato tone of the spoken word intro winding deftly into the mix with precision.
After a brief trip to the heaving bar, we went back to the main arena to catch Goldie back-to-back with Doc Scott. They're a pair of DJs who never pander to crowds hankering after more commercial fare, and their selection of deep, sub heavy workouts such as Commix's "Belleview" drew a few blank faces. I couldn't help feel that this set would have worked to greater effect in the second room, amongst a crowd ready for progressive music on a soundsystem that can deliver it.
Overall, the night delivered quality music but the more leftfield reaches of the main room progamme were largely lost on a crowd who only erupted at the meat-and-potato offerings of Hype and Andy C. By the end of the night, it was clear that this was a night of two parties, and that the Metalheadz DJs bemusing the main room would have been much more at home in the intimate new theatre space next door.