Godsticks / Karmen Field / Edit The Tide

The Bunkhouse, Swansea
Friday, 9th February 2024

Swansea… breaker of dreams and, for a long time, the cultural equivalent of putting the bins out.

But wait! Things are beginning to change, and we’re now seeing bands from as far away as Cardiff (!) heading our way, realising that the M4 does indeed stretch past Bridgend and beyond the sign that reads “Gwyliwch – Dyma Ddreigiau!” (or for those fearful of Google Translate, ‘Beware – Here Be Dragons!’).

On this dank and typically bleak Swansea evening, we find ourselves trudging through Town on a Friday for the first time in ages, avoiding the detritus of the initial after-work beers and takeaways and swerving the early doors revellers heading for Wind Street. With the Bunkhouse doors opening at 6pm and four bands on the bill, we unfortunately miss openers Risperidrone – after a day of pushing metaphorical papers around a virtual desk, one has to eat… apologies.

As we arrive, Edit The Tide are setting up on the nice high stage. The quintet from Bridgend (brave souls – they must have been aware of THAT sign for ages!) give us a very enjoyable set of nicely listenable songs, energetic and heavy with melody rather than outright heaviness, the band knowing how and when to rein things in a little. I’m immediately struck by the quality of the drummer, dextrously powering the songs along, and the twin harmony lead vocals are very well handled, adding real emotion. I’d certainly watch them again, and it’s a good start to the evening.

Edit The Tide

Karmen Field are another new name to me. They’re a quartet from Penarth who describe themselves as a “heavy grunge prog rock band with metal influences”, and I can cope with that. I got an air of heavy psychedelia, enhanced by the stage gear choices of dresses for the guitarist and bass player – the latter certainly ‘pushing the envelope’, as it were, of his green floral number! It all works and singer Molly, initially clad in a hooded dressing gown affair, has a commanding presence, her authoritative rich and deep tones ringing out to fine effect. They achieved the best sound of the night, crisp and clear, and I was able to dispense with the earplugs. Overall, a tight and polished performance from all. They clearly know what they’re about and have the confidence to pull it off in some style, putting on a very enjoyable show, full of energy with songs like Black Star Empire showing the quality of their material. They rightly get a great reaction from the crowd, having brought along some of their own for the evening too, and I look forward to getting the chance to see them again.

Karmen Field Karmen Field

Looking back through my dusty ledger, it would appear that this is the eighth time I’ve seen Godsticks play – the first one in 2009! And they still look so young… except for Darran of course. But I jest as they are a very different band to the one that emerged blinking into the light of the stage for an opening slot at the esteemed Summer’s End festival fifteen years ago. Darran Charles is the only survivor of that early incarnation. Then a jazz infused trio with an experimental approach, they have moved through a number of variations before really getting comfortable within a darker and heavier style of prog metal. But to their credit they have forged their own brand, able to push the big red button marked ‘Djent’ when required whilst retaining melody, emotion and prog dynamism. The icing on the cake for me has always been Darran’s vocals, and this more recent formation with two lead guitars allows him more space to deliver that element.


Darran now leads a quartet of guitarist Gavin Bushell, drummer Tom Price, and newest recruit – who at first glance appears to be playing ‘lead ironing board’ – Francis George. It is, of course, that mythical beast and jazz-fusion staple, the 6-string bass, and pleasingly it isn’t used for merely aesthetic goodness as Francis skilfully deploys it to add to the sound and give real bottom-end depth.

Godsticks - Gavin Bushell, Tom Price & Darran Charles

Godsticks have played in Swansea once before, almost ten years ago to the day. Darran refers back to the fact that only six people turned up. He is wrong: the ‘audience’ was in fact me, my uninitiated mate and another bloke – but they still played it like a sold out show. This time it’s very different, with an enthusiastic and supportive full house. Tonight is the last in a run of headlining shows that has taken them to London, Manchester and Bristol. A more local show on the bill of the Planet Rock Winter’s End festival in Porthcawl over the previous weekend (and from the videos they looked rather magnificent on the big stage) has done no harm at all either as we spoke to a couple of people who’d been introduced to Godsticks there – and excitedly came along to Swansea for seconds. It’s exposure of this nature that’s likely to grow the fanbase for a band that are now in a proper groove of material, technical abilities and stagecraft.

Godsticks - Darran CharlesDarran is on good form, bantering with the crowd, comically rebuking them for not coming to the last Swansea show whilst basking in the fact that he’s finally cracked the city, cheekily using wife Rhiannon for comedic purposes (just wait ’til she get’s you home!) and riding the wave of adulation by getting the crowd to enthusiastically boo his song choices! All good fun indeed, capped off by his clear indignation that Francis has now replaced him as pretty boy, getting everyone to cheer for the most handsome member of the band, then strategically ending the poll after getting his results first and diving into the next song – a masterstroke of creative accounting!

The sound is louder than for Karmen Field, but not over the top; quite dense but the rhythm section are particularly well defined. The vocals are clear, Gavin’s guitar a little louder than Darran’s from where I’m standing, but that doesn’t detract from the quality of the playing from either, peeling off complicated riffs and solos with ease. On occasion, the guitars aren’t distinctive enough, leading to lack of definition, but overall – and for a small room – it’s not bad at all.

The fifteen song set covers a pretty even split across the last four – heavier – albums, a brace of singles from latest This is What A Winner Looks Like opening the set. The first two, stylistically very different albums are ignored in favour of a mix from 2020’s Inescapable, 2017’s Faced With Rage and 2015’s Emergence, that album contributing the last song of the main set and a thumping encore with excellent takes on Lack of Scrutiny and Exit Stage Right. Highlights are many, and you could pick out a number of songs, but I always like to hear the likes of Below the Belt, Hard to Face, Time and Victim, plus the delicious delicacy of Surrender and We Are Leaving, adding variety and showing a different side to the band. Godsticks now have a true wealth of material to choose from, and it cannot be doubted what a great songwriter Darran Charles is.

As you would expect from a band as technically adept as Godsticks, the playing from all is superb. The soloing from Darran and Gavin is creative and effective, while Francis thumps the bottom end with precision, the additional string adding that important extra dimension. With Gavin and Darran frequently deploying 7-strings, this gives the trio twenty strings to play with – and they use them all with aplomb. The addition of Francis’ excellent backing vocals has opened out the sound and he’s a perfect fit. At the back, Tom Price is a powerhouse, his thunderous rolls and tricksy time changes anchoring and embellishing at the same time.

Godsticks - Gavin Bushell

Darran is in fine voice, clearly enjoying what, for me, is one of the best shows I’ve seen the band play. Clearly well bedded in at the end of the tour and riding the energy coming from the crowd, it’s a great atmosphere.

Godsticks have taken a long road, but it finally seems to be paying off for them. You’d do very well to catch them on their next tour. Oh, and in the meantime, familiarise yourself with the albums.


If I Don’t Take it All
Below the Belt
Hard to Face
Don’t Say A Word to Me
We Are Leaving
Lack of Scrutiny
~ Encore:
Exit Stage Right

Darran Charles – Guitars, Lead Vocals
Gavin Bushell – Guitars
Tom Price – Drums
Francis George – Bass, Backing Vocals

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Karmen Field – Facebook | Instagram
Edit The Tide – Facebook