Bisonhammer – Manchester’s secret weapon?

2017 May 20

Grand Central is, as I’m sure you’re aware, a rather strange place (unless you’re into your metal, in which case you probably think that everywhere else is strange). The interior of the pub would – in isolation – give absolutely no clue as to what goes on in there once the punters are let in, as it is without doubt the premier metal pub in Manchester. You can’t move for black hoodies, greasy ponytails and laughable goatee beards; the men are not much better.


Grand Central is currently running a competition for local metal bands, offering them a chance to play at Bloodstock – not an opportunity to be sniffed at, and I’d imagine it’s even more impressive if you know what it is. Some bands have done very well, but the band whose progress I have been following with some interest is Bisonhammer, who have – for this year – been my favourite live act by a country mile.


I moved to Manchester from Cardiff, where the music scene is much smaller – and where there is a notable lack of good metal acts. There is no metal “scene” in Cardiff, where the venues are constantly closing down or cutting back on the live acts in favour of indie clubnight wankery, and there is certainly no equivalent of Grand Central. The best bands in Cardiff are the likes of Future of the Left and the incomparable Truckers Of Husk, who fit the bills of post-hardcore punk and math-pop respectively. My first assignment for PULP was covering the In The City Fringe festival, and I hoped to find my new favourite local flavour – imagine my surprise when I found out the best live band in Manchester were not, as I’d expected, following in the footsteps of The Smiths or Joy Division, but were actually a heavy metal band. Bisonhammer were the only band that held my interest the entire weekend, and I am yet to see any other local band come anywhere near them.


So I’ve been coming along to the Bloodstock rounds, watching them rightfully beat out the competition, and wondered how things would hold on the night of the semifinals. I’m yet to hear the result, but I’ve never seen them put on a better show, so I’ll be amazed if they’re hindered on their way to the finals. I’ve always had something of a soft spot for metal, but what sets Bisonhammer apart is the spirit of good fun that accompanies their songs (which, when played live, seem less like pieces of music and more like controlled demolitions). 



Bisonhammer, tearing shit up. Photo courtesy of Paul Capewell.

Bisonhammer, tearing shit up. Photo courtesy of Paul Capewell.


I’ve seen some of Bisonhammer’s competitors, and there’s a reason that Bisonhammer have been progressing through the contest like a knife through butter. They really stand out among the bizarre Bon Jovi-tinted hair metal acts (who, due to the rather generously-portioned band members, looked like a Bon Jovi tribute made up exclusively of Giant Haystacks impersonators) and dour headbanging grease-sprayers (one of which was fronted by a cross between Converge’s Jacob Bannon and The Blackout Crew, who – with his tattoo sleeves and Fred Perry tracksuit – seemed to be something of a contradiction of terms). The music is played totally straight, and is executed with military precision – bands can’t survive on a sense of humour alone and Bisonhammer are ruthless when they get going, but there’s definitely a bit of tongue-in-cheek with it all. Whether it’s Gary Harkin – Bisonhammer’s flamboyant, grizzly Irishman-in-residence – dressing as a woman or a gay Father Christmas for no reason, or the whole band singing happy birthday to PULP staffers mid-set, Bisonhammer approach death metal with a delicious sense of fun and mischief.


And that’s what sets Bisonhammer apart – their music is incredible, but if the highlights of the setlist include “Apricots Deep In Your Baby Cave” and “Cannibal Orgy”, a sense of humour is pretty much essential. A lot of Manchester’s live acts could learn a lot from Bisonhammer – especially the posturing indie darlings who regularly snivel their way onto the stage of the Dry Bar with their fringes in their faces, making absolutely no effort to convey any sense of pride in their craft. Bisonhammer look like driven men on stage and really give their performances the gravitas they deserve, as though it is the supreme privilege of the audience to witness such a spectacle – which, of course, it is.


I really love Bisonhammer. Every time I see them play I am further convinced that they are the most entertaining and authentic live act currently doing the rounds in Manchester – they’re not just the best metal band, they’re the best band Manchester has at the moment. End of. If they do not win the place on the Bloodstock bill, it will be absolutely no reflection on them, but rather shame on the judges for not allowing Manchester’s finest live act to represent the city. They can’t be Manchester’s secret weapon forever.


For more information on Manchester’s greatest live band, visit their MySpace here.


John Tucker