28/6/2013 Panic Room Review by Tim Hall

After a one-off gig in Milton Keynes back in April, Panic Room came to The Flowerpot in Derby for the first date of their short UK tour.

Openers Morpheus Rising had supported Panic Room on last November, and they’re back again for this tour. They have a changed lineup for these gigs, with Touchstone’s Henry Rogers joining the band on drums, and this weekend, Andy Gooby standing in for Andy Smith, who was off in Holland with Mostly Autumn. Despite the musical chairs, they are getting better and better as a live band with their modern take on classic twin lead guitar hard rock.

They’re now working on a second album, and the set contained quite a bit of brand-new material alongside favourites from their first disk “Let the Sleeper Awake”. Their signature guitar harmonies between Pete Harwood and Damien James Sweeting are as good as ever, with some very impressive soloing from Damien in particular. The new material came over very strongly, possibly slightly more riff-orientated than before, and whets the appetite for the forthcoming album.

Panic Room themselves have an altered lineup from last year, with Pete Harwood doing double duty in both bands. Playing only his third gig with the band, he’s fitted in very well. With Morpheus Rising he doesn’t play many solos, leaving them to Damien Sweeting with his flashier shred-metal style. But Pete Harwood’s playing suits Panic Room’s music perfectly. He’s got the same less-is-more understated style as the departed Paul Davies, which is precisely the sort of guitarist Panic Room’s music needs. There are many bands made up from a couple of key members plus supporting cast, but Panic Room have always been an ensemble where the whole is far more than the sum of the parts.

It’s almost impossible to pick out highlights from Panic Room’s set, such is the strength of their material. The set naturally drew heavily from their latest album “Skin” with selected highlights from the first two albums. The songs range from the out-and-out hard rock of “Apocalypstick” and “Hiding The World” to the emotional intensity of “Skin” and “The Fall”. The jazz-flavoured “Chameleon” saw Anne-Marie Helder’s ‘Silver Wand’ making an appearance, and they’re still playing their inventive reworking of ELP’s “Bitches Crystal”. Anne-Marie was on superb form as always, demonstrating just why she’s an award-winning vocalist. But then so was everyone else.

With The Flowerpot not far short of full, one wonders how much longer it will be possible to see this band playing small and intimate venues like this. The tour continues with shows in London, Norwich, Bilston and Manchester before Panic Room head into the studio to work on their fourth album.