by Jacob Wingate-Bishop

I don’t go to many smaller gigs; pub nights, open mics and the like. I’ve been to arenas and stadiums, I’m off to Wembley yet again later this year to watch Def Leppard in concert. I spend far, far too much for a decent spot, and make a whole trip of it. And that’s great. These spectacular, explosive performances are as valid as any gig.

But sometimes, you miss the quaint bar, packed with smoke, sweat and customers, a double vodka in your hand and sets from bands you’ve never even heard of. As I made my way into Heartbreakers, Southampton, on the 23rd February 2023, I knew that this is what live music was really about. I went along to catch the band of a friend of a friend’s, Eclipse Machine, and wound up voyaging into a solid evening of metal mania.

Eclipse Machine at Heartbreakers, Southampton – 23/02/2023. (Photo credit: Jacob Wingate-Bishop)

The venue itself was something of a punk’s dream: an old, colossal bar took up most of the ground floor, complete with stuffed deer’s head and skulls. Upstairs, and the stageroom itself was perfectly cramped and stagnant. To anything else, that would be an issue, but with small, intimate gigs like this, it’s that claustrophobia which is the lifeblood of the party. There was a decent turnout, we all held onto our cold, frosted beers for dear life, and though no words were passed between us, we all shared a kind of bond that night. A brotherhood. We were there for live music, and a good time.

Opening that night was the delectably hard rock outfit, My Black Poison, fusing catchy hooks with big, clattering choruses in a way that just worked. Stuncloud were next, promising a dirgey set that bordered on all out noise more than once. In a stage that cosy, they did a phenomenal job at filling it with ounces of stadium-honed swagger.

Canavar took up their instruments, channelling something between old-school punk and death metal, head-smashing highs with incoherent verses. They were a shot of pure adrenalin in an endorphin-soaked night, echoing shades of IDLES at their loudest.

The bells struck 10 o’clock, and the headliners, Eclipse Machine, made their way to the front. From the smiles and boyish camaraderie, you may not have assumed their poison of choice was neo-prog metal, but a minute into their latest, nine-minute single, ‘The Catalyst’, and any doubts were put to bed and smothered.

For a full hour, Eclipse Machine took us through deliciously dreamlike ebbs and Floyd-ian flows, frontman Elliot Miller composing the crowd to headbang and dance like some mad, psychedelic preacher. Seven-minute epics shrunk into three-minute anthems before our eyes, as whiskey and wine allowed our primal senses to take over. I headbanged, I stomped my feet, I applauded. But all the while, it was clear who this gig delighted most of all: the band themselves. You could read the ecstasy of the stage on their faces, with every soaring climax or thunderous drum fill.

All in all, Eclipse Machine proved a thoroughly engaging live act, allowing backing tape and live instrumentation to weave some of the most compelling, hypnotic and sometimes baffling narratives I’ve heard in a long time. They didn’t hold themselves to the level of pretension common among a lot of prog outfits, but delivered molten metal not a second too soon.

Header/thumbnail photo credit to Becca Schmeer ( on Instagram).