Posts Tagged ‘Manchester Academy’

I went to see Killswitch Engage and Bullet For My Valentine live tonight on Sunday 4th December, 2016, at Manchester Academy. They were supported by Nu Metal revivalists Cane Hill. Usually for gigs at the Manchester Academy I show up roughly at the time of doors opening and get in almost instantly with minimal queuing, but this time was different. One of the biggest ques I have ever seen there, all the way to the Manchester Museum entrance met me upon arrival; the only longer que I ever saw there was for a Bring Me The Horizon show (which I’d swear I’ve reviewed but can’t find it anywhere… long story short stuff off Sempiternal sounded good, anything older sounded awful due to the mix, and the crowd were unbearable jerks. I was looking forward to ‘Chelsea Smile’ so much but it sounded so flat and lifeless due to the soundjob.) I guess once when I went to see Megadeth there was a lot of queuing too, but that was really because doors opened late more than anything. Interestingly, this time, rather than rip tickets they scanned em with little lazer machines. Scanners. Lazer machines makes it sound more advanced than it was. The only other time I’ve ever seen scanner machines was with Saxon at the Ritz. Is this the future?

Anyway, when I got in tonight, Cane Hill were already on stage. I’ve never checked them out before but I know from the excellent That’s Not Metal Podcast (who sent me a free T shirt today, for which I’m grateful) that they are a modern band who play in the style of late-’90s Nu Metal. I definitely heard a looooot of Korn in their songwriting, vocal style and extra guitar noises (as in not the riffs themselves but the noises, mid verse). A wee bit of early Deftones and a pinch of Coal Chamber was also audible in their general style. It wasn’t a total ’90s flashback though, there was still some hardcore and metalcore sneaking in there too. And the very occasional Slipknot, Pantera or Black Label Society moment. They were decent, they roused the crowd fairly well (got a ‘fuck Trump’ chant going at one point, and it didn’t feel too pandering, which was nice), and I have nothing bad to say about ’em. Don’t think I’m a converted fan or anything but I wouldn’t swear off them for life either. Their bassdrum said ‘smoke weed’ and ‘drop acid’ which I’ve no time for, and once during a more violent song they encouraged the crowd to hit each-other in the face and literally beat each-other up, exact words, which I’ve also no time for, but musically it was an ok opener. I would’ve preferred Trivium though…damn their new album has grown on me, and last time I saw Killswitch it was with Trivum. They go well together.

So, next up, after a random selection of rock and metal tunes over the PA including Thin Lizzy’s ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ which elicited a particularly big smile from me, the reason I bought the ticket took to the stage. I’ve saw Killswitch once before, and by god, it was a damn memorable show. It was flaberghastingly good and I have such clear memories of it to this day. My second Killswitch show did not disappoint. There wasn’t as fancy a lightshow or backdrop since they weren’t the headliner, and maybe the set was ten to thirty minutes shorter, but otherwise, it was every bit as jaw dropping, life affirming and all out excellent as I’d hoped.

The crowd, singing things like ‘My Last Serenade’ ‘My Curse,’ my favourite Killswitch song, ‘In Due Time’ or especially ‘The End Of Heartache’ was absolutely overwhelming. You were engulfed in the loudest, most passionate sing backs you could ever imagine. You felt like you were in some fabled Live At Donnington moment like Maiden doing Fear Of The Dark or Slipknot doing Duality or one of those ones you read about as legend. The crowd doing ‘The End Of Heartache’ was deathbed-memorable. Seriously. Holy fuck.

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From Sorrow To Serenity – The Truth Is Absolution!

Anyway; the band. So good live. All the great little details you’ll know from the DVDs, like playing eachother’s guitars, or having all the extra picksqueals and competitive silliness, or amazing extra fills were all there. Adam D is still such an entertaining character and it doesn’t get old. Jesse live is an astoundingly good frontman. Aforementioned podcast called Killswitch the best live band in metal judging by recent years, and its damn hard to disagree after a show like that. When they go heavy-heavy at the end of songs you feel like you are seeing Machine Head or Pantera at their heaviest. When they do melody and harmony you feel like you’re in a classic Maiden or Priest live album and when they do their clean sing-alongs…there is no comparison, Killswitch fucking OWN that! No-one does or ever did that better.

The setlist was pretty decent. All the hits. ‘Fixation On The Darkness’ and ‘Vide Infra’ from the debut. A good four or five tunes from the new album. No messing about. The only thing I’d query is that their was nothing off the self titled album. Not even ‘Never Again’ or ‘Reckoning’ …but hey, you can’t fit it all. Previous shows had ‘A Bid Farewell’ and ‘You Don’t Bleed For Me’ instead of the new songs, which I personally would’ve preferred, but that’s a familiarity issue, not a quality issue. (Although those two in particular do rank rather damn high in my favourite Killswitch songs).

The show was strong, the performance was immense, the setlist was decent, and the atmosphere was pretty great. Time to go home then, satisfied as I was.

Well, not exactly, because there was still the headliners. Welsh Metalcore band Bullet For My Valentine. The biggest and most successful British Heavy Metal band since Iron Maiden. A band who, for some reason, about a decade ago without hearing any music, I decided I probably wouldn’t like and then completely ignored until their latest album Venom was released, before finally giving them a fair chance after much propaganda from my friend Brad over the years, and being taken aback. They have this reputation as being wimpy or girly or overly commercial or beginner’s stuff, or whatever. They were a cool band to hate. If you were wearing an Exodus t-shirt, then probably someone told you they sucked. …I was told they sucked and never give them a fair chance. When I finally did, I ended up buying all their albums (and their debut EP as well) within weeks. I’ve listened to them near daily ever since. Such a catchy, catchy band. Ironically underrated for someone famous enough to play arenas. Sometimes they are heavy as balls. The title track to ‘Scream Aim Fire’ sounds like Testament at times. Some of the mid album stuff on The Poison is as heavy as Trivium or Killswitch at their heaviest. Some of the song endings are almost Machine Head-esque… yet for some bizarre reason they are warned off to potential Metalhead fans because someone tells us they are wimpy or something. They’re heavier than Megadeth, than Priest. Than Motorhead. Than a lot of really beloved and respected bands. They have a few semi-ballads and a lot of clean singing parts, but hey, so do Priest and Maiden and Megadeth and Anthrax and Manowar and Fear Factory and even early Pantera. Not every band can be Nasum and Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Whatever the reason for Bullet being on True-Metal’s blacklsit, its a spurrious and stupid reason, and it is leaving people to miss out on some seriously great music.

Well, let them miss out. Or better yet, let them learn the error of their ways like I did last year. I’ve had a great year listening to ‘wimpy’ Bullet nonstop and loving it. It didn’t stop me liking Napalm Death or Tygers Of Pan Tang or Deep Purple. It didn’t suddenly make me know or care less about Metal’s history, beloved albums, or heavier moments. I’ll just keep jamming ‘Army Of Noise’ or ‘Fever’ or ‘Cries In Vain’ and let a bunch of people in either Tokyo Blade or Morbid Angel t-shirts scowl. Its their loss.

Anyway. This show was a special show. They played their debut album The Poison in its entirety. They had producer Colin Richardson in the audience as a special guest. They seemed to record it as well judging by all the mics pointed out into the crowd. Oh, and Matt took to the mic and stated plainly and not as hyperbole that this was arguably the most significant gig of their career to date.

Visually, it was great. They had big specially made BMFV banners. They had fancy lighting. They had lazers. They were all dressed in matching suits like hollywood stars. It felt like an event. Not just any old gig.

Sonically, it was bad ass. The soundjob was so much heavier and livelier and more energetic/aggressive than on record and it all felt really organic and crushing. The drummer was really pushing himself doing so much extra, having such a big happy face on whilst doing it, and the backing vocals were really brutal. Maybe, I guess, someone could hear them and say its too commercial and too processed on record… but live, oh no no no, this was seriously good. Waaaay heavier than you’d expect. Slick and professional as hell but with that live feel too. Hard to have both. Bullet succeeded.

The crowd lapped it up. Circle pits. Boundless enthusiasm. The sing alongs were even wilder and more memorable than for Killswitch ‘best live band in the world right now’ Engage if you can believe it. The crowd sang like, every single little word from deep tracks’ third verses. It was bonkers. They sang the riffs, the solos. It was like when you see South American Megadeth or Maiden shows on DVDs. Such enthusiasm!

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Your cries are all in vain!

There were a few random sound drop outs and mistakes by the soundman, particularly distracting during the heavy-ass opening of their new single ‘Dont Need You,’ which almost stole its momentum but otherwise this was a flawless show.

With sound, visuals and an atmosphere like that it was truly something to behold. That the band were performing at the top of their game, confident and starlike as hell, playing the fuck out of the heavy bits, brilliantly singing the clean bits and shredding out the solos with fun and panache, it all just came together into this perfect better-than-the-sum-of-its-parts supergig!

It was genuinely one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen, and it felt the the culmination of massive fandom for some reason. Hey, I didn’t even know or like this band two years ago, and now they’ve blown me away with literally, unarguably one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. I don’t say that often. I din’t say that for Down or Mosnter Magnet or Megadeth. Not for System Of A Down or Metallica or Amon Amarth. This was a seriously astounding show.

If they do release this on DVD or anything, get yourself a copy. Even if you don’t like the band. Seeing ‘Four Words To Choke Upon’ live, extra raw and heavy would make anyone a fan! For people who like the softer side of Metal, then ‘Ten Years Today’ or ‘The End’ or their signature semi-ballad ‘Tears Dont Fall’ would surely win you over, live, with that sound, performance and fan feedback there’s just something undeniable about them. Biggest British band since Maiden. I can well believe it.

Oh, you know what else was nice. I caught a drum stick! I go to gigs all the time, and I never manage to catch picks or sticks or setlists, but I actually caught one tonight! And not in that nasty fight-for-it selfish way, it literally just landed in my hands! Nice one! A very welcome souvenir, especially since I play the drums myself!

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That was a great concert. If ever you get a change to see Killswitch or Bullet, take it. That is entertainment worth seeing!

 

I went to go see Exodus live at the Manchester Academy-2 on 28/10/16. It was as part of a four part bill, The Battle Of The Bays tour, featuring Florida Death Metal band Obituary (who were actually the headliner but not the band I was most interested in), San Francisco Thrash Metal legends Exodus, New York cross-over thrash turned Groove Metal trio Prong and Australian Grindcore noise makers King Parrot.

I walked in, after having already visiting the merch booth for an Exodus t-shirt, into the first King Parrot track, to join a reasonably revved-up crowd, reacting to the Aussies’ noisy obnoxious music. It was pretty damn entertaining, the singer was like former Jackass celebrity Steve-O in facial expressions and attitude, and kept getting into the crowd, touching people’s face, spitting and throwing liquids at them, screeching in teen girl’s faces, mooning the crowd and generally acting like a 1980s Hardcore Punk front-man, he had that fun obnoxious vibe. The music had blastbeats and grinding guitars, punky moments, and a lot of groove metal sections to balance the two styles out. Not bad at all musically, very good performance wise (from all the band, even though I’ve only bothered to describe the singer) and a very good way to warm up the crowd and start off a fun evening. I’d check em out again. Give em a shot if you like the heavier stuff.

Now, I have a boxset of Prong albums but I hardly ever listen to them. I really love the band when they are playing something that sounds like Fear Factory, Machine Head or Pantera, but I don’t really vibe with their dissonant noisy moments or their hardcore roots the same way. Things that sound like Vulgar era Pantera yes, things that sound like My War era Black Flag, no.

After this concert, I have a lot more interest in Prong. When they played songs I knew, I absolutely loved it. I was singing ‘Another Worldly Device’ at work all the next day. When they played music I didn’t yet know, I was very very impressed. They sound so much heavier and more full live. Maybe it was the production on those albums, or maybe the performances were just that much more firey live, I don’t know, but either way, Prong shot up about 400% in my estimation and I’ll be revisiting them a lot more in the wake of this. Tommy Victor reminds me a lot of Rob Flynn in a lot of good days. He’s a good front man. How in to it he got during closer ‘Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck’ really made me warm to him and I’m totally game to try some new Prong albums in the very near future.

Then came my main event, Thrash Metal legends, number 5 of the Big Four, the best of the Bay Area, the mighty Exodus. This is the reason I was at the gig, I got an email saying they were in town and within a few hours I owned a ticket.

Steve Souza was back in the band, but even at that I was still treated to the amazing gift of having them open with my favourite song from Exhibit B’ ‘The Ballad Of Leonard And Charles’ …a viscous and scathing documentary style comment on the true story of two Californian serial killers who murdered up to 25 actual humans in real life. The vocal performance on the chorus line ‘Killers of Children, Rapists of Women, Sado-sexual Violence’ really conveys how horrific their crimes were (even more so than the lyrics themselves, its the way its spat out that tells the real story). Zetro did not disappoint doing Rob Duke’s material. Nor did he disappoint doing Ballof’s material. Or indeed his own. I love Zetro the best of all of Exodus’ singers over the years, and to hear absolute gems like ‘War Is My Sheppard’ and ‘Blacklist’ live absolutely set me off. In fact, it set the crowd off. I was happy with how well the crowd reacted to Tempo Of The Damned material. That album was such an important moment from the band for my fandom and I was afraid the crowd would be a load of people who only wanted to hear Bonded By Blood songs (of which there was already a heavy percentage). No, good crowd. They know that ‘War Is My Sheppard’ is an indisputable classic now. Smart people. Any concert with ‘Blacklist’ in it is a pretty damn good concert, I’ll tell you that much!

I couldn’t fault the setlist. I wouldn’t remove anything. The only thing I wish is that there was more time. It would’ve been amazing to hear more of my favourite Zetro-era classics ‘Chemi-Kill,’ ‘Brain Dead,’ ‘Fabulous Disaster,’ ‘Corruption,’ ‘Impact Is Imminent’ or indeed newer stuff from the Dukes era like ‘Altered Boy,’ ‘Class Dismissed’ or the Dukes era’s best ever tune ‘Children Of A Worthless God’ but that would’ve been a headline show. How much time would that all take?

How great was it to hear the famous tracks like ‘Bonded By Blood’ or ‘The Toxic Waltz’ though? Oh my goodness did I enjoy that. The crowd began to bang, there was blood upon the stage, metal took its place, bonded by blood. Hearing stuff of the new album like ‘Blood In. Blood Out.’ and ‘Body Harvest’ kept it all vital and not just nostalgia… I mean there’s been no decline in quality over the years. Either of those tracks would still be one of the best songs on Tempo’ or Impact’

I also loved their performance; they were hungry, rabid thrashers, not slow washed-out old men. I’ve heard it said that millionaires can’t make Thrash Metal, and so in that way its good Exodus never got as famous as Metallica, because Exodus are still unrelenting in their delivery. Its as if they’re still in their twenties. I also love their interaction with the crowd, they were very accommodating and interactive and the dialougue about the value of Heavy Metal itself all chimed very well with me. Overall, an amazing, feel-good performance and excellent setlist. I had myself a great time singing along, and I would go see them again tonight if I could. If you ever get the chance, no matter where they are on a bill and how short a slot they’re given, get yourself down to an Exodus show and you’ll be a happy man (or woman) (…but let’s be honest, man. Do I have any female readers? I doubt it.)(Interesting sidenote: Exodus certainly have a pretty high female audience ratio…. way more than I’ve seen in about my last 7 or 8 concerts. More than C.O.C for sure. Not quite Peirce The Veil levels of equality, but for greasy, brutal ’80s Thrash it was more than you’d expect).

At his point my night was complete, only it turns out that Obituary were headlining, as I’ve mentioned, and so I stayed to check them out. I’m not a fan yet, and have only ever heard one song. I’ve been meaning to try them for ages and have picked up their boxset numerous times in HMV but money shortages stopped me ever actually going through with the purchase. I like the other bands in Death Metal’s big four. I’ve liked Cannibal Corpse and Deicide a medium amount for years. I got into Morbid Angel a bit this year. Just Obituary left of the four. (And Death, Immolation, Incantation and many others still to come from the next tiers).

It was a very good performance. The two standout tracks were ‘Slowly We Rot’ and ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Die’ as well as the Celtic Frost cover as a close third. I was taken aback by how dedicated and into the crowd were. I noticed in the last few years how many morrisound album t-shirts have skyrocketed in popularity both in the streets of Manchester and especially at Metal gigs. It seems to be enjoying a renewed popularity, but man, I never expected an Obituary gig to be so packed of such an invested crowd. Shows what I know.

I was very, very impressed. There was no blasting, nothing unmusical. It was all fat, thick, groovy. There was a mix of doomy intros, speedy mid sections, and cool stop/start staccato moments ala Fear Factory, with surprisingly audible and discernible vocals and great lead guitar. Colour me impressed. Obituary are definitely worth me checking out it seems.

Good night.

I went to go see Tesseract tonight (Friday 5th February, 2016) at Manchester Academy 2, with Nordic Giants and The Contortionist as support. This was the fourth time I’ve seen Tesseract (I’ve previously with Karnivool, Protest The Hero and Animals As Leaders, twice at this same venue and once at Sound Control – another venue also in Manchester) and the second time I’ve seen The Contortionist (seen ‘em with Riverside in Club Academy).

I got there a little late, but that meant the merch table was clear and saved me time after the gig, so it actually worked out alright, I got there as Nordic Giants had just finished their first song. I’ve never seen or heard of them before, so was surrised to see two multi-instrumentalists separated by not one but two projector screens centre stage, dressed up as Eskimos or Native Americans or, presumably, Nordic Giants. They moved rhythmically in time with the music and did big Tommy Lee drum gestures, and had violin bows to use on guitars, and played weird arty movies, with things like Game Of Thrones one minute, then parasites evolving the next, then people’s faces melting into sand and then an animated movie with lots of Pink Floyd and Sonic/Mario videogame references. Pretty interesting. The music was, I don’t know, some kind of Post-Rock, Explosions In The Sky meets Sixty Five Days Of Static type stuff (I’m not well informed on this sort of music… I know some music more than others. I could tell you if they sounded like Tygers Of Pan Tang though… they don’t.)
It was very intriguing and I’d happily see them again, or use their music to score an emotional scene in a sports movie if I ended up in the unlikely position to do so.

Next up comes The Contortionist. Their first song was a badass, Rishloo-esque beautiful prog sparkler. The majority of their set was Djent on the very mathy side, very complex and a bit hard to follow, with some really aggressive parts, but mostly quite beautiful. Their singer is still really cool and their main guitarist still looks about 13 years old, but is like a junior Robert Fripp in talent.

It was a good gig, and saw a very quite violent pit from some very odd, angry looking apes who seemed to think they were at a Throwdown or Hatebreed gig, but whatever. I don’t really love their songs because the math thing is a little too far… and the heavy thing is a bit too abrasive, but I’d happily see them again supporting someone else.

Then came Tesseract. It was the first time I’ve seen them since the new album came out. I’ve said it before, but Altered State, their sophomore, was a true stone cold masterpiece, and arguably the milestone against all other new music will henceforth be judged for me. When Ashe O Harra left I was worried and even though Dan is great I’d rather he stay in Skyharbour and I have the best of both worlds. All other times I saw the band, they were touring Altered State effectively, but this time they had Polaris songs to fit into the set.

Fit ‘em they did. In fact, not only did they fit ‘em, but they were the highlight of the night. “Hexes,” “Survival” and “Dystopia” were three of the best performances I’ve seen out of a band in years. The crowd went flippin wild for “Survival” too, which I didn’t realize was such a big deal because I’m semi out of the loop with other music fans at the minute.
They did play the first four songs off of Altered State too, so I’m damn happy, and this time none crowd surfed over my head during “Resist.”
The sound was very clear, the setlist was nice and balanced from all three albums, the light show was more advanced with colorful lazers and the audience didn’t get up in my business. A very good night for this fan. I didn’t even get into my usual ‘beer, littering, photos and crowdsurfing should be banned’ mood because their weren’t any Slayer fans spoiling for a fight or shirtless English versions of Frat Boys in an out of place party mood. Good stuff.

Oddly; when the band left the stage, ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from the Titanic movie played and most of the audience stayed and sang all the words for good minute or two before admitting defeat at the lack on formal encore. An unusual end to a gig, and surprising how many people knew all the lyrics, but whatever… I’m not the music police. I like music my favourite critics and “opinion-makers” think is awful all the time.
Did I mention the new material was good? Its really good. It worked really well live. I’m very excited to see the band again, when they start dropping even more new stuff into the set, Here’S hoping for ‘Seven Names.’

I went to go see fantastic Canadain Prog/Punk/Metal/Whatever band Protest The Hero last night in Manchester Academy. My ticket said Academy 2, but the bouncers herded us into the basement for the Club Academy.

I was a bit skeptical that maybe they’d mistakenly sent me to the wrong gig, and asked some guy in a Protest The Hero shirt if he though he was in the right place, which he did… I asked that two seconds before noticing the rather large Protest The Hero backdrop (with the same image as the t-shirt I was wearing on it).

The support band seemed to be a local band of Manchester students, but in fact turned out to be Palm Reader – who you might’ve heard mentioned dozens of times on the Metal Hammer Podcast. They were good.. a very pissed off mixture of Parkway Drive and Gallows. Definitely more in the British Hardcore mode than Metalcore in the Shadows Fall sense. Interesting. I wasn’t bowled over but I could respect it.

Then came The Contortionist who played Djent, so I should’ve liked them, but they just lacked a special something. Maybe they were deflated that the gig had been downsized? I don’t know. The singer was super, super calm, almost like he was in a coffee shop. Didn’t really create an atmosphere. Also, it didn’t help that their guitarist had such a young face that it reminded me of the gigs I’d played as a teenager when no-one showed up. The whole thing could only be described as ‘drab’ which I’m aware is unfair and makes me sound judgemental, but its honestly how I felt. Clapping out of politeness but not in any way shape or form “blown away.”

The Safety Fire followed that. I’m not being rude but it wasn’t very good. Technical problems, missed notes, lack of energy until the famous songs. They’re a good band, I’ve seen them before and they were really storming, I think this was just an off-night. Don’t let me put you off them, but just being honest, 26/11/2014 wasn’t a good gig of theirs, for me.

Then came the band I’ve been banging on about for the last two years. The band I paid to see. The band who’ve fastest shot up my scroble-count of anyone ever with the same amount of material (in English that means I’ve listened to them proportionately higher than anyone else recently). The band who I saw in February who played one of the hands down best and most fun gigs I’ve ever seen, ever.

It was good. I had earplugs in the rest of the night due to the really bad ear injury I got on Monday at Mastodon, but I took the plug out’ve the non-injured ear for PTH. They were fantastic. Roddy’s humorous banter didn’t fall flat. New bassist was great. New(ish) drummer still completely awesome. Core band absolutely flawless.

The setlist was a good too – bit different from last time I saw them… no ‘Mist’ but there was ‘Termites.’ No ‘The Dissentience,’ ‘Bury The Hatchet’ or ‘Tilting Against Windmills’ but there was ‘Drumhead Trial’ and ‘ Bone Marrow’ and ‘Plato’s Tripartite.’ Still a good balance of all four albums, still hits, still surprises. Good job.

I really enjoyed the band. I wasn’t in the best spot for “getting into it” and jumping up and down and the earplug thing made me self-conscious of my voice and so singing along wasn’t as energetic as it was last time, and I can’t honestly claim a “best gig ever” thing about this one the way I could last time I saw them (it was amazing!), but I’m still glad to have went. And I was in the best spot for seeing music without yobs impinging upon my person or ear canals. So… I’d chalk that one up to a win, given a) my personality anyway and b) the circumstances.

Anyway; Man, I’m buzzed. Speed walking home to avoid muggers has really woken me up.
Good thing I don’t have to get up at 5am this morning. Oh wait…

I went to go see Mastodon live tonight at Manchester Academy (on Monday 24th of November, 2014).

This is the 3rd time I’ve seen the band live. I saw them with Trivium/Amon Amarth and Slayer in Wolverhampton, and I saw them with Tool in Dublin. Both were in support of Blood Mountain, but at the Tool gig they played mostly their proggier stuff, and with Slayer they went for the faster harder stuff (well, still not much off Remission or Lifesblood, but the harder side of Blood Mountain and Leviathan.)

As you can tell from all the pictures of me in Leviathan t-shirts, and the picture of a Leviathan vinyl mounted on my wall, and all the glowing Mastodon reviews in the reviews section… these guys were one of my favourite bands. I have to admit, my love affair is waning a bit in the last year or two. 2007-2011 they were unarguably in my top five bands ever, but I’ve kind of forgotten them (through no fault of their own… just me getting distracted by other musical adventure elsewhere), and if I’m honest I’ve fallen out of love with most of the deep cuts off of The Hunter… I just listened to it way too much and only about half of it stayed awesome. Oh, and I’ve also barely watched the Live At Brixton concert because they failed to put it out on Blu Ray and watching it on the computer isn’t an option for me.

All that, and I’ve not gotten Once More Around The Sun yet… I did stream it twice around the time of release and wasn’t blown away (but maybe it’s a grower?) but I do love the latest single “The Motherload” (or specifically, its chorus!), which I’ve heard a lot in music video form or live on tv shows. So going in, I didn’t know what to think. They used to be one of my absolute favourite bands ever, I can remember hearing them for the first time a decade ago, getting my first cd of theirs seven years ago… going nuts for Crack The Skye for a full year and barely listening to anything else… I remember the whole “nothing will ever be better than this… music is therefore officially finished” emotions, but… I dunno I’ve just not been in the mood for them lately. I’ve been off in other directions.

I have however been blown away live by bands I wasn’t in the mood for before. I was out of love with Trivium last time I saw them and they wrenched me violently back to them with an astounding show.

With that in mind, I headed out to the concert on this cold Manchester night.

The support band was called Krokodil, named after that horrible drug in all the documentaries at the moment, and most famous for providing Slipknot with their new bassist. I hadn’t heard their music before going in.

Turns out they’re a sludgy, harsh, abrasive band in the style of early Mastodon, early Baroness and early Black Tusk. Sometimes they went lighter, which was like the heavier side of Red Fang… sometimes it was a bit more Dillinger. It seemed like their bass was their main instrument. There’s also this noisy hardcore aspect to them and a lot of guttural death growls and stuff too. They had a pretty brilliant song that I assume was called “The Tide” and they seemed ok the rest of the time.

Unannounced extra support band Big Business followed. They were a two-man (bassist and drummer, both singers) group, who played more like the light side of Red Fang but very much in that same tent as everyone else I mentioned. The sound mix didn’t help them… it sounded like one big drum solo. I mean… there was a drum solo, but because of the sound, their normal songs were also pretty much a drum solo. Good job they have an incredible drummer. I think their slot was about 10 minutes too long… if I’m totally honest I did start to get bored (and I’m usually very into giving people a fair chance), but otherwise, I wouldn’t criticize them.

Then came Mastodon: One time “I’ll talk your ear off about them, I love them TOO MUCH” band… Current “barely listened to them in the last two years” band.

Would they reignite that passionate love affair with an explosive set of all my favourite songs, played furiously with intense energy and a great sound mix? Or would it be a drab trotting out of new material with lackluster performances and dodgy sound quality?

Well… first up, they seemed to play mostly music off their new album, Once More Around The Sun (it felt like 7 or 8 songs!), which as I’ve explained, I’m not overly familiar with yet, since I haven’t bought it yet.

Otherwise, the setlist was a mix of hits “Oblivion,” “Divinations,” “Crystal Skull,” “Black Tongue” and closing with the immense “Blood And Thunder” with some very surprising moments too, like… they played “Ole Nessie” off of Remission. Did not expect! – Also “Blade Catcher” off of Blood Mountain, which I sometimes think of more as an interlude than a real song (although I’m pretty sure they played that when I saw ‘em with Tool too, in all fairness). It was cool to see “Megalodon” and “Aqua Dementia.” – I saw them both before but I thought they were quiet deep tracks that would get lost once they put more albums out. Luckily not.

Disappointingly, there was no “Curl of the Burl” which I would’ve preferred over almost anything else off the two newest albums, but hey you can’t have everything. Oh; and they’ve returned to their old position of not playing “March of the Fire Ants” anymore, which I think is a mistake, but hey ho… I’m sure lots of people are sick of it. I could do with an Iron Maiden set without “Run To The Hills” and “Number Of The Beast” so I can see why Mastodon would make this choice. Now that I think of it there were quite a few hits missing… no “Iron Tusk,” no “Colony off Birchmen” no “Capillirian Crest.”

At the time I was kind of put off mentally by the whole “lets play a ton of tracks off of the new album” attitude, but really, I think it’s a good thing when bands do that most of the time, so long as the album is good. Me, not being a huge ‘Round The Sun fan yet might not have been best served, but its always a bit rubbish when you go and see someone like Megadeth or Slayer and don’t get to hear your favourite new songs because they kind of don’t let themselves change the setlist too much in case it wrecks a winning formula.

Oh yeah, and you know the most important bit… they absolutely slayed the new album live! It was killer. People went mad for it too. People sang every word to tracks like “Aunt Lisa” and “Halloween.” People ate that right up! (I felt a bit guilty for not knowing the words… was Troy looking into my blank face and feeling disappointed?)

The highlights of the night for me actually included the two new singles “High Road” (despite way too much ironic crowdsurfer action) and “The Motherload.” They just blew the place apart. The biggest, most explosive thing of all though was an absolutely ripping rendition of “Blasteroid” which I never considered an “evening-maker” until now… but boy did it jam! It put a huge grin on my face!

Oh yes, it was a very good show from Mastodon indeed. The cool hand-painted backdrop… all the fancy lazers, the good sound job, it all helped… but what really sold it was Mastodon themselves. They really cared!

Troy would look people in the eye all the time… he’d give people off at the sides a thumbs up, when he noticed someone taking his picture, he’d pull a cool dramatic pose… even in the middle of a song. Brann looked like he was having fun on his new non-Randy Rhodes drum kit… Bill and Brent tore it up like the rock stars they’ve truly become. You just got the sense that everyone was passionate about this… no phoning it in, no boredom… just pure showmanship.

Yeah… you’re damn right its reignited my Mastodon love and you’re damn right I’m getting that new album as soon as my next paycheck lands!

All in all, if you’re wondering whether or not to catch Mastodon on this tour, I strongly advise you do! Just… wear some ear plugs… because the fans bellowed and hollered in my earhole so much it give me really bad headaches afterward and a weird version of ringing-in-the-ears that’s more like an on-off guitar’s killswitch kind of thing… like I’m deaf for one second, normal the next. Not cool.

Yeah, worth it. But dude, earplugs… seriously!

I went to go see Clutch live last night, on Thursday the 24th of April 2014, at the Academy in Manchester. This is one of the gigs I’ve been most looking forward to all year (with a year being September-September as opposed to January-January).

The support act for the evening was Lionize, who I hadn’t heard before seeing them. Lionize were kind of the same as Monster Truck or Sixty Watt Shaman in that they sound really similar to Clutch but aren’t quite as magical. They’re the kind of band who I’d give a good review to, but would loose enthusiasm for and rarely listen to after that initial excitement has gone. I enjoyed them, but I wouldn’t investigate further.

I actually expected Clutch to play in the smaller Academy 2 or Club Academy venues, seeing as how they are kind of a cult band that should be bigger than they are, but it seems that with Earth Rocker they’ve caught a big wave, and are becoming as big as they deserve to be at last, as they played in the much larger Academy venue. (Neil even commented “Its nice to be in the big room.”)

They played in front of a large Earth Rocker artwork banner, and had a modest light-show, but for the most part it was the same stripped down, working-man thing they always do. I can’t imagine a band like them playing with foam cannons, confetti bombs and video screens of clothing advertisements (like Bring Me The Horizon did when I saw them at this same venue a few months ago).

How were they? Well, you don’t need me to tell you Clutch are good live. Its one of the first things you ever hear about that band. They’re great live.

Last night was no exception. They were fantastic! They played an energetic, rousing set that concentrated on their faster, heavier and more exciting material, with a big emphasis on the Blast Tyrant and Earth Rocker albums. In fact they played almost all of Earth Rocker. It kind of feels like they are fulfilling their potential. Like they’d accidentally become one of the best bands in the world while thinking they’re just some dudes at a bar, and now they realized they look like absolute fucking superstars if they play the right songs in the right order.

Neil is such a great frontman, and his gesturing and jumping up and down really conveys the stories told in the lyrics. He really throws himself into it. Even when he has a harmonica or a guitar (or in the case of ‘DC Sound Attack’ – a cowbell!) he can still bounce around like somebody excited to tour their debut record.

It was a pretty banging setlist. For the most parts you got quick punchy songs like ‘Earth Rocker,’ ‘The Mob Goes Wild,’ ‘Pure Rock Fury,’ ‘Burning Beard,’ and a very fun rendition of ‘Unto The Breach.’

They were tighter here than on some of the live albums I’ve heard, and while they still threw in additional drum fills, groove parts and jams, they were brief and trim and musical. The two slowest moments of the evening were a drum solo and a slightly out-of-place rendition of “Space Grass” to break up all the speed. The got the guy out from Lionize to play keyboards on ‘1000111010’ which was pretty damn bombastic live. (Three times is jive).

Towards the end, the threw in ‘The Soapmakers’ and ‘The Wolfman Kindly Requests…’ both of which were absolutely off the chain. Very exciting, you should’ve seen the smile on my face.

The encore featured ‘The Regulator,’ ‘Electric Worry’ and ‘One Eye Dollar.’ It was crazy how into it the crowd were. People were so excited to sing “Bang, bang, bang, Vaminos, Vaminos.”

That goes for the whole concert. The crowd were absolutely loving it. Loud, loud cheers, some of the loudest I’ve heard in these last two years of more-frequent concert attendance. Also, a lot more polite. Only one crowd-surfer the whole time. No barging and shoving. I got really close to the front and got to stand there comfortably and unmolested the whole night with no competition for space. My favourite kind of concert.

Overall, this was an absolutely brilliant concert. I had a fantastic time and the band performed a great set. I can’t imagine anyone at all walking out of that show and not having had a good time. One D-Bag was overheard to comment “Well, as far as accessible Clutch goes…” – but aside from hipsters who only want to hear B-sides, stuff from Impetus and a lot of jamming, I’d wager that 99.9% of Clutch fans would be impressed and satisfied. Its also cool that they’ve earned the right to play in such a big venue (the same one Megadeth played in). The concert was so good that I bought myself a tour T-shirt afterwards even after saying I wouldn’t at the beginning of the night… Just like what happened at Queensryche.

I hope they put out a live DVD from this tour, it will be their best live album, hands down. That’s how good it was. Go see them live if you can!

I went to go see Architects live tonight at the Manchester Academy 2 on Friday 7th March. It was the first day of their tour in support of their new (as yet unreleased, although you could buy it at the merch stand) album Lost Forever Lost Together.

They were supported by Landscapes, Northlane and Stray From The Path.

Doors seemed to open about forty minutes late but I’m not sure if that was reality or just my perception. When I did get in, I was able to get very close to the front in a good spot. Landscapes were already playing when I got in (something that’s happened a few times at the Academy), they were a Metalcore band halfway between the Architects/BMTH style and the Killswitch/Parkway Drive style, and they were really good at what they did. They also had quite a lot of floaty bits that reminded me vaguely of Isis. Their singer was pretty impressive, he got into the crowd at one point for almost an entire song, but not like when a singer usually pops up at the front of the crowd, he walked right into the centre of the room and a circle opened up around him as he sang into different fans’ faces, it was pretty cool. They were my favourite support band of the evening.

Next up came Northlane, who were Australian. Their singer at first reminded me of big New York Hardcore singers like Evan Seinfeld and Lou Coller, but that changed as the show went on. Their music really engaged the crowd, although I couldn’t really make much sense of it. It was pretty techy and disjointed, with a lot of sub-drops and stuff. What was also interesting is that their guitarist played riffs every now and again that you’d swear were Wes Borland riffs. Its not something you expect in combination with the rest of it. It was impressive, but the song structures and things were kind of a little baffling, to the point of being pretty progressive. The crowd seemed really into it. If you like them, you’d love them live.

Next up came Stray From The Path; who I looked up on Wikipedia on my phone while they were sound-checking, and saw under their Genre ‘Hardcore Punk.’ When their first song, which I assume was called ‘Pull The Pin,’ came on however, it sounded like Limp Bizkit to me. Their singer was a bouncy, hip hop influenced guy who threw Eminem style hand gestures and things. The rest of their set was kind of like a mixture between Will Haven, Vision Of Disorder, Rage Against The Machine and actually Northlane. The bill really made sense, all the bands had real similarities in places but were a completely different take on it. They were really good at what they did, but it wasn’t quite to my tastes. I could tell their singer really meant what he said and the band played well, so once again, if you like this band, live they are excellent so you’d love it.

Finally the evening ended with Architects. I was kind of expecting it to be OK. I don’t know why, but for some reason I went in with the notion it would be decent but not great. As it turns out it was actually bloody brilliant. Architects were absolutely on fire. They had this huge, indescribable x-factor about them that made them seems so much larger and more professional than most other bands I’ve seen live in this venue. Singer Dan Carter just had that superstar confidence about him (even though he was humble and really grateful and kept making thankful statements to the crowd that didn’t seem disingenuous in any way), he is an incredible front man, pretty captivating. I would love to see Bring Me The Horizon replace Olly Sykes with Dan Carter – that would make a really great live band. Maybe even better would just be if the entire of Architects had BMTH’s songs. That would be an incredible live band. Comparing the two from what I’ve seen live, (and its kind of reasonable to compare them with their similar music and mutual appearances on eachother’s albums) Dan is thousands of times better as a singer, screamer, crowd ambassador and visual force than Olly is, and has way better stage presence. When I saw BMTH live before Christmas, Olly kind of let the show down a bit, because of being out-of-breath and missing parts and interacting with the crowd poorly… Architects live were the exact opposite. Just as a quick example; at one stage Dan said “Everybody in the whole audience, drop to your knees” and I’m not joking, in less than about 12 seconds it had happened. Everyone just did it. No dragged out period of convincing them, and mocking the people who are slow or unable to do it all the way. Just almost instant success. Olly had tried the same thing when I saw BMTH and it was really drawn out, and Olly started telling people to fuck off and go home and generally being petulant. I think Dan must just seem like such a nice bloke everybody wanted to do it for him.

The set list was interesting, with some new material from the upcoming new album, one track from The Here And Now and most of the set drawn from Daybreaker and Hollow Crown (and as far as I could tell, nothing older than that) so 99% of the setlist was drawn from albums were the ‘A’ logo is the artwork.

The highlight of the show was when they played ‘Even If You Win, You’re Still A Rat’ and ‘The Here And Now’ one after another, possibly because they’re my two favourite Architects songs anyway, but also because it was brilliant live.

The band actually sold out the 900 person venue and raised the very good point that this is pretty unbelievable when you consider how angular, jagged and ugly an album Hollow Crown is (Seriously, if you don’t know the band, just listen to the first minute of ‘Early Grave’ and then wonder how a band playing that can sell out such a big venue, with a pretty equal gender split in the audience)… its not even like they played much material with clean singing or the spacey numbers, it was all just the heavy stuff, more or less.

The crowd seemed to absolutely love it. They chanted ‘Arch-i-techs’ and uncommonly high amount of times. There was an interesting bit when they stopped the show to raise awareness of an anti-whaling charity called Sea Sheppard, and even that didn’t let them lose any momentum. The band were all just on fire. Every member played with real energy and conviction. Overall, it was a fantastic performance and I was really impressed. If you’re a fan and you can, go and see them live – you won’t be disappointed.