Employed To Serve/Conjurer/God Complex/Nervewrecker

The Waterfront Studio, Norwich. 16 May 2018.

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Queuing outside The Waterfront this evening was an interesting affair, with hardcore kids and metalheads standing in line with quite a few of East Anglia’s middle aged folk. Why exactly? Well Heather Small was playing the other room tonight which encouraged a few impressions of “What have you done today to make you feeeeel proud?”. Well Heather, I’m not necessarily proud of what I’ve done, but I am proud of my bros in NERVEWRECKER. You might remember I recently reviewed their latest EP Murmur and it was great to finally see them when they opened the gig tonight. As it was a Wednesday evening the Waterfront Studio was slowly filling up but it was great to see local support for the Norwich doom lads. It was going to be one of those nights where people stand a mile away from the front but after a couple of songs there was enough nodding of heads to show at least the punters were enjoying it. “This is a fast one!” quipped vocalist Ed Bell before the band plunged into the slowest song EVER. In a live setting the majority of songs sounded like the same chord, add this to the band being submerged in smoke and you’ve got a doom fan’s paradise. They’re impeccably fun to watch, pulling out all the moves like a band 1000x faster, but they won over a new legion of fans to tonight.

After NERVEWRECKER we all needed a boot up the bum to wake us up out of our doom trance. Luckily the steel-toed boot came in the form of GOD COMPLEX and my word, they captured our attention. They reminded me of early EVERY TIME I DIE and their energy on stage was contagious. Frontman Harry Rule struts and raves and holds his head in his hands like a man possessed but it’s bassist Alex Chan who steals the hearts with his expressions and stage presence. They had a terrific grungy turn part way through the set which made me think of CANE HILL and I loved it. A fantastic set, they ended up being an unexpected highlight for me and proof it’s always worth seeing opening bands (I never understand why people go out of their way to avoid opening acts). One British band to watch for sure.

CONJURER were up next and things took a heavier and more serious turn. They were flawless and incredibly impressive, with vocalist/guitarist Dan Nightingale opting to scream without a microphone at one point which earnt him top points for stage presence. The band were tight and you could see why they’re getting a great reputation in the scene. The next time I see them on a tour, I’d be extremely surprised if they weren’t headlining. Amazing.

The Waterfront Studio had filled up quite a bit more by the time the main event was about to start. EMPLOYED TO SERVE got on stage with their matching Warmth Of A Dying Sun windbreakers and the aesthetic worked because they sure as hell looked like a band, a unit. When they played they blew me away with their confidence and charisma and they played with the same professionalism as a band who have been doing this for decades. The mix was spot on and they sounded just like they do on record. Guitarist Sammy Urwin demanded the crowd get involved and people finally wormed their way to the front. Mostly playing songs from last year’s Warmth Of A Dying Sun, EMPLOYED TO SERVE gave it their all and vocalist Justine Jones sounded equally as brutal as she does on the CD. Only a few minutes into their set you could understand why there is so much hype surrounding them. A disgustingly heavy and talented band who can deliver the goods live – what’s not to like? When the opening riff for their finale, I Spend My Days (Wishing Them Away) rang out, the venue descended into chaos (should be noted no gig is a gig without a man doing the worm in the middle of the pit). A spectacular gig, these British hopes are destined for great things. Catch them live in small venues while you still can.

Despised Icon + Malevolence + Archspire + Vulvodynia

The Dome, London. 11 February 2018.

We’re only two months into 2018 and we’re already being spoilt with what could be the line-up of the year. A night of brutal metal awaits. Filled with slam fans, technical metalheads, hardcore lads and old school deathcore lovers, The Dome at Tufnell Park welcomes all punters and tonight it does feel like the perfect venue to host these stellar bands.

The room was almost full for opening band VULVODYNIA; ultimately one of the biggest crowds for an opening band seen for a long while. This is reassuring to see as the up-and-coming slamming brutal death metal group (and super nice chaps too) rightly deserve a large crowd, especially as they’ve travelled all the way from South Africa and we don’t see them enough! Circle pits immediately erupt as the band perform in front of the gory backdrop of the album cover for Psychosadistic Design. The eerie stage and lighting set the mood for their unforgiving show. Headbanging and windmilling while the drums and guitars threaten to pummel us into the ground, frontman Duncan Bentley is a mass of hair and underworldly vocals. VULVODYNIA had a lot of fans in the crowd tonight as Bentley only needed to say the last song was the first song the band ever wrote together, for the crowd to start chanting “DROWNED. IN. VOMIT!” Needless to say no one actually drowned in vomit, but we were at risk of drowning in other people’s sweat, and it was only the first band of the night! A fantastically chaotic start to the evening.

Metalmance has always been curious to see how ARCHSPIRE’s impressive technical death metal translates live. Opening with Calamus Will Animate, the machine-gun vocals unfortunately weren’t phased in fast enough, denying the crowd of the sudden brutal impact the band is well known for. Nevertheless, the Canadians proved to be an impressive force, expertly delivering their technical tunes with an irresistible flair. It is clear each member of the band is an extremely talented musician; almost to the point you become concerned the complexity would detract from their joy of performing, but no need to worry as they all look absolutely thrilled. None more so than frontman Oliver Rae Aleron, whose unique vocals are shot out of a mischievous grin. The diction could be a little clearer but this is to be expected in a live setting. The mix gradually improves during the set and by the time ARCHSPIRE close with Remote Tumour Seeker, the sound is spot on and the riff grooves harder than ever. Don’t be surprised if the next time ARCHSPIRE play the UK they’re headlining a whole tour.

Up next are Sheffield bruisers MALEVOLENCE. Last time Metalmance had the pleasure of witnessing the group tearing up a stage was last June when they headlined this very venue. And now they are supporting their heroes; “We’ve been fans of DESPISED ICON since we were *this* high!” claims frontman Alex Taylor. The band seem more relaxed at this show than last time, they were in good spirits and seemed to be buzzing about playing in this line-up tonight. They completely owned the stage and their fans owned the pit. Playing a lot of songs from last year’s blistering Self Supremacy, MALEVOLENCE are an untouchable team of brutality. If you’re not stomping along to their grooves, then you’re shouting along with guitarist Konan Hall to Slave to Satisfaction, Wasted Breath and Serpents Chokehold. With stage divers and fists in the air, this is exactly where you want to be on a cold and dreary Sunday night. MALEVOLENCE are a family and they always make their fans feels as much too. This, coupled with their monstrous anthems make the band truly unstoppable and it still only feels like the beginning.

Finally, the pioneers of deathcore grace the stage; DESPISED ICON are here to show the young ‘uns how it’s really done. The mix for the band was incredible with the vocals of dual vocalists Alex Erian and Steve Marois sounding crystal clear and resonating to devastating effect. Listening to classics such as Day of Mourning, Furtive Monologues and Retina, it’s easy to hear how DESPISED ICON have influenced countless of bands including tonight’s supports. They oozed professionalism and confidence, yet remained humbled by the crowd’s response and participation. A great band with a sickeningly impressive back catalogue, DESPISED ICON reminded everyone tonight of why they are still well respected in the scene. Smashing through songs from latest album Beast, including the punishing Inner Demons, the group prove they are still relevant and pack a greater punch than the majority of their peers. One thing’s for sure, tonight has set the bar high for the rest of the gigs in 2018.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Earl.

The Faceless + Osiah + Sworn Amongst + Jonestown

The Underworld Camden. 2 February 2018.

No one was really certain if tonight would ever happen. After several tour and show cancellations, every notification by the promoter in the Facebook event dropped a feeling of dread. But, no. THE FACELESS were here and were playing tonight. It seems despite the recent negativity surrounding THE FACELESS, they are held high in esteem amongst their peers and wider metal community.

Considering the early show start, there was a decent sized crowd to witness Brighton group JONESTOWN. This groovy lot got a few heads nodding along, with frontman Harley Anderson having a commanding presence. In a live setting the band don’t completely gel on stage, but nonetheless they each confidently perform. The band get a good response from the crowd when they play their single Borderline, but JONESTOWN top this with their crushing offering Mass Extinction Six; a brutal end to a solid set.

SWORN AMONGST swarm the stage next and show Camden how it’s done. The cowboys from Hull fill the room with their metallic brutality. They really are gaining momentum in the live scene and it’s probably partly due to their captivating stage presence; they capture the crowd’s attention and maintain it. Frontman Darryl Jones is an impressive force; his vocals and moves being on point as well as his interaction with the crowd. There’s something special about this band and it will be exciting to see how SWORN AMONGST have evolved the next time Metalmance sees them.

Nothing ever quite prepares you for the devastation that OSIAH bring to the table. The heaviest band of the night threaten to tear the venue down with their obliterating set. Backlit by strobes and emitting sounds from Hell itself, OSIAH prove exactly why they deserve to be main support tonight. They most certainly converted new fans, playing corkers from their debut album Terror Firma, such as Humanimals, the band received a terrific response. Beware, OSIAH might just become the new kings of deathcore.

Well, the time has finally come for Michael Keene and co to grace the stage and blow us away. After several years wait, it’s almost too much for some. It was well worth the wait though; the sound and atmosphere were spot on as well as the banter between vocalist Ken Sorceron (also of ABIGAIL WILLIAMS) and the crowd.

THE FACELESS delighted fans when they played Autotheist Movement I to III, along with Xenochrist, Ancient Covenant and Son of Belial. Only one song off latest album In Becoming A Ghost was played, which was The Spiraling Void. Unfortunately there were some technical issues with the backing track, but it was still a pleasure to see it live. The nicest surprise of the night was seeing the band afterwards, chatting to fans and signing cds at the merch table. After a blistering night of quality metal, this was the cherry on the cake. Hopefully with this tour THE FACELESS will prove their doubters wrong.

Cryptopsy + Jøtnarr + A Bribe For The Ferryman 

Colchester Arts Centre. 19 August 2017.

(Apologies for poor picture quality, had to use phone camera instead) 

Colchester Arts Centre is a quirky little venue, and a regular spot for all genres of music and arts. Tonight, the former church is host to Montreal’s finest, CRYPTOPSY. As the death metal fans of Essex start spilling into the room, opener A BRIBE FOR THE FERRYMAN get underway with their set. 

Over the past year, the band from Colchester have gained momentum round the local scene. Metalmance last saw the band open for SEAWOLVES at Colchester’s Three Wise Monkeys, and since then the band has had a lineup shake up in the form of new drummer Joshua Moreton, the former drummer of REZINWOLF (RIP). ABFTF aren’t the most original band, their brand of recycled riffs making them sound more like a college band. That’s not to say everyone feels this way; the band had their own crew of hardcore fans and a small group moshing down the front, but the band and music just didn’t seem quite suitable for a death metal show. Luckily, Moreton has injected a new energy into the band, and bassist Chris May is well worth a watch purely for his stage presence alone. However you’re left wishing frontman Rob Norrington was less static on stage, but as a band they are still finding their feet and ABFTF really need to establish their own sound or risk failing to break out of the local scene. 

Gracing the stage next were local troupe JØTNARR. Always a safe choice for an extreme metal gig in Colchester, the trio brought the gritty noise and chaotic energy to the Arts Centre and got the crowd warmed up for the noisy ruckus to come. The simplicity of the band being a three-piece is a deceiving disguise for the huge wall of sound and screams they make. Their performances are always captivating, with all members unleashing a sound akin to the soundtrack of the expulsion of demons. If you’re from the area and haven’t yet witnessed the mighty JØTNARR, then what has possessed you? 

Iconic in itself, the painting Herodias with the Head of John the Baptist by the artist Elisabetta Sirani is no doubt more infamous now for being the artwork for CRYPTOPSY’s None So Vile, with John’s decapitated head decorating the scrims on the stage. It is this album which the masters of death metal are playing in its entirety tonight. With his exuberant long hair, frontman Matt McGachy whipped his locks round and windmilled enough for everyone down the front to caught tangled up in it or have it dip in their drinks at some point. Intense and loud as ever, it was evident the band were experts at their aural craft, oozing professionalism and menace with their fans lapping up each riff and scream. Unrelenting throughout the playthrough of None So Vile, when the opening riff for the classic track, Slit Your Guts resonated round the room, the band had the crowd eating out of their hands. Legends in their own right, it was a very special occasion that the band were gracing Colchester with their presence, it is hard to do the band justice with this little review. The only disappointment of the night was that the show didn’t have a larger turnout. This seems to be a repeating pattern at Colchester gigs recently  (possibly even the region as a whole). If CRYPTOPSY played here ten years ago, it more than likely would have been near to selling out. But tonight is the present, and everyone in attendance had a ghoulishly good time otherwise. 

Tech Fest 2017

6 Jul – 7 Jul 2017. Newark Showground.

THURSDAY

A small festival filled with technical metal bands, death metal and progressive metal? Yes please. Add to that the tight-knit tech community of people from all around the world, heavenly pizza, and tiny pancakes and you have a stellar weekend on your hands.

Thursday was the early bird day, with CHELSEA GRIN headlining. However, with Metalmance participating in camping shenanigans and being flooded out by rain of biblical proportions, there was only time to see THE ROYAL in the afternoon. Last time Metalmance saw these Dutch metalcore chaps, was in Boston Music Rooms supporting DREAMSHADE in March. Back then the band managed to stir up the crowd with their jumping-inducing tunes, and at Tech Fest it was no different, just on a bigger scale. Playing material from albums Dreamcatchers and their newest release, Seven, the band certainly won new fans over with their energetic set.

 

FRIDAY

Kicking off the weekend proper were London prog darlings FRAKTIONS. Metalmance recently had the pleasure of witnessing the band in Bristol supporting DEITIES, but their Tech Fest set was on another level. The group had brought their A-game, with vocalist Joel Pinder leading the performance with every vocal spot on. It was great to see a big turn out for the first band of the day and it’s clear to see how firmly wedged in the tech fam hearts FRAKTIONS are. If Tech Festers weren’t warmed up already, then they most certainly were after Kaan Tasan of NO CONSEQUENCE made a guest appearance. An impressive start to the festival by one of Britain’s promising progressive hopes.

Metalmance caught the second half of DREWSIF STALIN’S MUSICAL ENDEAVOURS and it was exactly as expected; fun, bordering on chaos with the man himself commanding the stage along with vocalist, Lee making a damn fine effort.

VALIS ABLAZE were up next on the Gigantic Stage. A solid set, the band were clearly well rehearsed, with material from latest EP Insularity shimmering amongst the setlist. Vocalist Phil Owen hits every note while guitarist Tom Moore steals the hearts with his evident joy of being there, demanding the most attention by performing on a front speaker. That is until the guest appearance of Drewsif Stalin (the producer of Insularity) stealing the focus away. Ending the set in high spirits and to a great response, it’s wonderful to see this talented band starting to receive the recognition they deserve.

Metalmance Valis Ablaze

From VALIS ABLAZE’s melodic progressive metal to something quite different, Metalmance entered the main arena to the irresistible riffy ruckus of British death metallers DYSCARNATE. Having never encountered the band before it’s safe to say the brutal trio ended up being one of Metalmance’s highlights of the festival. No nonsense, straight to your face, no gimmicks, the band deliver their material at 100mph. They treated their fans to a few new tracks from their forthcoming album. These songs have a blackened tinge to them, making the next release one of the most hotly anticipated of the year for us.

Deathcore masters MARTYR DEFILED deliver a polished set which loses none of its impressive intensity. This British lot have been touring for well over 5 years now, their ease at playing a ferocious show is evident. One of the veterans of the British scene and should remain so.

In a drunken haze, Metalmance caught bits of WITHIN DESTRUCTION and VIRVUM, both on the gigantic stage. Both very heavy. Heavy is the word which came to mind…

By the time the evening rolled round, everyone was buzzing for the headliners THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, but beforehand we all got warmed up with an absolute pummelling from the legendary ABORTED. Intense, disgustingly heavy and incredibly tight, the pioneers of Belgian deathgrind delighted the crowd with their impressive stage presence and set up. Skeletons graced the stage, backlit by eerie lighting. This, coupled with frontman Sven De Caluwe pacing up and down the platform and the technical instrumentation, all contributed to arguably one of the tightest sets of the whole weekend.

It was always going to be a challenging job to top ABORTED’s flawless set, but who better for the job than THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER? Their live reputation is well known, a stupidly tight and professional band, TBDM have always moved from strength to strength. Performing material spanning across their whole back catalogue, from Unhallowed to Abysmal, every song went down a treat with their fans. Of course, this year signals 10 years since the release of classic album Nocturnal, so several tracks were played tonight, including the fan favourite What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse, in preparation for their forthcoming tour playing the album in full. Feeding off the crowd’s enthusiasm, the band were clearly in high spirits and knocking out tune after tune. Frontman Trevor Strnad grabbed the inflatable banana which was being crowd surfed to the front. This bode the start of what would become a legendary year for inflatables at Tech Fest… Heads banging, pits, cheers and smiles all round were the result of TBDM’s set. You can’t help but to be left feeling impressed and upbeat once the band have rolled into town. A hard act to follow, the bar was set for the remainder of the weekend.

Dreamshade + The Royal

Boston Music Room, London. 26 March 2017.

There was quite a lot of hype surrounding tonight. DREAMSHADE had finally made it to the UK and this was their first ever London show. DREAMSHADE fans are a fiercely loyal bunch and this small community had found its way to Boston Music Room to give the Swiss metalcore band the warm welcome they deserved.

Getting to the venue just as THE ROYAL kicked into their set, these rising stars of Dutch metalcore were pulling out all the stops, making it impossible to tear your eyes away to get to the bar. Frontman Sem Pisarahu commanded the crowd’s attention with his ferocious delivery and infectious energy. The rest of the band were also on fine form, jumping in time with a hardcore punk attitude. Fella from DREAMSHADE jumped on stage for guest vocals which really got the room  moving. Winning over new fans tonight with their absolutely tight delivery, THE ROYAL will no doubt cause a bigger stir in the scene. Be sure to check them out at Tech Fest in July!

Keeping the energy up by opening with the storming It’s Over, DREAMSHADE fed off their fan’s vibrancy (pun intended) and in return put on a performance worthy of a venue triple its size. Mostly playing tracks from last year’s Vibrant, the modest crowd shouted back every word, clearly pleasing the band as there were smiles all round for the remainder of the night. Playing old gems like Photographs and Consumed Future really sent the crowd into a frenzy, but London was in for one heck of a treat. Before erupting into Wide Awake, former vocalist Iko joined the band on stage, sending old fans into meltdown. DREAMSHADE were always teasing something special for London, but no one could have predicted jumping along to both Iko and current vocalist Kevin Calì sharing vocals. Newer tunes still went down well with Dreamers Don’t Sleep and Autumn Leaves having the loudest crowd sing-alongs. The band sounded just as good live as they do on record, oozing talent and professionalism yet still bringing the fun by joining the crowd and rocking out with us. Tonight was one of those nights when everyone looked super chuffed after the set. Every person in the room was in high spirits and the band stuck around to chat and take photos, clearly appreciating their fans, some of whom had travelled many miles to catch their first London show. It had been worth it, a very special night indeed.