I arrive at the venue before the first band is scheduled to start, (as I always try to). Once there, I’m presented with the longest queue outside the building that I’ve ever seen, surely a testament to the insane quality of this star-studded four-band bill.
Rivers of Nihil
I’m somewhat shocked, if I’m honest, that Rivers of Nihil are the opening band here. Although in such an impressive lineup I suppose somebody had to go first. Regardless, I’m just glad I get to see them. As you’ve probably gathered from my introduction, the venue is busy. Lots want to see Rivers of Nihil, and I doubt anyone is disappointed with what the band deliver. With a surprisingly good sound and decent stage presence and animation, the band proceed to give a good accounting of themselves.
The opening song The Silent Life boasts a saxophone. Several members of the crowd boast inflatable saxophones. The band’s singer seems very pleased by this.
After a storming Sand Baptism, the third song Death Is Real sees the singer ask for and receive an impressive circle pit for this time of the evening – probably the first time I’ve seen an opening band achieve such a thing. But then Rivers of Nihil are no normal opening band. A Home builds on the momentum generated so far, but in a more varied way than the intense and thundering Death Is Real. They finish with Soil & Seed off their debut album, and then we’re done.
The band’s well-played progressive death metal is nuanced and layered enough to have depth, but brutal enough for hardened moshers. Their set goes down a storm.
What a great start. I feel like I’ve seen a headlining act already.
I really enjoyed 2014’s Engineering the Void, but haven’t heard the band’s latest album Monument of the End. As such, it’s great to see Soreption tonight to catch up on what I’ve been missing.
What I’ve been missing is angular, jagged technical death metal that sometimes takes a direct route to its destination, while at others journeying down unexpected and semi-unpredictable paths. Live, it makes for an entertaining and bewildering display of technically brutal prowess.
The sound is strong and clear. Pleasingly we do get a couple of tracks off Engineering the Void, (including my favourite Breaking the Great Narcissist), with the rest of the set rounded out by three cuts from their latest album and one from their debut.
The band get the crowd moving nicely, and what they lack in accessibility when compared to someone like Rivers of Nihil, (relatively speaking), they make up for in jagged power and intensity.
The singer has an intimidating presence and uses one of those old style classic microphones. I like it when these are used by singers; I feel it adds character to a performance. I find myself drawn to his delivery throughout, and his voice is monstrous.
Ending with March of the Tyrants off their debut album, I have enjoyed Soreption more than I was expecting to considering I haven’t managed to keep up with their output since Engineering the Void. The crowd seem happy, and so am I.
Relentless Mutation is such a punishing album, and tonight we get treated to a large chunk of it delivered in gloriously brutal technicolour. Of these, my favourite songs are probably the title track and the set closer Remote Tumour Seeker, which is particularly explosive. Although to be fair, Archspire’s entire set is pretty damn explosive.
One of Archspire’s most prominent characteristics is their singer’s vocal gymnastics, and tonight his rapid fire grunts and insane growls are out in full force. He also has an impressive sense of humour and is a very entertaining frontman. Ordinarily a frontman like this would dominate the stage with his personality and charisma, and although this is certainly the case for plenty of the time, the rest of Archspire have got a lot going on in their own right that demands attention as well. Yes, the entire band seem to be genuinely loving their time on stage and having real fun together. It’s infectious.
Although some of the band’s ridiculous technicality is lost in the live mix, for the most part they benefit from as good a sound as the rest of the previous bands tonight. Archspire’s songs shine brightly with a complex brutality that gets the audience twisting and contorting to the constantly changing rhythms and chaotic beats. The crowd are well up for this tonight, or seems, and for good reason. This is the kind of technical death metal that’s usually for hardened fans of extremity only, but the fact that Archspire enjoy a surprising level of popularity considering the sheer inaccessibility of most of their music is testament to the band’s songwriting skill and delivery.
Hideously enjoyable, Archspire’s savage performance and next-level technicality has been a firm hit in Manchester tonight.
Revocation have made a name for themselves over the years and are quite deservedly highly regarded. I have particularly enjoyed the band’s latest effort The Outer Ones and its evolution further into a progressive death metal monster.
Revocation have a largely more conventional, straightforward approach to their music than the other bands on the bill, but this makes them no less entertaining. Despite some early sound issues, their delivery is muscular and confident. I also enjoy a good guitar solo, and there are plenty of those unleashed tonight.
Starting off with the title track from their new album, Revocation make a strong opening statement and then proceed to build on this with a quality set of material drawn from five of their various releases. Next up after this is one of my favourite songs of theirs, from The Outer Ones once more – Of Unworldly Origin. With its pummelling blast beat-driven opening section and catchy, moreish riffs, it’s a great song, albeit one that has the power robbed from it by the live mix, unfortunately. With more sound and technical difficulties than all of the other bands put together, Revocation’s abilities are hindered, but not totally quashed for these initial two songs.
Thankfully, they then sort this out before continuing. Once fixed, the singer of Rivers of Nihil joins the band on stage for Madness Opus. He handles lead vocals, the mix is notably improved, and Revocation sound on fire. The crowd are visibly more enthused than earlier, and it feels like the show has really begun.
The circle pit for Communion is violent and energetic, just like the song itself. Vanitas is filmed for footage to be used in an upcoming video. The already animated crowd therefore have even more incentive to move to the song’s harsh mid-paced grooves, spontaneously generating the first, (and, I think, only), stage diver of the evening too.
Ex Nihilo, the instrumental track off of The Outer Ones is pretty much flawlessly replicated live. The Blackest Reaches from Deathless continues the band’s “evening of Lovecraftian death metal” as the singer put it earlier in the show, and proves a popular choice.
The crowd seems to have thinned at this point, for some reason. Their loss, of course. The mosh pit is almost constantly active now, and the participants seem to be having a grand old time of it in there. The next song’s rhythmic heaviness and thrash intensity fires up the crowd even more, (Existence Is Futile). “IT’S FINE TO SLAM!”, bellows the singer good naturedly, before huge riffs are unleashed to flatten the crowd.
Chaos of Forms is apparently their techiest and nerdiest song, and a fitting to end a techy and nerdy tour, or so the singer tell us. And who’s to argue? It goes down a treat. It’s not the real last song, however, that honour falls to Witch Trials. By the end of things the crowd seem satisfied – they clearly want more though!
Revocation have played a solid and enjoyable set that has got the audience consistently moving throughout. Professional and accomplished, I definitely recommend catching them the next time they play near you.
Overall, a dazzling night of technically aggressive joy.