Life of Agony – Birmingham O2 Institute, 22/09/17 (Live Review)

Life of Agony Header

Returning to the UK for a full tour, Life of Agony are a band worth taking the time to catch live if you can. Although there were two support bands, the early opening time means I arrive just in time to catch the headliners themselves.

Life of Agony

This is my first time in this particular venue, and I’m surprised by how small it is for a band of Life of Agony’s stature. As well as the size of the venue, also surprising is how relatively small the audience is too. Of course, once the band take to the stage none of this matters. It is, in fact, preferable in some ways, as it makes for a more intimate setting

A triumvirate of River Runs Red classics get the night off to a storming start, including Method of Groove, a firm favourite of mine. Unfortunately, however, it soon becomes apparent that the sound mix is not the best; muddy guitars, too-loud drums, and too-quiet vocals are frequent distractions. It’s inconsistent though, with some parts of the set becoming more balanced than others, oddly.

Life of Agony Live 1

When you can hear Mina, Life of Agony’s diminutive singer, her voice sounds fantastic, better than ever in some ways. Even those pesky sound gremlins can only hold her back so much. Between songs she displays a seductive charisma and demonstrates a wit that’s sometime subtle and sometimes quite scathing. Near the end of the set an extended storytelling and crowd interaction section is very amusing, and it seems as if she is only just getting warmed up as the show is coming to a close.

After the initial barrage of tracks from River Runs Red they move on to Love to Let You Down off Broken Valley, the song of theirs that I know the least. Either for this reason or because of the aforementioned gremlins, their sound seems muddier than ever at this point.

Lost at 22 sounds clearer, however, and goes down a storm, followed up by Weeds, which gets the crowd moving and singing. Despite the less than ideal sound quality, the band continue to unleash a best of set that shows just how strong their material is, if you didn’t already know.

Other Side of the River is one I particularly enjoy, even though Mina’s voice periodically drops out of the mix. Things clear up slightly for Bad Seed, with the slower middle section sounding particularly resplendent and affecting.

Life of Agony Live 2

Their new material off latest release A Place Where There’s No More Pain slots in very well with their older songs. Dead Speak Kindly is the first new one that gets an outing, its Alice in Chains-esque vibe filling the venue with an intoxicating lazy heaviness. The crowd react less to this one, but I think it’s more that we’re all held in a hypnotised trance than anything else. When the song naturally becomes more animated, so do the people. World Gone Mad is another prime cut given a decent airing too. Top stuff.

And then along comes Through and Through and Underground. For these last two songs, the stars seem to align and the gremlins are taken out back and summarily executed. Finally, the full force of Life of Agony is unleashed. The temperature and the pit both heat up considerably. Fantastic.

This was a great show held back by a largely inconsistent sound. Despite this, however, the band show how consistently top quality their material is, and how much variety their music has to offer. By the end of it, people leave happy and seem very pleased. Just like me.

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Destruction/Flotsam and Jetsam/Enforcer/Nervosa – Manchester Club Academy, 06/10/16 (Live Review)

Destruction Flyer

How often do you get to see a thrash metal package like this? Not often, that’s for sure.

Nervosa

Nervosa Live

Having arrived in good time only to discover that the venue don’t have the guest list, I end up missing half of Nervosa’s set. Due to their latest album Agony being a firm recent favourite of mine, to say I’m disappointed is an understatement. Continue reading

Kataklysm/Septic Flesh/Aborted – Sound Control, Manchester – 19/02/16 (Live Review)

Kataklysm Septic Flesh Aborted 2016

When I first saw this tour advertised I couldn’t quite believe it, such a ridiculously strong lineup featuring three high-profile acts, any of which could probably headline here in their own right, at least to my mind. This is the very definition of an unmissable tour to me.

So here I am. It couldn’t be any other way. Continue reading

The Black Dahlia Murder/Benighted/Ingested – Sound Control, Manchester – 21/01/16 (Live Review)

TBDMTOUR

I like Sound Control as a venue, and tonight, even though I’ve definitely seen it busier, there’s still a decent amount of people here and the place has a good atmosphere.

Ingested 1

I think I’ve seen Ingested before. Maybe. If I have, it was a long time ago and neither the band or the details left too much of an impression. Tonight changed all that. It seems they’ve either come a long way or I just wasn’t paying close enough attention. Probably both.

So, as you’ve probably gathered I arrived in time to catch Ingested, and I’m eternally grateful I did. They positively explode out of the stage, full of high energy, revelling in their status as show-openers and doing a damn good job at it.

Ingested’s slamming Death Metal deals in plenty of blasting and groove. They’re essentially slam machines with colossal breakdowns that somehow fail to sound one dimensional. The singer has a voice like a demon and bellows, roars and screams himself into fits of slamcore delirium.

Ingested 2

Tonight they benefit from a huge clear sound, which is downright shocking for an opening band and allows them to display what they do best at full power. They got me moving which is more than most support bands do.

Mixing parts of Despised Icon, The Red Chord and Dying Fetus, Ingested just destroy the stage. Their music is clearly designed with mosh pits in mind, and the crowd give a suitably good account of themselves throughout.

The set ends and most people seem happy. Me? I’m very happy.

Benighted 1

After Ingested’s impressive performance, Benighted had their work cut out for them, or so I thought.

Being unfamiliar with Benighted, I was not sure what to expect, (except in general terms), but they rose to the challenge nicely.

Like Ingested’s set, we are treated to another strong sound; the venue should be proud of itself and tonight it appears to be support band heaven in this regard.

Benighted are aggressive and sharp, with a more focused, refined assault than that of Ingested’s raw muscularity, although that’s not to say they lack direct brutality or strength; far from it.

Their polished and professional style takes modern Death Metal and dips it in an impassioned performance. The band’s twisted melodics and grooving blasts come from the same school of nastiness as Cattle Decapitation and Aborted, combining quality musicianship with streamlined brutality. Elements of their sound have a tribal, rhythmic quality, frequently interrupted by a tirade of blast beats for maximum effect.

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They make quite the impression and it’s clear that they have more than a few fans in the crowd, and there’s plenty of movement too. The groovy parts get the bodies moving hard and the fast, blasting sections just demolish. In fact, I particularly like it when they play fast. The evening’s first stage diver even makes an appearance mid-way though the set. He looks like he’s enjoying himself.

The singer has a commanding presence and a great voice. He also looks like a smaller version of powerlifter Jeremy “Couch” Hamilton, which keeps me amused the entire set. The bassist has an infectious grin and even indulges in a bit of Steve-Harris-from-Iron-Maiden-machine-gunning, which is always nice.

Their penultimate song starts with a sample of an alarm clock that sounds exactly the same as mine and freaks me the fuck out. What follows is much better than what usually follows though.

At the end of their set me and a large chunk of the crowd are left with smiles as large as the bassist’s. Nice.

The Black Dahlia Murder 1

And now for the band everyone’s been waiting for, the USA’s premier Melodic Death Metal masters.

I’ve seen The Black Dahlia Murder before, but they were playing in a support capacity and were marred by a weak, muddy sound. In keeping with the theme of the evening so far though, there are no such problems tonight, and the band absolutely slay. Boasting a crystal clear sound that demonstrates a band at the top of their game, the band’s performance tonight is exemplary.

When the bassists asks if we wanna hear a very fast new song, you know we do.

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The major selling point of The Black Dahlia Murder for me is their peerless brand of fast, razor-sharp melodicism, and tonight it’s on such fine display that I’m amazed I don’t leave with lacerations.

Opening with Receipt off their latest album, they power through a veritable greatest hits package. Although, like any greatest hits collection, you can’t please everyone, (I was hoping for Climactic Degradation…). However, there are enough quality songs here to please, spanning the band’s entire discography.  Vlad, Son of the Dragon makes a welcome appearance and Moonlight Equillibrium (about a werewolf that eats English breakfasts, apparently) is a particular favourite. Abysmal, the title track from their latest album, sounds even better and more savage live than it does on record, and then Funeral Thirst absolutely just melts faces. Raped in Hatred by Vines of Thorn, (about the Evil Dead, he tells us), is a real catchy crowd-pleaser, as is Statutory Ape. They end with the one-two punch of Deathmask Divine and the iconic I Will Remain, which features one of the best intros and outros to any song. And the bit in the middle isn’t bad either.

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The band themselves are on fine form, and focus inevitably finds itself being directed towards their charismatic frontman; he attacks the songs with such enthusiasm it’s palpable, sometimes seeming to take the role of a mad conductor.

As befitting the band’s status, the crowd have a strong reaction to the songs and there is stage diving and moshing in abundance, including some relatively immense circle pits. One stagediver arrives on stage just after a song finishes and gets to be interviewed by the band, (his name is Lawrence, and he likes slam). At the behest of the band the audience give a good attempt to carry him to the back of the venue during the next song, but he doesn’t quite make it. It’s a valiant effort though.

The Black Dahlia Murder 4

When a crowd casualty seems to occur, the band take the time to make sure everything’s okay, and also lead a chant of “Live! Live! Live!” which is most amusing.

After this long in their career The Black Dahlia Murder are a well oiled machine live, but it’s good to see that they aren’t just going through the motions and there’s real passion here.

This was genuinely one of the best shows I’ve been to in a long time. All three bands did themselves proud and I am left with nothing but fond memories and a slightly tired neck, exactly as it should be.