Havok – Warbringer – Gorod – Exmortus – Rebellion Bar, Manchester UK

You know it’s going to be a good gig when the first band have already made your jaw drop before you made it into the venue, and they only started playing as you turned around the corner. When it’s a struggle to strap on the camera because of the overwhelming compulsion to play air guitar, you know it’s going to a be a damn fine night indeed.

Playing their very first European gig Californians Exmortus were genuinely incredible, bristling with manic energy they put on a stunning performance. Combining the fun of thrashy face-melting twin guitar attack with breath-taking neoclassical solo’s they could give the very best metal guitarists pause for thought: massive respect to Conan and David Rivera, you certainly can play. Indeed, more than once I was reminded of the Beethoven going nuts in the music shop scene from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Running around the stage, throwing quite possibly every ‘metal shape’ in the catalogue, without missing a note, this set was nothing short of spectacular. They got a HUGE reaction from the crowd and it was impossible not to be caught up in the spirit of the moment, when their set sadly ended the collective were raving about just how awesome it was.

Simply put if you get the chance to watch them then you really should. If that’s the calibre of the opening band then tonight is going to be incredible, Exmortus have set the bar very high indeed.

Next up were Bordeaux-based Death Metaller’s Gorod with a Progressive Death Metal style which incorporated an eclectic mix of Progressive, Jazz, Funk and Tech elements to their heavier and more powerful sound. Whilst not as over the top energetic showmen as Exmortus, they too put on a damn fine set for their first gig of their tour.

Their set was confident, although with the contrast of having two relatively static guitarists on stage their performance wasn’t quite the visual spectacle which had preceded them. Bass player Ben ‘Barby’ Claus however clearly made up for it, and was frequently to be seen hanging over the crowd sticking his tongue out or dry humping his bass.

Singer Julien ‘Nutz’ Deyres also expended a lot of energy running around the stage whilst shouting, and squealing his vocals which at times had a real hardcore feel to them and their delivery. This coupled with some powerful drumming, with Karol Diers waving his sticks wildly and showing off plenty of blasting for good measure. All of this combined meant that the loud cheers and generous displays of fist pumping from the crowd were well deserved.

A revitalised Warbringer kicked the gig up a notch, and their set was absolute chaos, the kind of good chaos that you only truly get at thrash gigs. As they started their set vocalist John Kevill popped out of the front row of the audience onto the stage, with one of many beers and a huge grin on his face, before the band knocked the crap out of the audience.

The sheer number of pits in the packed-out rebellion did indeed give the impression they’d brought a hefty dose of war with them. Indeed, I have fewer notes for this set as I did spend some time running around in a large circle, very much like a dog which has been leashed up to a stake in the garden to prevent it from humping the neighbours cat.

As the John remarked at the end of the slightly shorter set this was the third time the atomic bomb has been dropped on humans, he probably says that to all the audiences but tonight it still felt special. This set was a near perfect combination of being both heavy as hell and fun as… The way this gig has been building up I think rebellion bar might well be needing some structural support.

If Warbringer brought war, then it as time to cry Havok and let loose their dogs, which if nothing else explains the notable transition from circle to proper violent pits. Havok’s set was Savage and rewarded with constant pits and stage divers galore. Proper monster pits as well, some circle pits but in general these were the real deal retro thrash pits.

There did seem to be some guitar difficulties earlier in the set as guitarist/vocalist David Sanchez spent a lengthy amount of time re-tuning his guitar. Respect that he carried on singing whilst doing so but as was remarked by another audience member I think he’s learned the benefits of carrying a spare on tour.

Thunderous drums, and riffs galore this was an affirmation of all things thrash, whilst I did start of a long time ago being a real lover of thrash, over the last decade or two I’ve ventured more down the extreme metal path. Tonight, however has reignited my passion for Thrash and I need to get myself to more thrash gigs.

Finishing on a bludgeoning rendition of ‘Give me liberty or give me death’ the crowd erupted into some high-energy moshing before giving Havok their seal of approval with rapturous applause.

Quite possibly the best gig I’ve been to this year so far, I was left with a huge grin on my face, and I had ordered a couple of albums before I’d even made it back to the car.