I think it goes without saying at this point that Finish melodeath collective Insomnium is one of the most respected and consistent names in their genre. While Scandinavia is no stranger to exports of high-quality melodic death metal, many of the genre’s biggest names like In Flames and Children of Bodom have either compromised their distinctive sound in favour of more accessible elements, or in some cases, no longer exist. Insomnium however, has continued to fine-tune the gloomy atmosphere they first presented almost two decades ago in 2002’s In The Halls of Awaiting. Now, boasting a total of eight melancholic yet undeniably gorgeous releases under their belt, the band has done the UK and Ireland the honour of a nationwide tour in support of their latest opus, Heart Like a Grave (Century Media). An album that is less sprawling and proggy than Winter’s Gate (Century Media), but is an equally if not more epic and melodic record, packed with more guitar leads and solos than anything they have released to date. Certainly, it is the kind of material that you would expect to excel in the live environment, and so on a bleak Monday night in winter, I ventured out to Manchester Academy 3 for a necessary dose of metalised depression. Continue reading
2019 see’s the third installment of what’s becoming an important event in the calendar for the discerning Heavy Metal connoisseur, BadgerFest. The brainchild of the undeniably hardest working man in the Manchester metal scene John Badger, If any qualification of that were needed, aside from it being reiterated by every band of the weekend, as well as their gratitude as to the smooth running, he’s also running the Drumming up Change in November whereby he’ll be playing the drums for the full sets of all ten bands. There’s hard-working and then there’s John Badger. Continue reading
Parkway Drive has had to deal with their fair share of grief. In the last few years their close friends in The Ghost Inside were involved in a life-altering bus crash that claimed the lives of two drivers. Their good friends and Metalcore cohorts, Architects, lost a brother and founding member, Tom Searle, and Parkway frontman, Winston McCall lost his best friend and faithful companion Monty, his beloved dog who died in his arms. Grief is a powerful motivator, and goes some way to explaining the stylistic shift seen on Parkway’s latest album, Reverence (Epitaph). Continue reading
A 500+ mile powertrip to see Monster Magnet for the first time might seem a touch much, but a sole UK date in London meant it was needs must time. The mighty Magnet are still touring in support of last year’s release, Mindfucker (Napalm Records), rolling back through the UK again, this time bringing along London-based trio Puppy, celebrating their debut release the previous week, as a bit of extra delight for the gig.
So, Puppy take to the stage, minus their intro music which messes up, though they try to cheerfully re-enact it between drums and vocals. The London three-piece have just released their debut full-length and it’s clear that a few in the venue, like myself, are already aware of the band, with more getting into it as the crowd continues to grow, with the vocals/guitarist Jock Norton introducing the first single, ‘Black Hole’ (Spinefarm), when they play it a few songs into the set.
There are very few breaks between tracks, as Puppy seek to maximise their stage and set time, proudly letting their music do the talking, which works well as many around me seem to be either nodding their head or shifting their feet. They keep more to the rockier end of their music, rather than some of the softer, more melodious side that I’ve previously seen live.
The messed-up intro apart, the band is tight and on their game, with their signature vocal harmonies on-point, Jock even breaking out some gratuitous shredding for the set closer. A worthy performance from a band that should have a very bright future, Puppy seem to pick up a number of new fans tonight, rightfully so after such a good forty-minute set.
Time for Monster Magnet then and, man, are they on form tonight! Their set has been shortened from their usual to an hour and twenty, missing out some of the more psychedelic numbers they often include, providing a more in your face, attitude-riddled ensemble for our collective aural delights. The busy crowd are up for it from the very start, showing plenty of energy and lung capacity as they scream relentlessly along to the sonic landscape driven into, and through us by Dave Wyndorf and co.
The band launch straight into ‘Dopes To Infinity’ before heading into the new territory of ‘Rocket Freak’, which garners as much zeal from the crowd as the previous song, dealing a true sonic attack into our eardrums. ‘Crop Circle’ and ‘Radiation Day’ follow just behind, whilst I seem to be dealing self-induced whiplash upon myself as I’m unable to resist the sheer ferocity of the set.
Magnet are playing at a breakneck pace, barely pausing between songs, if at all, at times, following the admirable lead Puppy had earlier given us, maximising the time spent on smashing our eardrums asunder.
The set continues as it started, with the psychedelic edge of Monster Magnet’s usual live shows being somewhat cast aside for the evening with a feeling of pure anger and malevolence pervading the atmosphere, in the best possible way, as the boisterous crowd continue to sing along at the tops of their voices to the Heavy Rock rantings.
Things continue with ‘Melt’ and ‘Ego The Living Planet’, amongst others, before approaching the end of the main body of their set. What two could they finish with but ‘Negasonic Teenage Warhead’ and ‘Spacelord’ – the finale being the only time we really get into Monster Magnet’s Psych Rockside on the night. They briefly leave the stage for Dave to have a brief rest, though he remains off while the rest of the band comes back on to start off the encores with ‘CNN War Theme’, which the guys perform with the utmost precision and feeling. We have time for ‘Dinosaur Vacuum’ and ‘Powertrip’ to finish the set, with the crowd all but drowning out the band, leaving it a glorious way to finish an excellent evening of music.
A 21 hour day was worth it thanks to everything taken in tonight and a performance that will live on in my mind for a while yet.
People so often complain that a band isn’t playing their town on a tour. Every announcement is met with requests to play Billy from Stoke’s bedroom – though that would be sweet – and never satiates the audience size. Spare a thought for the people of Norwich who have had to go for years without seeing the glory of Mastodon in their city. As such, tonight’s event is packed out from the moment doors open, and anticipation is at an extreme high. Continue reading
A four band bill on a cold Tuesday evening seems like the perfect antidote to the winter blues, so with Skid Row bringing the heat… sorry, bringing along H.E.A.T. alongside Vega and Backyard Babies on support on their latest tour, it seemed like the perfect evening. A quick trip across to Manchester later and it was time for the rather early doors. Continue reading
A first gig of the year after a couple of abortive attempts were blocked by train strikes and I finally get to take in The Subhumans in the annual Punk festival in The 100 Club – the scene of a number of good gigs I’ve enjoyed before. A long trip beckoned, but a hopefully worthwhile one nonetheless to finally see a band I’ve quite liked for a number of years now, complete with You and Knock Off in support duty. Continue reading
In the face of trying financial times for bands and gig-bookers alike, the fact that Damnation Festival still pulled off another sell-out edition is both impressive and heartening. Despite their own admissions about a couple of missed opportunities this year, Damnation always manage to bring an unmissable line-up that caters for a wide fan base, be it lovers of Extreme or the more Progressive, and once more they have done so with love and more than a few surprise additions! Continue reading
It’s a sell-out. This won’t come as any surprise to those who have followed the rapid, upward trajectory of Brighton’s Black Peaks but this is, as they say, a bit of a “moment” for a band that many have got justifiably excited about. This current tour, a showcase for their second album, the widely admired All That Divides (Rise Records), will see the band traverse the UK, but this stop off in the capital, on the same day that Marmozets are playing up the road and Crossfaith playing down the road still has touts asking (and getting) silly amounts of money outside the tube station is proof positive that this band have engineered more than a little bit of excitement about them. Continue reading
For some reason, Halloween is exempt from the Prohibition Against Mainstream Fun that prevents Metal fans from publicly enjoying other festivals. Admit that you like Christmas and you’ll be ejected from The Hall faster than if you’d been seen wearing a Five Finger Death Punch t-shirt, but celebrating Halloween is not just permitted but actively encouraged. Clearly not even a Cannibal Corpse gig is enough to spoil the one Metal Approved religious festival in the calendar, and tonight the Forum is packed with Teletubbies, scary clowns, lazily-made-up-skeletons and a man dressed as a giant penis. The audience is absolutely wired from the off, moshing to silence and bellowing for walls of death before the first band even take to the stage.
Fortunately, their enthusiasm is not misplaced as openers Aeon, having apparently not been told that they’re just a support band, rip into their set as if they’re headlining. In a recent interview with Ghost Cult, Cannibal Corpse bassist Alex Webster described Aeon as a personal favourite of his, and it’s instantly clear why. They’ve been given a rich, heavy sound far beyond most openers and they don’t waste it, delivering taut, commanding bursts of powerful, Deicide-esque Death Metal with utter confidence and control. The audience prove that a band who act like headliners get treated like it, with a crowd response extremely healthy for a band playing at 7.30 to a venue that still hasn’t filled up.
Next up, Boston’s Revocation betray their simplistic name with an ambitious mash-up of Death Metal, Thrash and Hardcore with more progressive elements. It’s a complex, often surprisingly subtle blend that eschews many of the more traditional trappings of Death Metal, with Hardcore-style shouted vocals (occasionally giving way to clean-sung choruses), jagged song-structures and frequently dissonant changes of mood and tempo within a track. On paper they’re an odd choice to support a band as orthodox as Cannibal Corpse, and some old school Death Metallers in the audience are visibly perplexed, but for most people here the sheer savagery of the performance and the band’s clear enthusiasm wins through, earning another hero’s welcome (not to mention a circle pit in which the man in the penis costume sticks out like the world’s sorest most misshapen thumb).
By the time Cannibal Corpse take to the stage the audience are so wired that they’d probably circle-pit to ‘Let’s Get Ready To Rumble’ (PJ and Duncan) on a loop, but the band don’t use that as an excuse to cut corners. By this point in their career, reviewing Cannibal Corpse almost seems pointless – if you’re reading this you know exactly what they sound like and whether you like them or not – but live the sheer, undeniable enormity of their performance simply overwhelms everything else. On record their familiarity can be almost comforting, but live they take repetition to the point of transcendence, one idea repeated so often and so powerfully that it annihilates everything else. The point of a Cannibal Corpse review is not to tell you what they sounded like, but to attempt to capture just how good it was.
The first thing you notice about Cannibal is that the flashy showmanship and theatrics employed by both support bands are entirely absent. With the exception of some endearingly awkward stage banter from George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher (challenging the audience to a headbanging contest; sincerely exhorting them to “keep supporting fucking Death Metal!”), there is almost zero communication between band and audience – they stand in a line, lock their feet in place and simply hammer out one song after another like there’s nothing else in the universe. It seems jarring after the usual Metal posturing, but is entirely fitting and consistent with the band’s aesthetic of unrelenting, no-nonsense Death Metal. The second thing is how utterly, terrifyingly tight and precise they are. Watching Alex’s fingers is dizzying in itself, a more fitting visual accompaniment to the musical assault than any amount of shape-throwing or play acting would have been, and it rapidly becomes clear that you are watching a band who – twenty six years and thirteen albums into their career – still rehearse every single day. The music is literally everything, and within the tight parameters they have set themselves, they have attained absolute mastery.
Every possible criticism of their performance – the lack of variety; the relentless, no-pause-for-breath pacing; the lack of showmanship – misses the point of what it is they do, and why. Those aren’t bugs, to steal a phrase from a different world entirely, those are FEATURES. Cannibal Corpse are essentially a machine, constructed solely for the purpose of musically punching the listener in the face as many times as they can until the lights go on – if that’s not for you, that’s through no failing of theirs.
In a genre as insular and niche-focussed as Death Metal bands who dare to put their heads above the parapet will often be derided as sell-outs, but Cannibal Corpse are not just the most successful band in Death Metal, they are its purest and most dedicated adherents, and are still at the very forefront of the genre after twenty-six years.
Cannibal Corpse Setlist
Staring Through the Eyes of the Dead
Fucked With a Knife
Stripped, Raped and Strangled
Kill or Become
Scourge of Iron
Dormant Bodies Bursting
Addicted to Vaginal Skin
The Wretched Spawn
Pounded into Dust
I Cum Blood
Disposal of the Body
Make Them Suffer
A Skull Full of Maggots
Hammer Smashed Face
Devoured by Vermin