Review & Photo by Manny Manson for MPM
After yet another hectic drive into Birmingham on a Saturday, the day that the trains have decided to strike, I eventually reach the O2 Academy, in fact, I manage to park just around the corner.
I’m searched on the way in, there’s only 20 minutes to go before the first band of this epic 4 band show is due on and we have another hold up at the box office. No one is on the guest list. The guys behind the box office are smiling but I feel they sense our frustration. A few phone calls and the realisation that they have been given Brixton’s guest list. (Sunday night’s show).
We are in and squeezing through the crowd making our way to the pit. Brother Waldorf is, again sitting this one out as he’s has Fatherly duties in York, it’ll no doubt involve tasting a few of the local Guinness purely for quality control.
We get in the pit just in time for the lights to drop and the intro to the first band starts.
Unto Others from the U.S.A., Portland have ventured across to the UK again after their headline tour earlier this year. We covered their show in Nottingham.
As the band strike up, I check I’m not still wearing my sunglasses such is the lack of light. They kick off the set with ‘Heroin’ 2021’s album ‘Strength’ this ominous tune sets the scene for the short set. ‘Give Me to the Night’ follows on from the earlier album, ‘Mana’ again from early 2021, The bruising gothic feel carries on.
Gabriel Franco is statuesque in front of his microphone his long curls window framing his dark glasses as he delivers this dark tune about a life without the light, about losing your sight not that it bothers him as we don’t see what he sees. He’s right there as the light takes on a slight purple glow and we are struggling for focus opportunities.
The sound is solid as Vranizan, sat at the back thumps out a solid beat. As always Sebastian Silva is doing his best Jake E Lee impression with screaming guitar work as we go into ‘No Children Laughing Now’ the jangling guitar work sounding like an early ‘The Mission’ track only with a bit of extra sauce added.
‘Can You Hear the Rain’ follows on with Brandon Hill rocking out on the bass his thumping lines are tied in nicely as Silva, foot on the riser is delivering a simple but effective solo. A steady beat rocks out as this slower tune crash’s around the venue.
‘Nightfall’, ‘Summer Lightning’ and When Will Gods Work Be Done’ bring the set to an end. There are plenty of fans in and they have been nodding along to in appreciation to this opening band. Judging by the tee shirts, it would seem that they have a few fans into night, and with that great opening set, will have made a few more. Apart from the occasional flashes of light, the set has been a dark one, it really fitted in with theme of their set, enjoyable all the same.
Carcass are up next. A band I last saw in 1989 in Rock City, Nottingham. If memory serves me right it was bloody brutal back then with Bolt Thrower, Morbid Angel and Napalm Death!
They march out bathed in red lights and are straight in with ‘Buried Dreams’ from 1993’s Heartwork. The growling of Jeff Walker, driving hard like his bass line, as the melodic guitar of Bill Steer weaves ‘tunefully’ around it. A great opening track which runs into the fan favourite ‘Kelly’s Meat Imporium’ this was released ahead of the new album and is full of growling vocal and superfast blast beats from Daniel Wilding, who has to be tied down to the kit such is the ferocity.
‘Incarnated Solvent Abuse’ continues with the barrage. The guys are having fun, as are the crowd. Walker is sliding his bass across the mic stand, an effect not on the pedal board. Smoke billows around the stage as we try to count how many songs we have had in the pit; we just shrug and decide to stay until we’re thrown out, the band are playing to the cameras so why leave. The lights are green, yellow and red, in keeping with the grotesque delivery from the band with epic song titles.
‘Under the Scalpel Blade’ is next, from the EP Despicable, a collection of songs that didn’t make the new album, Unbeleavable that they to think they were deemed second rate. This was the first song that they’d released following a six year hiatus, back in 2019, Its galloping riff soon drops into somewhere dark as this Liverpool ‘Splatter death Metal’ band, regarded by many as one of the pioneers of ‘Grindcore’ show the venue that they have gotten better since they reformed back in 2007, sadly original drummer, Ken Owen didn’t re-join as he had ongoing health issues.
‘This Mortal Coil’ from 1993’s Heartwork, gallops along dark and heavy, the guitars flowing around it like swooping bats chasing their prey, evil intended. The fat guitar solo giving a welcome break to the consistent onslaught.
The steady drum beat thuds out as guitars feedback and then riff hard as we go into ‘The dance of IXTAB (Psychopomp and Circumstance March No 1 in B)’ from 2021’s Torn Arteries. The band certainly know how to name their songs. James ‘Nip’ Blackford is head down and rocking hard as this song plays out, Bill Steer is engulfed in the smoke as he rips out a solid lead on his Gibson Musicman, its howling in protest as his fingers maul the fingerboard, awesome player, love his attitude.
I think Walker introduced this next one as a new one, ‘The Scythe’s Remorseless Swing’, yet another brutalistic display of relentless balls to the wall extreme metal, once the delicate (for Carcass) intro plays out. The vocals are growling hard as the band drop into a frenzied gallop of blast beats and frenzied riffing. From here it seems that the set is cut short ‘Corporal Jigsore Quandary’ I believe is given a resounding airing but the last song, Heartwork is dropped and we get a heavy thrashed outro which I believe to be ‘Carneous Cacoffiny’ as a set closer. It matters not. Carcass came and delivered a Masterclass of English Extreme Metal. Growling, although not to everyone’s taste was absolutely on point. A set worth waiting over 30years to see again.
The usual change over gives time to browse the merch stand, or maybe not it must be at least 20 deep, a trip to the boy’s room then another to the bar for a diet coke, very metal!
A curtain is now up, red splatters on white with the words PURE FUCKING and the word Metal is lying crumpled in remains on the stage floor, Obviously, meant for a much taller stage. It’s hiding the Arch Enemy crew as they prepare to give us a set full of Swedish Melodic Death Metal, and the stunning Alissa White-Gluz. This will be a crazy set and one a lot of guys and gals are here to see.
With a new album out ‘Deceiver’ it wasn’t a surprise that when the curtain dropped, Arch Enemy march forward in the smoke and stunning backlight to ‘Deceiver Deceiver’. Alissa was straight on the vocals hard as the band stood in formation and rocked out, as the dry ice swirled around their legs, A brief visit onto the front riser and then it was back with the windmill head bang, Alissa’s blue hair catching the dry ice and whipping it up.
The togs in the pit were chasing her around like a 20 aside school football match all chasing the ball as one unit. ‘War Eternal’ from the self-titled album of 2014. Loomis and Amott’s guitars are relentless as they rock out, the concussive drums Daniel Erlandsson are exploding inside your head. Alissa is playing with the crowd her delivery is effortless, quite how she can complete a whole set let alone a song in her growling style is breath taking.
The breakdown is crazy as the guitars take it in turn either side of the stage to showcase what this band is all about, as “we remember who we are”. The relentless footwork of Erlandsson continues as we go into ‘Ravenous’ from 2001’s Wages of Sin. The guitars take on a screaming horse cry as Loomis and Amott wreak havoc, giant Sharlee D’Angelo is on the move constantly his huge frame dwarfing Alissa as he thumps out a thunderous bassline.
Two more follow from the new album ‘In the Eye of The Storm’ with its heavy riffs and walking drum beat, has an almost Amon Amarth Viking vibe to it, the break down is melodic backed by a concussive, driving beat from the feet of Erlandsson. I have to say this one played live caught my attention.
This is followed swiftly by ‘House of Mirrors’ another with a gentler guitar run intro which is swiftly smashed with a growing crescendo from the drums and a piercing scream from Alissa as all hell is unleashed. Amott’s guitar screams as he rips out a lick before Alissa is back growling like someone truly obsessed. Another great choice for the set it would seem as the crowd is full of arms, horns and flying hair.
‘My Apocalypse’ from an earlier time in the set gets huge cheers from the crowd, originally sang by Angela Gossow and some would say Arch Enemy’s best front person before Alissa White-Gluz, it smashes firmly in your face, the more melodic breakdown belies the brutalness of the song. Great see older tracks popping up in the Gluz era, and she killed it. No questions asked.
The mentally fast ‘The Watcher’ is up next. It races along like a dragster down Santa Pod Speedway, the fierceness of the delivery is breath taking, saying which I’ve been holding my breath for some reason, breath!! The guitars are doing their bit which gives us a chance to put our ear plugs back in our ears as they’ve been blown out. There is something about Swedish Metal that just grips as Amott and Loomis again tie themselves in knots with scorching lick after lick before we’re back into the song and its brought down with the twin guitar harmony.
2017’s Will Power’s offering is up next, the mighty ‘The Eagle Flies Alone’. The melodic intro builds the suspense until the vocal growl see’s Alissa stage front, contorted, delivering to the fans who are following her every move. Another great inclusion. The building guitar riff and machine gun snare making this a stand out song. ‘Handshake with Hell’ again from the new album follows. Featured as a release on YouTube for the album launch.
The fingered guitar runs gently lead into a thudding drum beat and a screaming Amott lick. Alissa is animated as usual as she delivers, dropping the growl we get to hear her stunning ‘head’ voice, wow! come along to the killing grounds and we have the growl. We are getting both sides of her split vocal personality; the change overs are clean wow! what a singer! We have good and bad in one, her animated movements tie in well with each voice. My favourite of the set, the soft vocal included in this song has taken this band to the next level. A stunning track of Swedish genius.
This followed by ‘Sunset Over the Empire’ with its loose rattling bass intro, it builds into a feast of dropped tuned glory as the growl’s spit in your face. Screaming guitars again abuse your hearing as we drop into the rhythmical section, the drum beats out while we get ‘Bad Horsy’ screams from the guitar ring out and the song drops into an, almost, driving Viking beat befitting the end of the world, as Alissa growls the dying words.
Alissa, up front asks us if we want a fast one, to which we get ‘As the Pages Burn’ delivered at breakneck speed, it feels like a 6minute song squeezed into four., I’m surprised there’s time to get a breath as this thunders out. A couple of surfers come over the top during this racy number, Alissa, crouching, is pointing to them as way of a thanks as they are escorted from the pit.
‘Snowbound’ from Wages of Sin carries on the onslaught. This 2001 epic, is again, from an earlier era. Loomis rings out the 12string sounding chorus driven notes before Amott joins in with a subtle piercing solo over his gentle playing, the two play in harmony as together they enjoy this quick instrumental break. The crowd cheer loudly as the guitarists hold their instruments above their heads in acknowledgement.
‘Nemesis’ from the earlier Doomsday Machine again with its Steve Vai bad horsy guitar screams leading us into the all for one chanting and the thundering blast beats full of hey, hey chants. Alissa is punching the air, her foot on the riser as she does so. This is another head down shoe gazer of a tune. The melodic breaks give you a chance to have a breather before all hell kicks off again bringing the song to an end.
The all to short set is finished with ‘Fields of Desolation’ A trip back to the beginning with the 1996 album Black Earth, back when Johan Lilva was the vocalist. This re-worked version with Alissa on growls is true to the original, and is a great set closer. When it’s done, Alissa screws up and throws out set lists to the crowd, hands are everywhere trying to catch a copy. Pics and sticks fly out to. Amott has done his usual trick of having one stuck to his forehead, Alissa points and laughs before that too is tossed into the waiting crowd. A stunning set, well lit, great sound and a receptive crowd, who appreciated the band. We liked that one a lot!
Again, another curtain goes up for the Behemoth crew to work behind, this time it’s plain white, which is grand because as the lights dim and Post-God Nirvana plays across the PA, Nergal’s face is up close and rolling around watching over us as through-out this 3minute piece. His distorted view is screwed as he agonises his fate. The lecterns are stood, empty awaiting the arrival of Nergal, Orion and Seth.
‘Ora Pro Nubis Lucifer’ fires up and the curtain drops, well, all but one hook up, Nergal is straight up front greeting his congregation, the backlight is stunning in that its simple orange and red, Orion and Seth join him at the front seemingly to walk out of the flames. The back of the set is on fire with the colour combination.
Infernos feet are relentless with the sheer ferocity of his work. Nergal stands behind his lecture and delivers the growling vocal. This is simply stunning, half way through the first song and it’s destroying all pre conceptions of what satanic death metal is all about. If you think Satanic Black Metal is Ghost then you need to get to a Behemoth show!
The musician and showman ship is astonishing. The character make up is pure theatrical evil without being covered in goat’s blood or any cheezie.
“ I am Nothing” is screamed out amidst chants giving a medieval sacred vibe. This is the intro to ‘Deathless Sun’, off the latest release Opvs Contra Natvram. The thundering drums are ceaseless in their pulverisation of your chest. Orion stands and holds his bass high in one hand, he’s a big menacing unit that’s for sure, as he stares emotionless around the venue.
Smoke canons fire off as Seth rips out a seismic lick before the chants start and yet more guitars and a spoken ‘prayer’ is called by Nergal.
‘Ov Fire and the Void’ is up third, from Evangelion the 2009 album and the 9th release. The machine gun speed of Inferno’s feet are ridiculous as smoke shoots from the stage. Nergal has donned a mask for this one under his hood. His growl is deep and purposeful for this one.
The vocals is delivered with venom. This isn’t snowflake music. Its crushing and in your face, dark and brooding. Written by someone who has been through dark times and stared death in the face. Negal’s battle with Leukaemia in 2010 are well noted. An album was written during these dark times. The opening track is from that album, the Satanist which was eventually released in 2014.
A quick look at the crowd shows that this is a congregation hanging on every growl. ‘Thy Becoming Eternal’ from the latest release and 2004’s Demigod’s ‘Conquer all’ follows quickly. Both are full of blast beats and angry guitar. The lights and smoke continue with the feeling of being in a very bad place. Manchester had pyro but sadly we have to make do with just smoke canons, equally effective, the red and orange lighting is working overtime.
‘Daimonos’ has some scorching guitar, pinched harmonics give it a demonic howl as the thundering feet continue. This is my first Behemoth gig and I have to say Inferno’s feet are hypnotic. His thundering drums continue as we go into the fan favourite ‘Bartzabel’ from I Loved You at Your Darkest released in 2018.
The Satanic chants answered back by Nergal from behind his lecture paints a dark picture, his head gear has changed to a more elaborate one of a high priest.
The guitar break is unsettling in a soothing way. The cymbal crashes sounding out as Seth scorches down the neck of his guitar, his hair floating as he moves about in the fan generated breeze.
‘Off to War’, again from 2022’s release continues the Satanic onslaught. Cymbals crash, drums explode and guitars riff out. A bouncing drum beat gallops the song along as Nergal growls out the lyrics. This is a stunning set; the new album is a stunning piece of work for a 30th anniversary release. The set has remained either heavily orange and red back light or been just plain dark, as 2002’s ‘No Sympathy for Fools’ rips your head off.
The concussive footwork of Inferno tied into the thunderously demonic bass of Orion tries to rearrange your inner organs, Nergal’s vocal is enough to give children and grown men nightmares, I love the ride bell ringing out like Satan’s train coming to collect you. The screaming ghoulish cry towards the end wakes you from your shoegazing.
‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’ is, again from 2014’s the Satanist. The slow deliberate growl to a marching drum beat and rhymical guitar leads us down a path like walking through a wood at night knowing your being watched, it has that uneasy feel about it, like going to a sacrificial alter of which I’ve seen a few, having lived in the middle east.
‘Versvs Christvs’ is up next, it’s another dark one from the harrowing new album, the fourth new delivery tonight, the album only just being released this September. It’s another slow builder as it slowly catches up with you and drags you in. The growls and blast beats eventually arrive like a mule train and continue the demonic pummelling that’s continued, relentlessly throughout the set.
The nights finished with the thumping ‘Chant for Eschaton 2000’ the only offering from 1999’s Satanica. Early, dark and threatening. The snare slams shout out amidst the powerful beat as guitar squeal’s drive the melody. The growl is mean, its design to unease and it does. As the song gallops along, screaming guitars dive bomb and tease your senses as you are attacked by a thunderous wall of sound, I’m bloody loving this, its immense, immersive and bloody brilliant. I am a sucker for great musicianship and a show. Stunning!
Well it might have been a trying time getting here but oh boy was it worth it. ‘The European Siege Tour’ what a stunning night. The sound quality was exceptional and each band gave it the beanz. As a tour with four bands playing in turn it has to be great value for money at £45.75 on the door, a bloody bargain!