Review by Sheri Bicheno for MPM
Back to the familiar grounds of Birmingham’s o2 Academy and the first sight surrounding it within the last two years, of hundreds of people queuing to get into one of the biggest shows that kickstarts 2023.
With it being the early stages of the Deadmen and Dragons Tour, the bar had already been set high by Belfast and Glasgow but looking around, Birmingham would be giving them a run for their money. The place was so packed with a sea of excited chatting, drinking, singing – all metalheads alike – just generally a fantastic atmosphere, there was no place to move on the main arena floor.
Metal Titans Trivium were back, bringing with them Death/Thrash Metal German legends Heaven Shall Burn and opening with one of my most favourite Hardcore group, our very own British lads in Malevolence.
That line up alone should get anyone’s engine running, though I don’t think there was any fear of that being in question as the anticipation for Malevolence was brimming with a warm, hyped atmosphere.
The lights go down and Inner Circle echoes out from the stage with the intro of Bad Boys Reply, which creates an intense sense of anticipation through the o2.
Alex Taylor addresses the crowd briefly and an almighty roar from the audience fills the halls!!
Kickstarting right into blastbeating and riff galore Malicious Intent, the Sheffield lads absolutely REIGN the O2 from the outset.
Alex’s guttural and hardcore edged vocals are nothing short of face melting. He crafts the stage alongside the undeniably filthy break downs and we see the creation of energy that Malevolence fans have stored away start spilling out.
The crowd on the stage floor are already creating pits… heads are gonna fly off during this set, I could see it.
After short, sweet and brutal intro Malicious Intent, Alex sets the vibe to continue by demanding to keep the pace moving.
Literally nobody defies this request before Life Sentence is bestowed upon us. No energy lost, the masterful blasting from Charlie Thorpe starts as a few dramatic beats of anticipation accompanied by a subtle but hard hitting undertone of riffing and melts together to create a double pedalled ascension of speed and almost thrashy combination to deliver an ultimate effect.
It’s also here that we are introduced to the astoundingly beautiful voice of Konan Hall. Konan has such a skillful ability of using his higher and cleaner notes to deliver vocal ambience to the general style of Malevolence – but making that deliverance not to take away from the heaviness of them either.
In fact, his voice that quite occasionally runs alongside Alex’s harsher and more brutal tones makes for some hearing that explores different layers of emotion between the two vocalists. A perfect ying and yang, if you will.
I love the fact that Konan and Alex share this role in the band – no one out powers the other and it works wonderfully.
Wilkie Robinson is the shining glimpse in next track Still Waters Run Deep … the low, brutal and flowing bass tones really provide the backbone to this track and hearing it live again, I’m once again reminded of the unbelievably huge slabs of heavy echos that’s created in the song across the stage.
An energetic blast from the past is thrust outwards with the familiar winding melody and scratchy under riffs of Self Supremacy. For me, this track has always been a more touch on the hardcore and punk style that is occasionally glimpsed through Malevolence – though later, the riffs are huge and the breakdowns are equally as slow and heavy, this track is absolutely nuts to witness live.
Alex throws himself around the stage and emits this song to us with so much hyped and aggressive energy. This again, is balanced well with Konan and his rock and metal style of vocals.
This track is a raging speed bullet, it’s wonderfully fitted out with a solo and guitaring that I think that most Gojira lovers would love to behold.
Alex again addresses the crowd – and here we see a humbling side to Malevolence – he thanks everyone for turning up early and then tells everyone that there’s only one rule – if someone falls down, you pick them back up… and then crafts honestly one of the hugest circle pit’s I’ve ever seen grace the halls of the Birmingham O2. He launches himself into the crowd and body surfs through to the end of the song.
One thing I love about live gigs – you can quite often tell the character of the band performing for you by the way they hold themselves up on that stage and the way they engage with the crowd.
We’re asked for the lights to go down low and if anyone has a phone, to light them up.
I know what’s coming and that beating in my chest starts building.
Blue hues of lighting glow from the stage and the melancholic and beautiful voice of Konan swirls into the huge space we’re in.
His guitaring is melodic and gentle, matching the intensity of emotion coming from Josh Baines to create such a beautiful, dream filled vibe that touches your core.
Higher Place might be one of the newer tracks from Malevolence – but I cannot escape the encapsulating emotion of this song and it’s meaning. It’s without a doubt one of the looped tracks you’ll find on any music playing device I own.
I’m sure we have all been in shades of emotion of grief and loss or even any heart ache… and for those of us that connect our souls through music, we know that there are some songs out there that are able to breathe into you and allow you to help process those spinning emotions, even outlet them.
…But to witness it live is quite something else.
The whole band, down to those united vocals between Alex and Konan, the guitars that create the sky reaching sound to call out loud enough so our lost ones hear it, the low and subtle bass and huge cymbal crashing… Higher Place is another demonstration of how Malevolence can capture their listeners and keep them entranced.
A few tears were shed… and I certainly wasn’t the only one.
Remain Unbeaten’s intro came through as a beautiful melody intro and shimmers of tempos from both guitars and melted into a catchy, upbeat and fast paced plethora of break downs and shining guitar tracking. This track was part of a 2020 EP The Other Side and gave Malevolence’s answer to the hiatus we all had from live music.
Alex tells the crowd to look after each other and to keep safe, he reaches out to the crowd and touches outstretched hands before “Make some noise for the security here!”
The stage lights up in hues of pink and green lights and then we’re treated to energy infused 2020’s Keep Your Distance – This one has crowd surfers galore and the circle pit enthroning the stage floor was absolute nuts! The riffs are huge and chuggy throughout this track and the blasting beats from Charlie are ever changing, the tempo of the riffs and drum tempos are what carves this track, live. Aggressive, punchy and tone changing throughout.
Finale from Malevolence was another one of my favourites… from the outset of On Broken Glass, the drums are choppy and the winding and melody infused riffs carry through to the chugging bass and therein Alex uses his brutal vocal range to accompany us to a ferocious path of riffing tempo twists and turns, hard hitting break downs and injections of beautiful vocals from Konan to create an emotion filled energy talking to us of life lessons through heart ache and facing things in our past. Alex bids goodbye and casually tosses his hat into the crowd.
Lucky git that caught it.
I will never not love Malevolence. This was the third time I’ve seen them, second since they released Malicious Intent, with a lucky opportunity to have interviewed Wilkie at Bloodstock last year… and during the last year, they’ve done Sheffield… well, the UK proud, with international tours, supports of some huge bands and ploughing everything in their path, representing a genre in Metal that can have it’s moments of receiving judgement and therefore, doesn’t always get the appreciation it deserves.
Go see them.
German Death Metal legends Heaven Shall Burn were up next, as a later confessed long time love of Matt Heafy, this only makes perfect sense.
I am totally new to the live viewing of Heaven Shall Burn – but I am an avid listener, with Atonement being one of my very favourite go to tracks if I want an instrumental yet brutal injection on my day.
Melodic riffs ring out from the stage and the pure wonderous drumming of Christian Bass is present from the outset – the double pedals and frantic energy creates the atmosphere from the crowd. Then Marcus Bischoff blasts “Onwards!” and then the air is filled with the huge melo-death sounds and catchy riffing of My Heart and the Ocean. The huge melodies carve their way through this intro with huge headbanging riffs amongst Marcus’s guttural barks.
This fades into a speed bullet of a blast from the past Bring The War Home. Marcus displays another range of vocal tone along with those aforementioned gutturals… he reaches a higher pitch that brings with it, an apocalyptic atmosphere with the unison of the double bass beats and chugging chords that balance out propulsive metalcore and melodic death metal riffs before returning back to a track from 2020’s Of Truth and Sacrifice.
Übermacht is a favourite of many, starting off with a futuristic ebb and flow of synths before landing straight into a vat of high melodic and hard riffs.
Honestly, there is an earthquake beneath my feet at this stage. As well known, there’s a slight touch of techno later in this track which makes for interesting live listening with such a mixture of ferocity and speed.
Nostalgic Combat starts out as a brutal turned melodic track where we were shown in 2010 just how experimental Heaven Shall Burn can be. The electronic moments here are present but very subtle through the furnace of fire that these guys create on stage, which subsequently matches the energy outside of the stage. The o2 floor is positively breathing. Nobody seems to be standing still.
When the carnage has paused, Marcus requests a huge circle pit be drawn – and once again, the O2 is a thrashing, floor of movement.
Voice of the Voiceless is brutal but catchy and demonstrates the intricate riffing from Maik Weichert and winding strings of Alexander Dietz combining together to create a huge blare of energy with Christian’s rhythmic blast beats.
Something I love about Heaven Shall Burn is that their Instrumental tracks are always able to capture that same level of ambience and energy that any fuller track is capable of – their instrumentals dont just sit as fillers… March of Retribution still rings that futuristic vibe but captivates anticipation and until it bleeds into the killer Thoughts and Prayers… all the notes of brutality and atmospheric melodies found in March of Retribution are still present. Crafting incredible riffs with impeccable melodies. Marcus still as visceral as ever, delivering his sharp lyrics with aggressive energy.
Profane Believers is delivered in ferocity and a more rounded metalcore style with some nostalgic touches of old school death metal to it. Where Black Tears displays evolvement of Heaven Shall Burn with more detectable hardcore edge lacing through this track. The guitars are almost thrashy yet catchy and Christian pummels those blast beats to provide the high energy in this track’s backbone accompanying the intense vocals.
The finale to Heaven Shall Burn is another banger taken from album Iconlast (Part 1 The Final Resistance) – the unmistakable craft of Christian really shines in this track to me. He smashes that kit as hard and fast as anything and this makes the whole place shake. There’s no denying the colossal sound of HSB – there is so much energy that matches the breakdown technical riffs and melodic harmonies used in this track.
A banger of an end to this set – we’re more than warmed up for the legendary headliners of tonights stage… Trivium.
With the place so packed, you darent move a muscle… the stage goes dark and the stage glows with lights – Iron Maidens Run To The Hills echoes out from the stage and everyone around me is joining in with this anthem – what a warm up!
Trivium have long been a band that have provided nothing but fun, warmth and an atmosphere of unity at any show they’ve played. They are just so full of energy and light and once they hit the stage, they are warm and welcoming to the crowd.
We’re introduced to their set with classic Trivium – Rain see’s the start to the set with those familiar riffs and winding melodies – what I find most astonishing with this opening track is that Alex Bent crafts the kit in many different layers – he uses an intricate technique to deliver the different twists and turns of tempo in this track – and live it is HUGE.
The moods of Rain are brutal, some slight breakdowns and atmospheric tones whilst Matt Heafy delivers his powerful vocals with hardcore style bellows and gutturals, yet takes on the ambience of a track with some beautiful singsong tones to highlight the differences of strength to the song.
“How the f*ck are you doing, my friends? It feels so good to be home!”
Matt shows the warm side to the band with a speech on how since day one of Trivium, they have always felt a warm welcome in the UK and how much they’ve always enjoyed playing on our shores.
Going onto the uplifting vibes of The Sin and the Sentence – the guitars are ereathel and provide a positive energy to set the tone of the track. Matt’s vocals are cleaner on this track for the most part and provide an almost anthem like vibe… which I think was a warm up for the absolute monstrous favourite of many Trivium fans that followed…
The familiar guitars and tones of beautiful bass entwining with each other for the absolute pure energy that is Down From The Sky is always something to behold. I have always adored this song live and tonight was no exception – the O2 brimful of people from top to bottom, side to side and back to front absolutely emersed in the uplifting beats and beauty crafted from the stage.
The chants of every person around me singing along with Matt was fantastic. The catchy and punchy combination of Alex masterful tempo changes on the double pedals and blasts that throws wind to Corey Beaulieu’s beautiful winding strings and Matt’s chuggy riffs.
A recent track, Like a Sword of Damocles came with beautiful melodies and Paulo Gregoletto’s grinding backbone of bass – and thrashy in places with the riffs and blast beats. Though I love this song live because of that entwining with the chorus that tends to demonstrate the melodic side of Matt’s vocals.
The solo’s here are outstanding, with winding strings, crafting a path through the ferocity that gives this song in its live version more of a rounded and atmospheric vibe. Though this is soon morphed into a bullet of speed and the absolute monstrous beats of Alex really shine along with this. It was INSANE.
The shredding of guitars held spectacular moods to the energy of Trivium, which was also very evident in Strife – one of the more thrashier infused songs of Trivium.
A Crisis of Revelation, we are told has never before been played in the UK before this tour – so to feel the energy of this track was totally new. We’re first introduced to Crisis as punchy and blast beating with chuggy shredding riffs and Matt and Corey’s vocals working beautifully together to create a powerful explosion of melodic and brutal tones to the vocal delivery. There was a beautifully filthy break down of this track about half way through that created a sense of anticipation and had the pit below my feet going full swing.
Matt talks about how it’s good for everyone to be united in music and that newly joined Malevolence added to the tour was something he really wanted to do. He invites Josh Baines to the stage to put his guitaring spin on next track The Deceived – and by the Gods, this went down amazingly. Josh smashed it, providing the solo to this track, creating a huge shredding energy. The vibe was a concoction of fast paced and tunely riffing with speeds of the tempo and beats from Alex.
Did we mention earlier how humble and sound these guys are? As Catastrophe is starting, Matt stops the gig to get someone some medical aid and ensures they are OK. He asks security kindly to provide water for the crowd where needed and applauded the O2 security for being on top of things so briskly.
It really just tells me that even though from up at the stage, whilst delivering a phenomenal show, there are some artists out there that use their eyes and their sense of awareness to care for others where it can potentially get brutal for people out there.
To The Rats has very much an early Metallica – esque vibe which, whilst quite obviously Trivium style, is quite intriguing to see – you can only really guess the influences to most Artists choices of flow, however the shredding and thrash riffs that introduces the track accompanied by the vocal tempo reminds me very much of a much earlier Metallica – which is pleasing to hear.
In Waves being the penultimate track to Trivium’s set was so SO ambiently heavy and beautiful. Blue hues lit up the stage and the wonderfully ethereal strings rang out a sonic atmospheric vision and clean melodies where the abrasive harsh vocals were encapsulated to reach your core. This was definitely one of my favourites of the set. A perfect balance of brutal riffs, harmonic melodies and vocals that work together to create both sides of the spectrum of heavy vibes.
Encore! Of course came as Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr… this being the very last offering of the night from Trivium had such wonderfully huge energy. This is a true Trivium anthem – the tempos are faster and scales are huge, the instrumental side to Trivium was for me, introduced with this song way back in the early 2000’s and it’s good to see that nothing much changes where it doesn’t need to.
I am happy. My face has melted off and the ringing in my ears means that it’s unmistakably been a heavy and wonderful evening of some of metals best offered bands.
Stunning show. You guys in Europe are in for one hell of a night…
Photography by Manny Manson for MPM