Home Gigs Gig Review : Esprit D’Air with Special Guests Diamond Black UK & EU Tour 2024 Hangar 18, Swansea

Gig Review : Esprit D’Air with Special Guests Diamond Black UK & EU Tour 2024 Hangar 18, Swansea

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Review by Gary Spiller for MPM

Eyes fully opened and mind well and truly expanded. It’s very rare for me to begin a review with a concluding comment, but here it’s utterly necessary. For the majority of my outings reviewing I’ve rarely strayed from my musical comfort zones, such as NWOCR and heritage acts, but this evening in a particularly soggy Swansea I’m a considerable distance away from these aforementioned realms and stepping forth into, what is for myself, the unknown.

The truth be told I’m approaching the evening with an open mind and an all-consuming sense of intrigue. For Esprit D’Air and tourmates Diamond Black it’s the early stages of a nineteen-date tour with all dates either sold out, having low ticket warnings or even venue upgrades. There’s an insatiable demand to catch these two outfits in the live arena and the Hangar 18 date is no different having sold out weeks ago.

What makes this all the more compelling is that this feat has been achieved without management, booking agents or PR companies. The DIY ethos has been driven by Esprit D’Air’s virtuoso driving force Kai, a truly humble individual who’s beautiful internally and externally.

Snaking along Plymouth Street a lengthy queue greets the opening of doors upon the striking of the seventh hour of the PM; refreshingly there’s a much younger demographic composition eager to enter than witnessed at NWOCR gigs. Just a few hours later and I conclude, in the finest John Peel manner, that herein lies a tangible forward traction giving rise to the sensation of rock and metal reinventing itself right in front of your very ocular organs.

From the very off it’s apparent that there’s a symbiotic inter-band relationship. Esprit D’Air’s frontman Kai came to my attention last November when, following Dylan Smith’s abrupt departure, he stepped into flank Andrew Eldritch in the ranks of the Sisters Of Mercy. On the other side of Eldritch stood another guitarist in the shape of Bristol-born Ben Christo, who is the frontman of the tour’s special guests Diamond Black. So, the entwining and delicious entanglement commences.

Formed in 2016 dark arcane rockers Diamond Black are entrusted to kick-off the proceedings. Ever since doors opened so a flood of fans has streamed into the well-appointed interior of Hangar 18; by the time the three components of Diamond Black stride forth, as thunder booms and lightning statics across the ether, it’s rammed to the metaphorical gunnels. With a crash and a sonic boom, the triumvirate spring into life.

One foot upon the front-line monitors Christo surveys the scene as the feline on the hunt. The rip-roaring set-opener ‘Ghost In The Glass’, a 2018 single, ascends and soars with Christo whittling a solo, from his black and white Gibson SG to match. To his left bassist Adam Lightspeed combines in tandem seismic waves with percussive hammer Jan-Vincent Velazco (Pendragon, Raymond Watts, Gus G, Steve Rothery). The former, later, receiving recognition from Christo “All [our] visuals done by our very own Adam!”

These graphics and videography are a prominent part of the set complementing perfectly as a backdrop in harmony with onstage activities. Hurtling right into snarling anthem ‘In Venom’ the band accelerate with consummate ease. Sinuous bass, rock-splitting drums and obsidian-shaded fretwork envelop and consume.

A song very much about themselves according to Christo’s introduction ‘Fall Into The Silence’ slips a passage into a digital abyss. Behind, in their wake, shells of snow descend as Christo points to the skies. “Are you out there?” the frontman enquires lyrically. With Lightspeed cartwheeling bass lines, a la Townshend, Christo powers a solo crouched over the front line concluding, at track end as the Hangar 18 crowd roar deafeningly, “That was fucking amazing!”

‘If You Kill My Demons’ bawls out of the depths of the low end with sharp, precise harmonies between Christo and Lightspeed. The enraptured ranks afront the stage clap along hustling into space. Gliding in killer black leather footwear Lightspeed seemingly floats upon the stage smiling all the while.

Released a year ago ‘Through The Misery’ aligns full lunar kinetics upon a one-way navigation to the Earth’s sole orbiting body. Rising through seemingly endless forests, running from a haunting history, Christo powers a reverberating “Only you!” A packed Hangar absorbs every passing moment in complete attentiveness.

Outstretched on thermals, rising as the magma does from its abyssal chambers enroute to the volcano’s vents so the mellifluous precipitation does descend. ‘The Scarlet’, four minutes of shadowy glory from 2019, scratches at the door. Slinging his trusty SG Christo elates the opening lines of ‘Dark Anthems’; the band, fully coiled, unleash inner furies in a deliberate controlled manner only the fully composed can. The feathered raptor slips off the rugged environs of the vertiginous peak gracefully edging through the atmospherics.

Esprit D’Air’s guitarist Yutsuke is welcomed on-stage for the set-closing ‘Sorrow’. Velazco’s pounding drums herald the main body, strobes flashing a loud roar from the crowd erupt. The forsaken soul stares into a depthless mirror; seeking a reflection of a darkened soul. It’s emphatic across the board with Lightspeed, in awe, saluting Yutsuke’s solo. It’s been nigh on 40 minutes of compelling gothic noir rock leaving the ranks, rightly, baying for more.

Prior to them taking to the stage as a ‘quartet in complete’ we’ve already been introduced to half of Esprit D’Air’s elements; with guesting guitarist Yutsuke returning to take up his headline duties whilst virtuous drummer Jan-Vincent Velazco settles behind his kit for a second full shift hammering it into life as first track off the grid ‘Nebulae’ wheelspins, with maximum rpm, in top gear.

Kai hits the stage full sprint in a coruscating bundle of dynamics whist bassist Takeshi can’t resist a playful romp of high fives with the barrier. A triumphant entrance is whole. The opening track has touches of Iron Maiden’s prog leanings all enhanced with an unseen energy; this tiger isn’t for the taming! Full throttle, high kinetics this is 21st century metal. The guitar work is rapid yet precise; the sort of delivery of primetime Malmsteen now reworked for the modern era.

With the broadest of smiles Kai asks, “Swansea, you ok?” before launching into the flamboyant ‘Ocean’s Call’. “It’s our first time here and we love you already!” Kai observes as the track ebbs away. The metalliferous accelerator is hit and forced through the juggernaut’s flooring as behomothic 2023 single ‘Grudge’ gets the Hangar 18 ranks headbanging seemingly entranced, as a unified one, by mystic incantations. Piercing the clouds the electric storm intensifies; standing on the precipice of the abyss Kia offers the crowd the mic for a lusty chanting of the time-honoured mantra “Hey, hey” as clenched hands jab the air.

The melodic heaviness of ‘Calling You’ follows storming the ramparts with explosive notes taking apart the fortifications brick by brick. Kai’s track-ending “Yeah” expresses all that requires expressing in terms of emotions. The marauding riffs and earthquaking forces have taken their goal. The cosmic intensities of ‘Starstorm’, winched in from ‘Constellations – the Best Metal Album in 2018’s Independent Music Awards in New York, dart between the tops of the neon skyscrapers as the band, in full collective, continue the demolition apace.

Hugging one another Kai and Takeshi share a glorious moment of celebration, smiles all about. Attempting to escape the labyrinth the speed metal tonage of ‘The Abyss’ is refined to the core. Angels of stone, broken of wing shed tears standing sentinel. Fists pump and heads bang within the rank and file. A mesmerising updraft that captures complete focus.

Similarly strongarm in its approach ‘Rebirth’ rapidly vents with shadowy spirits unfurling scaled, leathery wings in readiness to bear witness to the rampage from aloft. A passage up the crepuscular tunnel from the catacombs awaits; the heat is intense, and a barrier-dweller gratefully accepts a bottle of water. Kai shreds a magnificent solo whilst all around him the band swarm and despatch a deadzone volley.

The crowd go ape in appreciation of Velazco’s drum solo before the aptly titled ‘Tsunami’ ensure wave after wave of mayhemic disorder. Cranking up to maximal levels ‘Amethyst’ is, as the labelling infers, a coruscant gem glinting in the sunlight as winter waves freeze where they crash upon the polar shoreline. Waters pure, once fed of the mountain. Kai, up on the barrier, shares fist bumps with the front rows before turning the key in the ‘Ignition’ for thrashing glorification.

Gentle emotions splay in shining anthem ‘Sazanami’ prior to the heroes’ call of ‘Shizuku’, another one of last year’s single releases, awakens the inner soul. We’re over 50 minutes into an entrancing set and there’s relent in the velocity or strengths applied as a rammed to the rafters Hangar 18 can be heard beyond the city limits.

High above the snowy woodlands glaciers gouge their way down from the rugged summits; as soft and embracing as the first fall of winter snow ‘Deai’ broadens an already wide smile. Rallying the crowd ED demonstrate their gentler side in the crystalline jewel of ‘Guiding Light’ to wrap up the main body of the set.

A triple salvo from 2022’s sophomore long-player ‘Oceans’ comprises the encore’s consist with geologically powerful ‘Glaciers’ and set-ending monstrous crescendo ‘Leviathan’ neatly bracketing an emotionally charged ‘Dead Zone’ featuring a guesting Ben Christo, proudly sporting Danish cow-punkers D.A.D. t-shirt.

This is rock, metal – brand it how you like – that is stadium-ready. Make no bones about it in Japan Kai would be shifting not hundreds of tickets, but thousands possibly even tens of thousands filling large venues. This is the cutting edge and it’s clearly where the accelerator is being applied to gain forward progressing momentum. Watch this space closely, you’ve been forewarned!

Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM

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