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Due to some minor confusion over when the doors actually open tonight, I am still in the downstairs bar when opening act Extrema appear on stage, and only manage to catch half of their final song. Austrian metallers Demolition are, therefore, the first band I see this evening. Completely unfamiliar with their material, I have no preconceptions, and find their brand of post-Slayer death-thrash to be infectiously engaging and strikes a fine balance between the thrash and death elements ŕ la scene stalwarts Vader and relative Dutch newcomers Legion of the Damned. Demolition are entirely unoriginal, although supporting Death Angel in front of an audience primarily in attendance to indulge in a night of retro-thrash, their no nonsense succinct metal compositions are well received with a small number of punters headbanging at the front, and others nodding their heads to the idiomatic thrash riffing. A fine performance overall, and the lack of originality is compensated for with their skilled delivery of the material and lively stage dynamic.
Wednesday 16th April 2008
Junktion7 in Nottingham, UK
I had been looking forward to seeing Danish band Mercenary again ever since their awesome set headlining the first day of ProgPower Europe in the Netherlands back in 2006. And with stunning new album 'Architect of Lies' recently released, which has seen the talented six-piece take a heavier approach to their songwriting, they are a band going from strength to strength. Mercenary appear on stage for a fairly lengthy soundcheck, although this is justified by the pristine sound and perfectly balanced mix they receive through the PA when they begin the play. With around a 40 minute slot, the set is predictably biased towards the new release, although an airing of 'My Secret Window' from 2006's 'The Hours That Remain' is a welcome addition. Struggling to fit on the small confines of Junktion7's limited stage space, keyboardist Morten Sandager plays off stage in front of the backstage doors and, realising he must not be visible by a large portion of the crowd, frontman Mikkel Sandager comically informs them mid-set "there's my brother down there!". An extraordinarily talented vocalist, Mikkel has one of the widest ranging and unique voices in the contemporary metal scene from a high-pitched Rob Halford delivery to a strong performance at the lower end of his voice and his inimitable half-growled, half-sung screeches, all pitch perfect. Bassist René Pedersen, only with the band since 2006, post-recording 'The Hours That Remain', has brought a new dimension to Mercenary's music with his skilful death vocals, of which there are many on the new songs. Guitarist Martin Buus also impresses this evening with his virtuoso playing as he both clean-picks and sweep-picks his way with evident ease though several solos on the 7 strings of his Ibanez Universe. For those who have yet to check out Mercenary, either live or on CD, then I urge you to do so immediately. Their balance between retro-metal influences and progressive, more contemporary, songwriting is seamlessly blended into a melodiously captivating, refreshingly diverse, and subliminal metal whole. The only disappointing thing about Mercenary tonight? Their short set! Here's hoping they return to the UK with a headline tour in the very near future, although a conversation with René Pedersen later in the evening implies this might be the case.
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Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
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Originally formed in the early 80s, and splitting in 1991, legendary Bay Area thrashers Death Angel reformed in 2001 to perform live at a cancer benefit show for Testament frontman Chuck Billy, and overwhelmed with the enthusiastic response they received, have remained active ever since including the release of 2 new albums. Currently on a European tour to promote latest release 'Killing Season', tonight is Nottingham's turn to witness this classic thrash act in a small venue and, just before the band are due on stage, Junktion7 nearly fills up to its small 200 capacity. However, post-soundcheck, there is an inexplicable wait of around 25 minutes before they actually appear which only serves to increase the air of anticipation amongst the already excitable crowd of predominantly older metallers. And when the Bay Area legends do eventually walk out onto the stage and start to play, the audience's excitement explodes into a vigorous display of pit madness, which is sustained throughout Death Angel's entire set, including a large number of crowd surfers. Observing the fans' enthusiasm, I have the overwhelming impression that a significant number of them are reliving their long-gone thrashing youth, which frontman Mark Osegueda implicitly makes reference to, stating "good to see your missus' let you all out tonight...or maybe you've brought her with you!". Working their way through a set of 'classics' including 'Evil Priest', 'Voracious Souls' and 'Seemingly Endless Time', they also play new material including 'Lord of Hate', 'When Worlds Collide', and 'Soulless'. Based on tonight's performance, they remain energetic live performers in 2008, and swinging his dreads around during instrumental passages, it's almost inevitable that Osegueda gets a couple stuck in the low ceiling, which he amusingly fails to notice for a couple of minutes, until he tries to headbang again, then has to release his hair! Playing for an hour and a quarter, Death Angel exit the stage just after midnight to huge cheers from a clearly satisfied crowd. An excellent performance although, for me, the night belongs to Mercenary.
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