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Opening act on Paradise Lost's current batch of UK dates and, I understand, some subsequent mainland Europe shows are Gothenburg based industrial-edged melodic metallers Engel. The last time I caught the Swedes live was on Dimmu Borgir's 2007 UK tour where they were added to the bill at the eleventh hour as a replacement for Hatesphere. On that particular occasion, I seem to recall being impressed with their actual performance, although found much of the music fairly average. Just over two years on and my second experience of Engel is an entirely different one as they kick-start the night in explosive fashion with a set of up tempo, infectiously catchy, hard hitting metal underpinned by a poundingly heavy groove and mild death leanings. Frontman Magnus "Mangan" Klavborn does a fine job of working the crowd in a half full venue through his ceaselessly energetic stage presence and, at one point, asks "how you doing tonight?" which initially receives a lukewarm response, so he enquires twice more until this engenders the roaring cheers the band deserve. Daniel "Mojjo" Moilanen, the least metal looking member, pounds his way thorugh each track with a visually engaging display of drumming - we're not talking complex rhythmic patterns here but jeez does he beat the crap out of his kit! With the Academy becoming increasingly busier as Engel's set progresses, the Swedes deliver a fine start to the night's proceedings.
Sunday 1st November 2009
Academy in Newcastle, UK
Emerging from similar death/doom origins as tonight's headliners Paradise Lost, it is good to see Katatonia on a bill with the Halifax metallers, particularly as both bands have transformed their respective sounds into something that has become distinctly their own. It's been well over three years since I last saw Katatonia live which was a much longer headline set at Den Bosch's W2 venue in the Netherlands. Tonight, however, they have just over forty minutes onstage to showcase their uniquely progressive dynamic through a set that is largely biased towards the two albums previous to new release, 'Night is the New Day' (from which only one track is played - 'Forsaker'). 2003's 'Viva Emptiness' is represented with fan favourites 'Ghost of the Sun', 'Criminals' and 'Evidence', while we're treated to flawless renditions of 'July', 'Soil's Song', 'My Twin' and 'Consternation' from 2006's 'The Great Cold Distance'. There is perhaps an air of 'playing it safe' about such a setlist but with the Swedes limited by a short support slot, the song choices are wholly understandable and evident crowd pleasers. Fists are waved in the air as many engage in sing-a-longs, with frontman Jonas Renkse occasionally prompting the audience to take the lead such as with the immortal words from 'Criminals', "He went to far the fucker", to which a large number present oblige. Looking somewhat cramped on the Academy 2's small stage, band members have little space to move, although the essence of a Katatonia live show is in the beauty of their music which switches between heavy/mellow passages with seamless transition, and oozes innovative melodious appeal at every twist and turn in each composition. And they don't disappoint on this front this evening as they receive a fully resonant sound and clear mix through the venue's PA. Founding members Renkse and Anders Nyström are the only two who show any real movement during their performance whereas it seems those with short hair in the band opt to convey a more laid-back vibe. Climaxing with somewhat of a surprise, 'Murder' from sophomore release 'Brave Murder Day', it's a pleasing set inclusion and nod towards the band's heavier roots. As they exit the stage to loud cheers and applause, it feels Katatonia's set has passed by in a flash which, I guess, is high commendation for any band. Utterly brilliant in every sense.
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Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
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Having only seen Paradise Lost just over three and a half months ago at the Rockweekend festival in Sweden in front of a not too sizeable audience due to lack of communication about their last minute switch to an earlier stage time, it's refreshing to catch them again so soon headlining their own show in a rammed venue playing to a near-capacity crowd. Arriving onstage to deafening cheers from their hundreds of fans in attendance, the four Yorkshiremen and one Swede launch into opening number 'The Rise of Denial' from newly released twelfth studio album, 'Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us'. Marking a return to their erstwhile heavier sound and, dare I say, 'goth metal' aesthetic for which they were famed all those years ago, the song also packs a punch through its up tempo riffage and Nick Holmes' dual vocal approach combining a deep growled delivery with his cleaner, more distinguished singing style. Then, they skip right back to 1992 for an airing of 'Pity the Sadness' before playing 'Erased' from 2002's 'Symbol of Life'. With such an extensive back catalogue of strong material to draw from, to be honest, any Paradise Lost setlist would suffice, and the tracks selected tonight certainly don't disappoint. We also have 'Enchantment'; 'The Enemy'; 'As I Die'; 'One Second'; 'Eternal'; and 'Forever Failure' and, perhaps an indication as to how pleased the band are themselves with the quality of songwriting on the new album, apart from 'Pit the Sadness', they play 'I Remain'; 'First Light'; 'Frailty'; and the title track (a melodically captivating track that's played as an encore together with 'The Last Time' and 'Say Just Words'). All material, old and new, is greeted with a vociferously enthusiastic crowd response. Holmes says at one point that it's been many years since they last performed in Newcastle and it seems many present are hyped up for the occasion. The down-to-earth, no bullshit frontman, rather expectedly, exercises his sarcastic wit between songs such as preceding 'Eternal' by asking "was anyone around in 1992?", to which many yell "yeahhh", prompting him to say "...a mature audience then!". He also alludes to the minimalist, predominantly red stage lights by stating "the lighting's rather romantic in here, isn't it!". He also makes a reference to former children's television nutter Timmy Mallett at one point although I forget in what context. 2009 indicates the twenty first year in Paradise Lost's lengthy career, and to the enthusiasm they still have for performing live in what is, tonight, an incredibly tight, musically perfect, enthralling performance, has to be admired. Here's to the next twenty years!
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