Saturday 10th February 2018
Rock City in Nottingham, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
Sweden's Tribulation have been going from strength to strength over the course of their four albums to date, with the recently released 'Down Below' being their most compositionally mature work to date. I've been mightily impressed with the band's amalgam of sounds inspired by Dissection, Iron Maiden, Misfits and Type O Negative, but how would this all translate into a live performance?
At the ridiculously early time of 5:55pm (longer than usual support band sets and a 10pm Saturday night club curfew are both to thank for this), Tribulation commence their 45 minute show, which includes tracks from their last two albums, as well as 'Suspiria de Profundis' from 'The Formulas of Death'. And everything sounds great - performance-wise, and through the PA. Johannes Andersson, the bass playing frontman, has a live growling tonality that's perhaps less Jon Nödtveidt than it sounds on record, but still effective enough.
If The 69 Eyes bill themselves as the "Helsinki Vampires", then Tribulation are most definitely the "Swedish Spectres"... particularly through guitarist Jonathan Hultén who, with an androgynous appearance, moves gracefully around the stage likes some kind of spectral creature of the night. The guy's performance is mesmerising, it must be said, and adds a theatrical dimension to Tribulation's show.
With smoke jets sporadically bursting to life at the back of the stage, it completes the theatricality of Tribulation's visuals very nicely indeed. And they seem to garner an increasingly more enthusiastic crowd reaction as their set progresses, seemingly winning over most of the 2000-strong crowd by the time they conclude with new album track, 'The Lament'. A great performance!
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Arch Enemy at Rock City in Nottingham, UK, 10th February 2018
Photograph copyright © 2018 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
With a twenty minute change-over time, Wintersun hit the stage promptly at 7pm, for a generous hour-long support slot. Hardly the most prolific of bands within the scene, this Finnish bunch have only released three albums during the past fourteen years, including last year's divisively received 'The Forest Seasons', with some hailing it a masterwork, and others far less impressed. But, it's a whole different ball-game live, right?
Performing a couple of tracks from each of their three albums, it's the lengthy 'Awaken From The Dark Slumber (Spring)' from the latest album that kick-starts their set. And it's an explosive beginning, with band members making the most of the minimal room in front of Arch Enemy's gear; particularly Jari Mäenpää, the frontman and multi-instrumentalist behind Wintersun's sporadically recorded output. Mäenpää leaps and strides around the stage with a ton of energy, smiling at both the crowd and his band mates between singing/growling duties. He looks elated to be here, to say the least, and it's an infectious jubilance that engenders a huge crowd reaction, with mass moshing, sing-alongs and a generally great atmosphere.
The new material comes to life on the stage in far more engaging ways than it does recorded, and the earlier material aired - 'Winter Madness'; 'Sons of Winter and Stars'; 'Battle Against Time' and 'Time' - sounds equally wonderful. Newcomer Asim Searah, on guitar, is particularly animated with his stage presence, while sticksman Rolf Pilve has some of the best drummer gurns I've seen in a while! Collectively, Wintersun deliver a very strong performance and live up to the perennial hype they always seem to generate.
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At 8:30pm, house lights dim, as Motörhead's 'Ace of Spades' is cranked up through the PA. Then we have the short instrumental opener, 'Set Flame to the Night', from Arch Enemy's latest album, 'Will To Power', on playback. The anticipation has been nicely built, and an apposite atmosphere created, as Daniel Erlandsson appears behind his kit to incredibly loud cheers from a rammed Rock City, from floor to balcony. Guitarists Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis, along with bassist Sharlee D'Angelo, walk out onto the stage, to equally massive cheers, and launch into opener 'The World is Yours'. Alissa White-Gluz runs out to the biggest crowd noise yet, as riffs, drums, bass, and growls combine to create an explosively heavy and high energy start.
Arch Enemy are on fire... and so is the venue it seems... well, metaphorically, as a previously cool interior seems to heat up with a mass of moshing bodies. Gone are Wintersun and their frost-themed anthems, enter Arch Enemy and their high-energy melodic-death discharge... it suddenly doesn't feel like winter anymore! The energy levels of both music and band's performance are maintained through the 'Wages of Sin' track that follows, 'Ravenous', and another new album song in the form of the much more raw-edged and heavy 'The Race'. During these opening minutes, a small number of crowd surfers make their way over the heads of others, for what is an evidently pumped up audience.
The title track from 'War Eternal', White-Gluz's first recorded outing with the band, post-The Agonist, is up next, before 'Doomsday Machine' number, 'My Apocalypse', sees some serious pit action break out in the middle of the venue. And that pit action includes a decapitated unicorn head mounted on a stick, for which its wielder perpetuates a headbanging motion for just about the entire night. Not sure how this one was sneaked by security on the way in. But, it gets more random still, as said owner emerges from the masses as a crowd surfer himself towards the end of the set, and seems to be attired as Gandalf, complete with pointy wizard hat and long white beard!
I guess I've come to expect little from an Arch Enemy set these days and we'll probably never get to hear some of the majestic material from 'Burning Bridges', 'Stigmata' and 'Black Earth' performed live ever again (albeit an instrumental section from the latter album's 'Fields of Desolation' does, once more, get an airing). So, it is what it is. Cue the setlist predictability of 'Bloodstained Cross', 'Dead Eyes See No Future', 'Dead Bury Their Dead', 'We Will Rise' and 'Nemesis'. All fan pleasers, for sure, but it's very much a case of Arch Enemy déjà vu. A large amount of White-Gluz era material is obviously mixed up with all that, too, of course, and more of it from 'War Eternal' than 'Will to Power'. The former is the stronger of the two albums, though, so that's understandable.
White-Gluz herself has come a long way in her stage presence and confidence since joining these Swedes. Tonight is by far her best performance I've witnessed with the band. Same for ex-Nevermore axeman Jeff Loomis, too. It now feels like he's fully synthesised into the live fabric of the band (despite his writing absence from their recorded output). His playing tonight, alongside Amott's, is mightily impressive. Even D'Angelo has conjured up some energy for his performance this evening, and is way more dynamic than the last few times I've caught Arch Enemy live.
With side banners being changed sporadically by roadies throughout the evening, and some of the band's own lighting strategically positioned around the stage and used to great effect, the visual aspect of Arch Enemy's live show is particularly engaging this evening. The only thing missing is some older material. But, it's an incredibly enjoyable show, nonetheless, from one of the scene's most reliable and perennially popular acts.
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