Monday 22nd August 2016
Corporation in Sheffield, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
Opening a strong bill constituted by the potent pairing of two Swedish metal juggernauts are Soilwork. It seems they're as big a draw as tonight's headliners, judging by the large number of audience members clad in the band's t-shirts. And, hitting the stage at 7:40pm, the ecstatically vociferous greeting they receive as they step onto the Corporation's stage is indicative of their crowd pulling power. To be honest, there would've been a solid argument for making this short run of UK dates a joint headline billing but, hey, the band are still afforded a generous 50 minute slot, so their set transcends mere fleeting support band status.
With a good, but far from perfect, sound through the PA (guitars lack clarity, keyboard levels are too low, and the mix is generally hit and miss throughout.... although Björn "Speed" Strid's clean vocals and growls sound superb), Soilwork deliver material from their extensive back catalogue, right back as far as 2001's 'A Predator's Portrait', with an airing of 'Bastard Chain'. Punters in the middle of the venue erupt into energetic pit action during songs' heavier passages, while mass clap-alongs ensue for the rockier tempos.
Suffering personnel changes in recent years, notably with longtime bassist Ola Flink leaving last year after seventeen years in the band, and drummer Dirk Verbeuren being poached by Megadeth for sticksman permanency just a few weeks ago, the essence of Soilwork, admirably, remains intact. The evidence is here tonight. Despite the aforementioned sound issues, these Swedes are still the musically potent force they always were, and their live show is the energetically intense experience it always was. Particular kudos to Bastian Thusgaard from The Arcane Order, who's currently occupying the drum stool - this man is a beast behind the kit, with a breathtaking display of power and precision. Could we be witnessing Soilwork's new permanent drummer tonight? Maybe.
Such is the energetic flow of Soilwork's 50 minute set, it all seems to pass by in a flash and, climaxing with 'Stabbing the Drama', everyone's left nicely warmed up for the evening's headliners... with "warmed" being a key word here, as the rammed Corporation is stiflingly hot tonight!
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Arch Enemy at the Corporation in Sheffield, UK, 22nd August 2016
Photograph copyright © 2016 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Contrary to Dani Filth's 1994 proclamation on 'The Principle of Evil Made Flesh', summer seems to be dying very slowly indeed, as the humid air and 20 degrees Celcius temperature outside the venue proves to be an even more oppressive and sweltering experience inside the Corporation. It is, therefore, of minor annoyance when Arch Enemy's stage time of 9pm passes with no sign of the band. Roadies ineffectively faff around with monitor cables for what seems like an inexplicably long time, and it's only after twenty minutes that the monitor engineer at the side of the stage indicates success, house lights dim, and the 'Khaos Overture' intro music begins to boom through the PA. Fans erupt into a cacophony of cheers, and the band finally appear, launching into 'Yesterday is Dead and Gone'.
With a far superior sound than Soilwork, all sounds great through the PA, even if the band's sound engineer is hampered by the Corporation's strange and challenging acoustics. And everyone in attendance (I'd estimate around 600 people in the 900 capacity main room of the venue), enthusiastically respond to each and every track Arch Enemy air. 'Wages of Sin' material, the band's 2002 full length offering that signified the start of the Angela Gossow-era of the band, is the oldest aired tonight, with a total neglect for the three Johan Liiva albums. I guess with their retro Black Earth guise now on the go, complete with Liiva, both Amott brothers, etc, they have that outlet to satisfy longtime fans, albeit this seems to be a venture currently exclusive to Japan. So, some older material would've been more than welcome in tonight's set but, alas, not to be. Still, with the strength of the new material performed tonight ('As the Pages Burn'; 'Avalanche'; 'Stolen Life'; 'War Eternal'; 'You Will Know My Name'), alongside fan-pleasing "classics" ('Burning Angel'; 'Ravenous'; 'Dead Bury Their Dead'; 'My Apocalypse'; 'Blood on Your Hands'; etc), it feels very much like a "greatest hits" set. A perfect balance of extremity and melody, all delivered over the course of an hour and a half of indulgent metal revelry.
I last caught Arch Enemy live at the tail-end of 2014 and, to be frank, it left me a little worried for their future. Having witnessed their evolution over the years, and seen them nail it again and again in their live shows, a fairly flat performance at the Manchester Academy, supporting Kreator, made me wonder whether they were on the down. Legendary axeman Jeff Loomis was a new-ish recruit at that time and didn't seem to gel as much with Michael Amott as you'd expect. Tonight, there are no such concerns - the Amott/Loomis pairing is a tour-de-force of guitar virtuosity and general musical brilliance. Bassist Sharlee D'Angelo and drummer Daniel Erlandsson put in far more energetic performances, both visually and musically. And onetime The Agonist frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz, while looking a little like she was "going through the motions" in Manchester, where she was still evidently finding her feet in the band, looks 100% settled and relaxed tonight. While she might be more creatively limited in Arch Enemy, compared to her previous band, her growls are spectacular, it must be said, and her stage presence is both spirited and poised.
Concluding their pre-encore set with 'We Will Rise', Arch Enemy return for airings of 'Blood on Your Hands', an embellished, extended version of 'Snow Bound' with some additional Loomis widdling, before calls in the crowd for 'Nemesis' are rewarded with said track. With both band and audience a hot, sweaty mess, it's been worth every oppressively stifling second. It's great to witness Arch Enemy back on form and, more importantly, working their magic once again as a complete, unified band.
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