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Unfortunately missing Taiwanese black metal act Chthonic's entire set due to a delay with the Arch Enemy interview I had scheduled, Malefice provide the night's first fix of metal for me. Once touted as "David Mitchell's favourite band" following a fake news report in which the Reading quintet participated on BBC TV show 'The Bubble', this evening is actually the first occasion I've managed to catch Malefice live. While the delivery of their material is a little sloppy around the edges and not as tight as one would expect with their quasi-technical death/thrash compositions, I'm impressed with the energy they convey through an utterly dynamic stage presence throughout their twenty five minutes on stage. Precision is not the key tonight as the likes of 'The Midas Effect' and 'Sickened' are aired in the Wulfrun Hall, rather Malefice's hard-hitting metal discharge is hurled at the audience with the emphasis firmly on vigour. At least some of the large crowd gathered in the venue seem to avidly lap it up within the confines of a small circle pit that bursts into action when prompted by frontman Dale Butler's exclamation that "this is called the 'United Kingdom of Heavy Metal Tour' and we're the only fucking British band on this tour, so I want you to show some fucking love for us right now". While this Reading crew are not the most original of bands, I'm guessing their aim is not to be such, but what is clear from tonight's performance is that they've set out to become one of the most forceful and potent live acts on the circuit. Time will tell if this transpires to be the case but with performances as energetic as tonight's, they're certainly heading in the right direction. They just need to hone that energy into a more precise delivery of the actual music.
Thursday 25th November 2010
Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
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Grand Magus are on stage next, and it's over two years since I last caught the Swedes live, which was a main stage set at Bloodstock Open Air. During that time, the stoner-edged trad-metallers have seemingly gone from strength to strength, inking a deal with Roadrunner Records and releasing critically acclaimed fifth studio album 'Hammer of the North'. However, it is 2005 full length release 'Wolf's Return' they draw from for set opener 'Kingslayer' before moving forward to 2008's 'Iron Will' with 'Like the Oar Strikes the Water' and 'Silver into Steel', and then airing tunes from 'Hammer of the North' - the title track and 'I Jury'. With a massive sound for only a three-piece, the trio of musicians are a prime example of how to derive heaviness from minimalism, which is all in the songwriting. Frontman JB's big riffs resonate around the Wulfrun Hall with a heavy groove that sees heads bang along en masse as he sings every lyric note perfect with his powerful voice. Faring far better through the PA than Malefice, the Swedes' retro metal tunes sound incredible tonight - in particular, JB's guitar tone during his lead breaks is phenomenally rich and warm. The perfect tonic for such a bitterly cold night outside! For no-frills, unpretentious, good old-fashioned metal, it doesn't get any better than Grand Magus within the current scene. An amazing performance from an incredible band.
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And so onto the main reason legions of metal fans are gathered in Wolverhampton's Wulfrun Hall on an unseasonably freezing late November evening as sub-zero temperatures chill the night air outside. With Arch Enemy's short run of four UK dates originally scheduled for April this year until a ubiquitously disruptive ash cloud coughed up by an Icelandic volcano led to their postponement, the Swedes and German frontwoman have finally made it back over to these shores. And there is a discernible excitement and buzz in the air just before they appear on stage, with the eager anticipation amongst their loyal supporters easily discernible. Moving heads placed around the stage suddenly spring to life and illuminate their huge backdrop and 2 eye logos either side as intro music played through the PA is greeted with intense cheers, shortly followed by Daniel Erlandsson assuming position behind his kit and acknowledging the crowd with a wave of his sticks which engenders even louder noise from an evidently pumped up audience. The Swedish drumming icon is joined onstage a few seconds later by his band mates, namely the Amott guitar virtuosos, Michael and Christopher, bassist Sharlee D'Angelo and one of the most dynamic people to ever front a metal band, Angela Gossow. It's a retro beginning for Arch Enemy as they launch into 1999 'Burning Bridges' track 'The Immortal', but matters are far from fine sound-wise. With everything cranked up beyond comfortable listening volume it is difficult to decipher whether the guitars are too loud through the PA thus rendering them white noise, or simply inaudible. Either way, the opening track is only identifiable for the first few bars of music through the drum rhythms and bass. Fortunately, sound problems are rectified a minute or so in, and 'The Immortal', with all its crushingly huge riffs, can be enjoyed for the fine composition that it is. 'Revolution Begins' follows, before the Enemy continue their full-on metal assault with a devastatingly heavy rendition of 'Ravenous'. There are few surprises in the setlist tonight with many of the expected 'hits' making an appearance - 'My Apocalypse'; 'I Will Live Again'; 'Dead Eyes See No Future'; 'Dead Bury Their Dead'; 'We Will Rise' - although a surprise inclusion of debut album track 'Dark Insanity' is a very welcome addition to proceedings. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening, however, is the utter arse and half-brained fuckhead of a human being who thinks it appropriate to yell out "show us your tits for twenty quid", or something to that effect, when Gossow is chatting to the audience between songs. Her comeback with "small penis" comments is well timed and efficacious in quashing the sexist perpetrator, although it's kind of shocking to hear such mindless heckling at an Arch Enemy gig. Still, it is clear from the laughter that follows Gossow's response on which side the majority of the crowd resides. The odd heckle aside, tonight generally has a good humoured, fun atmosphere, such as when the German frontwoman stands with her legs wide apart, informing the audience that if band members end up in such a position then it's not because Arch Enemy have become a glam band, but because it's fairly slippery onstage. The jovial banter is a nice contrast to the seriousness of the music. And the music, this evening, is delivered by every band member with all the vehemence and intensity that's required to convey Arch Enemy's heavy dynamic in a live setting. I've long touted this band through many a review throughout their career, and I'll re-iterate once again something that I've observed on many occasions previously - Arch Enemy are, quite simply, one of the best live bands in the scene and show no signs of faltering. Winding up their set tonight with an acutely forceful airing of 'Nemesis', the five musicians exit the stage to even greater cheers than when they first appeared. Flawless, mindblowingly intense, and awesome in every single way a band can be awesome, one of the live performances of the year. Most definitely worth the seven month delay.
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