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Saturday 6th October 2012
The Cockpit in Leeds, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
Missing the majority of British prog-metallers The Safety Fire due to interview commitments, Periphery are my first proper taste of music on this bill of innovative metal. As band members walk out on stage, vocalist Spencer "Sponce" Sotelo informs the audience "there's something about this part of the land" that always makes him ill as the cold-ridden frontman apologises in advance if his performance is subpar and politely requests if people can help him out by singing along. However, it becomes evident from the off with opening track 'Ragnarok' that his humble apology was in no way necessary as he sounds in perfect pitch and with a powerful delivery to boot. This remains the case for the band's half hour set. And it's unfortunately a truncated set as they were originally scheduled to play for an hour. The half hour cut is nothing to do with Sotelo's cold, rather drummer Matt Halpern dislocated his shoulder in an unspecified "accident" a few days before the tour commenced. Admirably, rather than cancel their appearance on the tour, they recruited Mike Malyan from Monuments for the UK shows (and Chimp Spanner's Boris Le Gal for the subsequent jaunt around mainland Europe). And when I say "admirably", such a tag deserves to be fully attributed to Malyan as he had a mere twenty four hours to learn the set (albeit Leeds is the sixth date on the tour so he's had 5 gigs worth of practice prior to this evening). Considering the complexity inherent in Periphery's compositions with their perplexing rhythmic structures, the young drummer does a remarkable... nay, flawless, job in filling in behind the kit. Totally astonishing! And the rest of the band are also on fire with a musically vivacious performance as new tracks 'Have a Blast', 'Facepalm Mute' and 'Make Total Destroy' are aired alongside debut album songs 'Buttersnips' and 'Icarus Lives!' It all seems to be over in a flash but Periphery's short set length is more than understandable given the circumstances. A large contingent of their fans seem to be present and lap it all up enthusiastically as it's only a minute or two in before punters explode into pit action near the stage. An incredible performance from both the band and Monuments' extraordinarily talented sticksman.
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The Cockpit seems to be one of those divisive love it or hate it venues. I personally quite like the place. It's lacking a photopit which makes a tog's work somewhat difficult in the middle of a crowd that incessantly erupts into intense pittage (as was the case for Periphery) but there's a unique atmosphere and feel to the building with its concaved, corrugated iron ceiling. And the convenience of a large bar (also a venue in its own right, The Cockpit 2) running parallel to the main room, which pumps out sound from the main stage through PA speakers, enables you to still hear exactly what the band are playing (with a lot more clarity too) during beer buying excursions. It probably sounds like I'm ramblingly aimlessly here but I feel the need to say that, tonight, when I stand at the bar buying a couple of rounds, I fully realise just how concise, tight and flawless Between the Buried and Me are on the live stage, digesting their music in this manner.

With Periphery cutting their set to just half an hour, BTBAM appear on stage earlier than scheduled and expand theirs to around the seventy five minute mark. No-one present this evening was going to feel short-changed and it's a set that seems to pass by in a flash. Such is the absorbingly varied nature of BTBAM's material as a mixed crowd from gothed-up rockers to your average metal t-shirt wearer and those attired in more casual clothes (with an unexpectedly large number of people sporting a backwards baseball cap!?) alternately stand mesmerised and mosh it up at intermittent intervals. With so many shifting time signatures, tempos, moods, and stylistic/structural divergences, there's not a moment to be bored during a BTBAM set although such musical disparity makes any kind of sustained pits an impossibility so there are only short bursts of moshing throughout the evening. However, judging by the majority of the audience and their fixed stance, many simply stand and admire the virtuosic abilities of these North Carolina musicians with a little bit of head nodding indicative of their enjoyment and appreciation.

On paper, BTBAM's pre-encore set would seem somewhat short to the untrained eye at a mere six songs long but 'White Walls', 'Sun of Nothing', 'Disease, Injury, Madness', 'Fossil Genera - A Feed from Cloud Mountain' and two tracks from new album 'The Parallax II: Future Sequence' ('Astral Body' and 'Telos') total a mammoth 60+ minutes. Part of the essence of BTBAM's lengthy compositions is they never feel laboured or overly long with too much repetition of certain passages - their songwriting dynamic is a genuinely progressive one where songs unfold naturally so the structural and stylistic heterogeneity never feels forced or contrived. A largely mesmerised crowd in The Cockpit tonight is evidence of such. Tommy Rogers, while not the most verbally communicative of frontmen between songs, opts to interact with the crowd through the emotional intensity of his performance - prowling the front of the stage during the heavier passages over which he lets rip with guttural growls and other more ambient sections where he plays his keyboard while delivering his smooth-toned clean vocals. It's all very captivating stuff. In fact, the high level of musicianship in the entire band captivates throughout.

As the pre-encore set finishes, the band disappear from sight, house lights are turned on and people look around at each other slightly confused by the jarring brightness. A plethora of voices can be heard muttering "where's the encore?" while thirty to forty people actually leave the venue believing there to be no more BTBAM tonight. Had they waited just two minutes then more BTBAM would have been served. Lights dim once again and the band re-appear to the operatic section from Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. Tommy 'conducts' the audience into a mass sing-along (and, to be honest, the crowd need little prompting) before the band kicks in with the heavy part of the song, at which point a guy who'd been dancing along atop a PA speaker stage-left dives right into the middle of the crowd. And BTBAM make playing Queen sound flawless before airing final number of the evening, 'The Silent Circus' track 'Mordecai'. All in all, a truly thrilling performance from a ridiculously talented bunch of musicians.
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Between the Buried and Me at The Cockpit in Leeds, UK, 6th October 2012
Photograph copyright 2012 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
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