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With three support bands on the bill this evening and Rock City's perpetually restrictive 10pm curfew in effect due to Thursday's student club night, there was evidently no option but to open doors at the rather early time of 5:30pm. As Machinae Supremacy take to the stage at 5:45pm it is, therefore, no surprise to see only around three hundred metallers scattered around the venue - a small crowd undoubtedly depleted further by the fact Children of Bodom are bang in the middle of an instore signing at the FOPP record shop down the road. Still, the "SID metal" band from the Swedish coastal city of Luleå do not let the sparse audience deter them and commence their mere twenty five minute set with 'Truth of Tomorrow', an up-tempo number from 2008 album 'Overworld'. While Machinae Supremacy's music is not entirely to my own taste, I find their alt-rock/metal fusion an infectious and engaging experience in the live environment, and the band's retro vibe with incorporating sounds from eighties 8-bit computers (well, namely the Commodore 64) provides their songs with a fairly original edge (kind of similar to HORSE the band's Nintendo obsession). The small audience, who I'm guessing consist largely of non-Bodom fans, are fairly animated during the four songs that are aired, aided by frontman Robert Stjärnström's energetic presence and, generally, the band's lively performance. Twenty five minutes would, for some bands, not be nearly enough time to get into their stride, particularly at such an early hour, but Machinae Supremacy seem to have refined this particular disposition (at least through practice on this tour) and hold their own admirably in the sparsely populated Rock City. A good, solid start to proceedings.
Thursday 7th April 2011
Rock City in Nottingham, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
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Ensiferum last performed on these shores at Bloodstock Open Air in August 2010 where they turned in a musically solid, albeit slightly lacklustre, performance on what was a day plagued by horrendous weather. So, back within the year, they hit the UK once again on the bill of Children of Bodom's European tour, and with Amon Amarth joining just the seven British dates as main support, the Finns have been demoted in the running order and their set cut to thirty five minutes. However, with Rock City's audience now more than doubled in size post-Bodom's instore appearance (that ended at 6pm), Petri Lindroos and co appear onstage to a rapturous reception as both crowd and band are pumped up for the occasion. Commencing battle with the symphonically rich 'From Afar', title track from their 2009 and latest-to-date album, fusion pits erupt in the middle of the venue with some opting to jig, others engaging in a circle pit, and many simply banging their heads with fists pumping the air. Most impressive is the fantastic sound Ensiferum have through the PA - with just a fifteen minute change-over time after Machinae Supremacy, it's obviously indicative of a slick and professional crew at work so kudos to them where credit is deserved. And the Finns deliver a fully engaging performance to match the quality of the music and sound, which has not always been the case on the previous four or five times I've caught them live. Lindroos can, on occasion, look emotionally indifferent and detached, kind of like a metal frontman's equivalent to a poker-face, but tonight he interacts fully with the hundreds of onlookers as band and audience reciprocate energetically in one big folk metal shindig. 'Token of Time' is aired second, followed by flawless renditions of 'Into Battle', and 'Twilight Tavern'. Ensiferum wisely occupy their short stage time with crowd favourites and closers 'Lai Lai Hei' and 'Iron' are lapped up en masse; the latter sees the audience explode into even greater pit frenzy and hundreds of fervent metallers voice the song's "daaa-da-da-daaa" melody when prompted to do so. Bassist Sami Hinkka turns in his usual flamboyant performance throughout and the sight of Emmi Silvennoinen clad in leather and headbanging behind her keyboard is an aesthetically pleasing one. In short, probably the best I have ever seen Ensiferum. An incredible performance.
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By the time Amon Amarth appear on stage at 7:15pm, Rock City is brimming with around 1500 eager punters, and the night of quality Scandinavian metal continues. Refreshingly, the fully resonant and perfect sound through the PA also continues, against all odds with the rushed change-over times - and not forgetting that Amon Amarth have only joined the UK leg of this tour so it's not a well practiced routine in the context of this particular billing which makes the amazing sound and slickness of proceedings even more admirable. Currently flying high on the global success of recently released new album 'Sutur Rising', the Swedes have never been more popular, and the glowing reaction they receive from a rammed venue when walking out onto the stage is evidence of their ever increasing repute within the scene. One could be mistaken for thinking Amon Amarth are headliners tonight from such a ubiquitously enthusiastic reception, and they don't disappoint an audience ardently hungry for metal as they deliver forty five minutes of Viking-themed epically melodic death. With the latest album and last, 'Twilight of the Thunder God', containing their most consistently strong material to date, it's no surprise tonight's set is biased towards those two releases with airings of 'War of the Gods', 'Guardians of Asgaard', 'Destroyer of the Universe', 'Live for the Kill', 'A Beast I Am', 'Varyags of Miklagaard' and 'Twilight of the Thunder God'. 'Runes to My Memory' from 2006's 'With Oden on Our Side' and set closer 'The Pursuit of Vikings' from its predecessor 'Fate of Norns' are played to appease longer established fans, although the absence of any earlier material would perhaps have disappointed the much older Amon aficionado. Still, "disappointed" is a word I use ever so lightly as there is nothing remotely disappointing about the five Swedes on Rock City's stage tonight, an observation corroborated by the loud cheers that greet every song and the masses of heads banging throughout. Frontman Johan Hegg, with his bulky stature, alternates between snarling and smiling through his bearded visage and, together with his authoritative stage presence, has full command over the masses gathered in Rock City. Likewise, his bandmates interact well with the audience as they play their instruments flawlessly, with Johan Söderberg, Olavi Mikkonen and Ted Lundström sporadically wielding their guitars/bass up in the air as if Vikings brandishing weapons on the field of battle to which Hegg's growled lyrics reference. A mightily awesome performance, Amon Amarth leave Children of Bodom with a very tough act to follow.
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As the evening's main attraction appear around 8:20pm to deafening screams from an indefatigable crowd who have already been spoilt with three quality metal acts, I remain impressed by the slick and fast change-overs between bands on a night that has run smoothly without any glitch whatsoever. Children of Bodom commence their onslaught of virtuoso musicianship and exhilarating metal soundscape with new track 'Not My Funeral' before a duo of songs from 2003's 'Hate Crew Deathroll', 'Bodom Beach Terror' and 'Needled 24/7'. While many opt to pump fists in the air and bang their heads, a large, intense circle pit bursts into action in the middle of the venue, and one that is sustained throughout Bodom's entire set, echoing fourth number aired, 'Relentless Reckless Forever'. As has been the case for all bands this evening, the sound is immense through the PA with all instruments discernible in a perfectly mixed whole, which is of particular importance in hearing the intricacies of the Finns' musical virtuosity. And Bodom are on fine form - tight, dynamic, and each member demonstrating note-perfect exuberance in their individual performances. Playing to a minimalist and effectively decorated stage set, it's quite a visually striking spectacle - apart from a large hung backdrop, the stage has been decorated with rags dangling from ceiling rigging which pertain to the theme of the latest album's cover art. The lighting is also rather striking with several moving heads strategically positioned around the stage and controlled in time to Bodom's up-tempo metal attack. Also noticeable tonight is frontman Alexi Laiho's decreased reliance on the word "fuck" and its various forms when communicating with the audience. Aside from the clichéd and expected "make some mother fuckin' noise" et al a handful of times, he's refreshingly more restrained in his erstwhile quasi-Tourette urges. Perhaps he's exorcised his need to swear so much after Bodom's self-parodic intro at Bloodstock last year which consisted of a polyphonic barrage of "fuck...fucking...fucked" etc! Anyway, swearing observations aside, it's the music that's important and this they deliver to perfection. Apart from the aforementioned new tracks, there are also airings of 'Ugly', 'Roundtrip to Hell and Back', 'Shovel Knockout' and first encore number 'Was It Worth It?'. Interspersed with those are a plethora of older tracks including 'In Your Face', 'Living Dead Beat', 'Blooddrunk', 'Follow the Reaper' and 'Downfall'. An amazingly energetic rendition of eponymously titled track 'Children of Bodom' from sophomore album 'Hatebreeder' is received with particularly loud cheers and they cleverly segue the song into 'Hate Me!' which engenders even greater mania in the relentless circle pit. Most amusing is perhaps when Bodom play 'Angels Don't Kill' as those in the pit seem oblivious to its slower tempo and continue to throw themselves around as they have done all night! After nearly an hour and a half onstage, final encore song 'Hate Crew Deathroll' wraps up what has been Children of Bodom at their finest. An incredible performance from an immensely talented, hard-working band.
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