Friday 19th December 2014
Academy in Manchester, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
ARCH ENEMY; SHINING + MARTY FRIEDMAN
SHINING + MARTY FRIEDMAN
On a bill otherwise characterised by the classic thrash sound of headliners Kreator and thrash-fuelled melo-death stylings of Arch Enemy, it's a refreshingly bold move to introduce a degree of sonic disparity to proceedings by affording Norway's Shining the opening slot. And with the addition of legendary ex-Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman to their show, it promised to be something of a special and unique set for the self-proclaimed purveyors of Blackjazz.
Hitting the stage just before 7pm, members of Shining appear without Marty, initially working their way through a few recent numbers, such as 'I Won't Forget' and 'The One Inside'. Perhaps easier on fresh ears than some of their more stylistically cacophonous output, albeit still pertaining to their iconoclastic jazz mentality, it's a wise move in presenting tonight's audience with music that has a few accessible handles. And it seems to go down well with the respectable-sized crowd already gathered in the Academy. Energetic through their performance and engaging through their musical aberrance, Shining are spectacular this evening, despite their overall sound being marred by a far from perfect mix (notably, drums are way too high). Frontman Jørgen Munkeby literally shines with his many saxophone spots, playing with a discernible passion that's simply breathtaking. And ex-Leprous sticksman, Tobias Ørnes Andersen, recently announced as the band's new permanent drummer, is on fine form behind his kit tonight; fluidly bashing out the subtly complex rhythms with power, dexterity and finesse, as if he's been a part of Shining's lineup for years.
By the time Marty appears, four songs in, Shining already have the crowd warmed up nicely, and it's interesting to witness various punters move significantly nearer the stage; I guess for the purpose of visibly, as well as audibly, witnessing the mastery of his fretboard prowess. The consummate professional, Marty hits his stride from the off with a commanding stage presence. But it's all about collaboration, rather than solo adoration, tonight, and this pairing is a naturally alluring one, and one that works incredibly well (which is remarkable considering they had no rehearsal time together before the tour). It's just a shame that it's only for three songs, which includes two from Marty's latest solo album, 'Inferno' - 'I Can't Relax' and 'Meat Hook' - the latter being a natural choice seeing as Jørgen co-wrote and performed on its recorded counterpart. The sax/guitar interplay is rather wondrous through its jam-like essence, even if Marty's licks are a little lost in the mix during certain passages. All in all, minor sound glitches aside, this has been an aurally explosive start to the night.
Click on thumbnails for larger images:
Kreator at Manchester Academy, UK, 19th December 2014
Photograph copyright © 2014 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
It's almost ten years ago to the day (17th Dec 2004) that I witnessed an Arch Enemy pre-Christmas sold-out headline show at The Forum in London, just a few days after Dimebag Darrell was tragically shot dead on stage in Columbus, Ohio. That was also a Friday night, although how times have changed as the Academy in Manchester is only around half full when they hit the stage at 8pm... and not even as headliners, but as main support for Kreator. With Michael's Amott's brother, Christopher, now long gone from the band's ranks, and Nick Cordle leaving just last month, they swiftly recruited ex-Nevermore axeman Jeff Loomis. Quite a tasty prospect for guitar lovers to experience the Amott/Loomis pairing. However, for those witnessing Arch Enemy in live action for the first time since the departure of much loved, charismatic growler Angela Gossow, all eyes would be on ex-The Agonist frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz to see how she would fare.
While Alissa's vocals in Arch Enemy have been restricted to just growls (apart from a few fleeting seconds of clean singing on one of the new 'War Eternal' tracks), there's certainly nothing restrictive about her performance tonight. It's growls all the way, but she strides confidently around the stage, striking all the right poses, and looks entirely comfortable performing with her new band mates. Sure, her between-song banter sounds clichéd and forced when addressing the audience, as does her choreographed flag waving, although that's kept to a minimum as Arch Enemy maximise their hour long set with hard-hitting song after hard-hitting song (at the expense of their usual guitar/drum solo spots).
However, there's something that's inexplicably lacking about tonight's performance, which I can't quite pinpoint. For starters, they don't have the best of sounds throughout their set. The mix is somewhat muddy; levels don't ever seem to hit a harmonious whole. And while the band's overall performance is as slick as it's ever been, it seems to lack the passion of past shows. Also, the setlist is way too predictable, with an airing of tried and tested fan favourites ('Ravenous'; 'My Apocalypse'; 'Dead Eyes See No Future'; 'We Will Rise'; 'Nemesis' et al), alongside the new album's 'safe' tracks that've been out there with official videos for a fair old while now - 'War Eternal', 'As the Pages Burn', and 'You Will Know My Name'. The rarely played early album tracks are not to be expected in an hour long set, but what about the likes of pre-'Wages of Sin' material such as 'Bury Me an Angel', 'Diva Satanica', 'The Immortal', and 'Silverwing'? Hell, even some more 'Wages' material like 'Burning Angel' and 'Enemy Within' would've been welcome. As such, it's an hour of predictability.
The audience reactions are fairly subdued throughout with only the occasional crowd surfer emerging from the masses, and very little pit action. There seems to be no spark to ignite the audience into further movement. It's a little disappointing overall, and as slick as Arch Enemy are, it feels like they're going through the motions a little too much. If a band doesn't look like they're in the zone and feeling the moment, then I guess there's little for the audience to grasp. And knowing what Alissa is capable of vocally, it's somewhat frustrating to see her jump ship from the progressively innovative might of The Agonist and subject her wide-ranging voice to the creative limitations of fronting Arch Enemy. To be honest, I've adored this band since their Johan Liiva fronted days and have always been delighted with their deserved rise to prominence within the scene over the years. However, I can't help but feel they've already peaked and their popularity, at least in the UK, is now on the decline. A shame, as 'War Eternal' is their most consistent album for many years. After tonight's performance, though, they certainly need to up their game in a live context.
Judging by the rapturous crowd response when Teutonic thrash titans Kreator walk out onto the Academy's stage, this legendary German quartet are evidently the predominant reason most people are here tonight. And they don't disappoint an eager and expectant audience as they commence their unpretentious, no-nonsense and flawless thrash assault with the title track from 2001's 'Violent Revolution' before airing a couple of numbers from their most recent studio album to date, 2012's 'Phantom Antichrist' - 'Civilization Collapse' and 'From Flood into Fire'. Then it's full on retro revelry with 1989's 'Extreme Aggression' before skipping forward eight years for 'Outcast' track 'Phobia'. And there we have the established pattern for their hour and a half set as they diachronically dip into their expansive back catalogue to pull out classic track after classic track. It's indicative of their enduring appeal that they have so much strong material to draw upon from the past thirty years, and an axiomatic sign of their popularity when each and every track is greeted with cheers, claps and some intense pit action. There's a lot of discernible love for Kreator in the Academy tonight.
Beyond the music, Kreator's show is also an engaging spectacle, with a stream of projected images and video clips at the back of the stage, as well as effective lighting, smoke jets and a sporadicity of pyros. To be honest, the music would probably have sufficed and satisfied the gathered masses, although full credit to the band for the effort and expense in adding a more visual dimension to their show. And after the sonic deficiencies experienced by both Shining and Arch Enemy, Kreator have it spot on, so kudos to their sound engineer. Full-on thrash resonance blasts through the PA with a refreshing burst of well-balanced heaviness, as rhythm/lead guitars, bass and drums are mixed to perfection. What slightly mars the atmosphere throughout their set, however, is the large amount of beer that punters seem content to hurl over the crowd. Just... why? Beer's expensive enough in the Academy which makes it even more unfathomable that people want to throw away a £4.50 pint. Some drinks are even thrown in the direction of the stage, with one splashing down just by frontman Mille Petrozza's left foot, prompting him to look simultaneously concerned, confused and annoyed.
Ploughing their way through a fan-pleasing set, proceedings are wrapped up with encore airings of their take on Iron Maiden's classic 1982 hit, 'Number of the Beast', 'Warcurse', 'People of the Lie' and the combined/compacted force of 'Flag of Hate/Tormentor'. Phenomenal stuff. Kreator have ridden the wave of thrash's fluctuating popularity for nigh on three decades and, stylistic divergences in their 90s' output aside, have remained steadfast on their metal journey. After tonight's killer show, they've proved why they're still one of the genre's much loved hegemonists.
Click on thumbnails for larger images:
Click on thumbnails for larger images: