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Sunday 27th March 2016
Sound Control in Manchester, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
At 7:30pm, house lights dim and the cacophony of conversations in the crowd turn into a mild expression of excitement, as punters ready themselves for the first action of the evening. Switzerland's SoulLine, the night's only support act, appear on stage and begin working their way through a forty five minute set of what's probably best described as derivative melodic death discharge that seems to be, at least partially, pastiched from Amon Amarth. Clichés aside, instrumentations are slickly executed, with a nice balance between the dissonance of verse passages and the more melodic impetus that drives each chorus... however, vocally, SoulLine are pants. Frontman Ghebro, with a permanently worried visage, delivers some of the most two-dimensional, amateurish, and mismatched death growls I've heard in quite some time. Unfortunately, this abates the potency of the music over which he vocalises what must be some kind of inner anguish (judging by his facial expressions), rendering SoulLine's songs rather grating after a while. As such, three quarters of an hour passes by all too slowly and it's a relief when Ghebro growls no more.
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Moonspell at Sound Control, Manchester, UK, 27th March 2016
Photograph copyright © 2016 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
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Over twenty years in existence and, somehow, Moonspell have never ventured into Mancunian territory with their live show. March 2016 sees that rectified, and the anticipation in Sound Control ahead of their appearance is one of fervent excitement, which soon transforms into palpable elation when the Portuguese dark metallers take to the stage and launch into 'Breathe'. The audience erupts into an emotionally charged state of enthusiasm and exaltation, with a sea of fists pumping the air to the beat of Mike Gaspar's drums and the gathered wolf pack howling along to the melodies forged through Fernando Ribeiro's words. It's an energetic opening from both band and audience, which doesn't let up for well over an hour.

A varied setlist that's slightly biased, as expected, towards latest album 'Extinct', is well received in its entirety, although the audience's ardour and unrelenting passion discernibly peaks during the older material that's aired. 'Irreligious' tracks, 'Opium' and 'Awake', one seguing into the other, are devoured with heightened intensity, and both sound remarkably fresh considering they're now precisely two decades old. Similarly, 'Wolfheart' material is met with the same level of eagerness, with 'Vampiria' providing a definite highlight in Moonspell's set this evening. It's simply sublime, from the minimalist build-up of just drums, keyboards, vocals and bass (guitarist Ricardo Amorim exits the stage until required), right up to its explosion of heaviness and emotive crescendos, as guitars are brought into the mix. And, with Fernando attired in a cape, along with an apt mood engendered by the use of some deep red lighting, the song's theatrical essence is brought to the fore.

The band's individual performances and collective dark metal might are simply majestic tonight. And Fernando seems to be one of those vocalists whose voice has got better and better over time, excelling through both his clean and growled deliveries, while maintaining onstage energy levels with a physically dynamic presence. Kudos to the sound engineer too, who affords the band a perfect sound... and I sincerely mean perfection. Loud enough, but not too loud, levels are spot on and mixed into a flawless whole so that every instrument and voice is audible, and with perfect clarity.

As the night nears its finale, the crowd are treated to folked-up heaviness of yore with a great rendition of 'Ataegina', before set closer 'Alma Mater' wraps up pre-encore proceedings. And it's not long before Moonspell return, for three more tunes - namely, 'Everything Invaded'; 'The Future is Dark' (for which fake snow is launched from a canon, house-right, prompting a beautiful sight as flakes are illuminated, slowly falling from above, over the entire stage, during Ricardo's sublime soloing); and then one more blast from 'Irreligious', the perennial fan favourite, 'Full Moon Madness'. An epic climax to a set of dark metal narratives, Moonspell's debut live appearance in Manchester has been a triumphant one.
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