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Thursday 6th August 2015
Academy 3 in Manchester, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
With the stage bathed in red backlighting, Brighton-based Kickfist open up the night at 8pm with a tight, hard-hitting performance that blends mid/up-tempo, heavy riffing infused with Pantera style grooves, pounding drums and varied vocals that sway between a snarled, higher-pitched delivery and low/mid-range clean singing. Opting to brand themselves as "metal/nu-metal and industrial punk-core", that's kind of an apposite description, although Kickfist perhaps aren't quite as retro as their self-labelling would have you believe. At least, tonight, they convey a much more modern metal energy on the Academy 3's stage. Masked frontman Zakk Zander is not in full voice (he's been suffering from a viral infection) and jokes to the audience that they're only seeing four fifths of Kickfist tonight. However, he still, admirably, gives it his all, and sounds not too bad at all, considering. Guitarist Yiannis Panou keeps up the onstage (and offstage) energy levels by leaping here, there and everywhere, including into the photopit as he riffs away against the barrier. A cover of The Prodigy's 'Firestarter' is tackled towards the end of their half-hour set, although fails to reach the majestic heights of Sepultura's 2011 version of the song, on which Kickfist's effort seems to be based. Panou's guitar problems midway through certainly don't help, when he ceases playing and seems to start faffing around with his pedal board. All in all, though, Kickfist show a lot of promise in Manchester this evening and deliver thirty minutes of warm-up fodder.
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Mordred at Manchester Academy 3, UK, 6th August 2015
Photograph copyright © 2015 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
South Coast nutters Seething Akira are up next and, at 8:45pm, band members wander out onto a stage adorned with band banners that feature lemurs. Yes, lemurs. Ring-tailed lemurs if I'm not mistaken, and it's a precursory glimpse into the random nutterdom that's about to ensue. One of this act's two vocalists, Kit Cuntrad, walks around the crowd as his Akira comrades wait for him up on the stage, introducing himself to individual audience members, before rejoining his bandmates. Then, after a little banter, they commence attack with an electronica-infused rock/metal assault that, on the surface, is where Enter Shikari meets Rage Against the Machine meets Senser, although with a bias towards the latter, particularly the style and phrasing of Cuntrad and Charlie Bowes' vocal delivery. However, these Portsmouth lads have forged a sound that, while not original per se, is unique and fresh sounding enough to stand tall in a scene that all too often succumbs to tried-and-tested pastiche and genericism. Generic Seething Akira are not, through both music and performance.

Often jumping into the photopit to sing right in the faces of those stand at the front, Cuntrad and Bowes' also venture into the crowd on occasion, lapping the venue's perimeter while high-fiving obliging punters. Even Mordred's Scott Holderby watches on with a beaming grin, moving along in the audience to the music's beats and grooves, while simultaneously amused by the two singers' on/off-stage antics. He looks like he's loving every minute. Commendation from the Mordred frontman? Now that's really something. And everyone gathered in the Academy 3 tonight looks like they're having a whole lot of fun, be it with latest single 'Airstrike', their deranged take on Katy Perry's 'Dark Horse', or the barrage of between-song banter that incorporates all kinds of bizarre anecdotes, including the story of when they were phonetically mistaken for "Steven and Kieran" when introducing the band. It's the music that matters, though, and Seething Akira's performance of such is mightily impressive - energetic, intense, and incredibly fucking enjoyable.
Bay Area legends Mordred are the band everyone's been waiting for this evening and, for those who failed to catch any of last year's reunion shows, some have no doubt been waiting many years for. Renowned for their self-styled, unique blend of thrash, funk, hip-hop, rock etc. that spanned three albums and an EP from 1989 to 1994, it's the classic 'In This Life'/'Vision' lineup that remains reunited, apart from original sticksman Gannon Hall (Fungo Mungo's Jeff Gomes now occupies the drum stool). Eschewing big entrance pretensions, the band casually amble onto the stage. A hyped up opening would be an unnecessary cliché anyway, as the 450 capacity room's already seeped in anticipation ahead of their performance. This is aided by frontman Scott Holderby's presence in the photopit ten minutes before the rest of his bandmates appear, nattering to as many people as he can, sharing both smiles and laughter. It's only when house lights dim that he climbs back up onto the stage as his Mordred brethren are wandering out to enthusiastic cheers from the 100+ people present.

Holderby, standing atop a monitor speaker, let's out a proud yell of "Mordred", then the band launch into 'State of Mind', following swiftly with 'Spectacle of Fear', the opening two tracks from their 1989 debut album, 'Fool's Game'. Listening to these songs 26 years on from when they were initially unleashed, it's testament to both the band's forward-thinking songwriting and current passion for the live performance that they sound as fresh and invigorating as they do in 2015. In fact, everything they play tonight, be it the three new songs ('I Am Charlie', 'All Eyes on a Prize' and last year's 'The Baroness' single), or the old material, sounds fresh and relevant. Obviously, there's a retro twang that's inherent in Mordred's songs of yore, but their mixed-genre blend also has an innate timeless quality. Holderby's lyrically autobiographical 'West County Hostpital' proves to be every bit the emotive experience live as it is recorded; 'The Strain', which segues with its funked-up outro into 'Killing Time' both sound overwhelmingly contemporary, 'The Vagrant's laidback, funk-rock vibe will probably never sound dated, and their ever-inventive cover of Thin Lizzy's 'Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed' is an almost essential, and welcome, inclusion.

The enthusiasm of those present in the Academy 3 compensates for the quarter-full venue, with sing-alongs, cheers, some pit action, and general camaraderie. And it's worth noting that this is a more than respectable turnout considering hordes of metal fans would've descended upon the grounds of Catton Hall in Derbyshire today for the start of Bloodstock (which Mordred themselves would be performing at on Saturday). People make themselves heard throughout, but notably on Mordred's perennial party anthem, 'Every Day's a Holiday', and during 'Falling Away' when Holderby holds his mic towards the audience for the "Take me away from here" lyric, a large number of the crowd sing the line with considerable avidity. The frontman is discernibly moved by this, telling everyone at the song's climax they've "made an old man happy."And old or not, his boundless exuberance is undeniable tonight, prowling around the stage with an array of inimitable moves during instrumental passages, as well as generally leaping around the stage, on and off the monitors, and into the photopit to get as close as he can to the fans.

Aaron 'DJ Pause' Vaughn adds his unique touch to Mordred's overall sound - animated for the entire set while scratching on his turntables, he even ventures from behind his decks at one point to take a selfie (alongside Danny White and Holderby) with the audience, before treating everyone to his infectious rap skills for an airing of 'Close Minded'. Art Liboon's bass work is simply mindblowing, while guitarists White and Jim Sanguinetti both impress too with flawless performances (aside from a minor glitch from the former for the opening of 'Falling Away'). And not forgetting the man behind the kit, of course, who delivers a fine drumming performance that does full justice to Hall's original parts.

Running close to the Academy 3's 11pm curfew, Holderby announces after 'Falling Away' that they'll avoid the usual pre-encore formalities of walking off/on stage so, instead, plough forth for two final songs - 'The Baroness' and 'In This Life'. It's a fitting end to an incredible set, where new meets old... and that very contraposition of new and old material makes emphatic, once again, just how well Mordred's music has dated. Couple that with a band who are evidently as passionate about performing live as they ever were, then it's a potent combination that'll hopefully see the band's reunion go from strength to strength. In short, tonight's show has been phenomenal and has captured the pure essence of gigdom; one where there's a constant, sincere and infectious energy flowing between both band and audience. And that reciprocation is consolidated right at the end when Scott leaps over the barrier to mingle within the crowd as mutual gratitude, hugs and handshakes are shared between the vocalist and punters. Mordred's reunion transcends mere nostalgic trip; rather, just like their music, this is all about the here and now. Let's hope they're back for a good few years.
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