I have to say, straight off, that Manchester's Moho Live is indubitably the dingiest, worst designed venue I've seen in many years...possibly ever. I gather its capacity is somewhere around 500 but this is severely diminished (to something like 200) if you count actual vantage points where the band is in clear view in this dismal pit of a club. A misplaced staircase bang in the middle of the room, along with big pillars towards the front are inexplicable (well, the pillars are evidently there to support the low ceiling but ultimately add to the place's inappropriateness as a gig venue). Throw in a stage that's just a couple of inches off the floor, uncomfortably rising temperatures throughout the night, toilets overflowing with piss and a ridiculously overpriced bar, there are few redeeming features about Moho Live.
Fortunately, the sound is not too bad at all which is evident immediately as opening act Winterfylleth begin to play. A fully resonant, clear sound through the PA allows the Mancunians to deliver their melancholic black metal with an efficaciously venomous bite. The duality of their layered vocal attack with both guitarist Christopher Naughton and bassist Nick Wallwork growling simultaneously works a treat and adds a greater sonorous vehemence to their already darkly dissonant metal aesthetic. There are few moments of band/audience interaction but a large number of people gathered at the front (the venue's sole vantage point) hold fists aloft and bang their heads, although I'm guessing a hometown gig for Winterfylleth was naturally going to attract a degree of support. All in all, a solid start to the night.
Friday 4th May 2012
Moho Live in Manchester, UK
Reviews by Mark Holmes
My first thought earlier in the night, relative to my aforementioned observations about this truly shit venue, was how the hell (pun intended) are the main support going to deliver their theatrically charged performance in such a tight space. I needn't have worried. As the tension building, orchestrally grandiose intro music plays through the PA, 'Overture - Themes From Deathsquad', band members appear on a smoke filled stage to launch into the appositely titled set opener 'Let Battle Commence', swiftly followed by 'On Earth As It Is In Hell'. And frontman Dave Bower, a trained Shakespearean actor, is on remarkably good form, delivering his histrionically styled vocals with impassioned intent while positioned right up against the barrier, singing right into the faces of those who stand at the front, throwing his arms around in all kinds of dramatic gestures. The crowd love him as hands reach out to grab the man, and they also love Hell. With many attired in the band's t-shirts it seems the reformed occult metallers are as big a pull as tonight's headliners.
Working their way through a forty five minute set that also includes 'Plague and Fyre', 'The Quest', 'The Oppressors', 'The Devil's Deadly Weapon', 'Macbeth' and 'Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us', aided by a great sound and mix through the PA, Hell are simply magnificent and epitomise the quintessence of heavy metal through both performance and composition. Despite their short-ish set time, Bower still manages to fit in a handful of costume changes, each pertinent to songs' themes. And while he remains the focal point for the duration, largely in part to his onstage theatrics, original members Kev Bower, Tony Speakman and Tim Bowler on guitar, bass and drums respectively, along with Sabbat axeman and famed metal producer Andy Sneap provide a solid and tight performance that's as engaging through its variance as it is in its compositional timelessness (it's easy to forget that all of these songs were written in the eighties...you would never know). Hell are simply amazing tonight and even make me temporarily forget what a crap venue I'm standing in. The late Dave Halliday would undoubtedly have been proud of Hell's reactivation and their renewed success/popularity.
It's been just over four years since Primordial's last headline show on these shores, and after the disappointment of Alan 'Nemtheanga' Averill's sudden voice-loss during the band's Bloodstock set last summer, their UK fans were undoubtedly ready for a fix of their most unique brand of melancholically dark metal. With just two shows, tonight's and tomorrow's in London, it's apparent that many have travelled from afar for the occasion judging by the multitude of regional dialects that can be heard amongst the crowd so Averill's many "thank you Manchester" enunciations throughout the evening would only be addressing the location rather than the majority of attendees.
Commencing attack with new album track 'Lain With The Wolf', Primordial are deafeningly loud with way more volume through the PA than Winterfylleth or Hell. So much so that without prior familiarisation of the song, and each subsequent song, it would take a little extra effort to pick out the melodies and disparate parts. However, it seems most present, myself included, are more than familiar with the Irishmen's entire set judging by the rapturous reaction they receive. 'Autumn's Ablaze' is up next from their sophomore album 'A Journey's End' and by the end of said track my ears acclimatise to the excessively loud volume so songs have a lot more clarity from thereon. And it's at that moment I become aware just how tight Primordial are in their delivery with Averill in fine impassioned voice. As with Hell's Dave Bower, taking advantage of the space restrictions and the intimacy of the band/audience divide, the charismatic frontman often sings right up against the barrier with an aura of mutual respect between fan and musician.
Setlist-wise, it's predominantly material from last year's 'Redemption at the Puritan's Hand' and its predecessor 'To the Nameless Dead' which is aired - 'No Grave Deep Enough'; 'Bloodied Yet Unbowed'; 'The Mouth of Judas' from the former and 'Gallows Hymn'; 'As Rome Burns'; 'Heathen Tribes' and 'Empire Falls' from the latter - although there's the more than welcome inclusion of a small amount of older material. Apart from 'Autumn's Ablaze', this comes in the form of 'The Burning Season'; 'The Coffin Ships'; and 'Gods to the Godless'. Such is the enthusiasm of the crowd at each song performed, it's a well-balanced setlist with every track treated as a 'classic'. But that's the nature and very essence of Primordial's aesthetic - inimitable and unique as their style is, material new and old has a 'classic' vibe running through its sonic veins.
Towards the end of the set, Averill informs a, by now, sweat saturated audience that "it's been eighteen years since we last played Manchester; I promise we won't leave it as long again". To be fair, any Primordial show in this country, regardless of location, feels like a special occasion such is their rarity and as dedicated as their fanbase is, they could play anywhere and people would flock from far and wide to see them in action. Tonight, though, they've been stunning...and with no spontaneous voice loss! Let's hope they keep to their promise and get back over here asap. Metal, and music in general, doesn't get much more sincere, intensely emotive, and profoundly captivating as this.