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DATE: Tuesday 12th November 2019
VENUE: The Ritz in Manchester, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
Moldova's Infected Rain are up first tonight, for what is their debut UK show. Self-releasing three albums between 2011 and 2017, they struck a deal with Napalm Records for their fourth, the innovative metal masterpiece that is 'Endorphin'. And "endorphin" is an apt word to describe their performance in The Ritz this evening, as it proves to be an adrenaline-fuelled, uplifting and invigorating experience.

With doors opening at 7pm, 20 minutes before their stage time, it's great to see that a large number of people have already made their way into The Ritz, so there's a big crowd to witness all the Moldovan metal action. Musical and mood-driven contrasts reign in their repertoire, which includes '86' tracks 'Mold' and 'Orphan Soul', with airings 'Earth Mantra', 'Black Gold', 'Passerby' and 'Lure' from the new album. However, I gather they’re one guy down (guitarist Sergey Babich is absent from the stage… and tour?), but Lacuna Coil’s Diego Cavallotti joins them for a short while for additional guitar. Whether they be a quartet or quintet this evening, Infected Rain are immense. And frontwoman Lena Scissorhands’ varied vocals, from screams and growls to cleans and almost spoken-word, are all delivered with emotional sincerity and fervent intensity. She seems to have full command over the audience, as, by the time they reach their final song, positioning herself in the photopit, right up against the barrier, she asks for a circle pit and punters oblige. Likewise when she tells people to jump up and down, when The Ritz’s seemingly semi-sprung floor suddenly starts pulsating beneath my feet.

Through all the melancholy, angst and aggression in Infected Rain’s music, there's also a healthy antithetical dose of optimism, calm, warmth and benevolence that shines through. For all the raw sonic malevolence, there’s also a refined elegance. And these contrasts and emotional shifts are conveyed with an infectious passion in The Ritz tonight. There’s never a dull moment, as songs twist and turn and contort in all kinds of interesting ways, just as Lena herself seems to contort her own body with all kinds of sprightly manoeuvres. It seems she's not only feeding off the energy of the occasion, but also feeling the emotions of the words she sings; a cathartic-inducing synthesis between mind, body and soul. Experiencing an Infected Rain show feels like one big cathartic health-kick and, by the end of their set, with endorphin running through my veins, I've certainly been infected and affected by these super talented Moldovans... and 100% energized.
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Lacuna Coil at The Ritz in Manchester, UK, 12th November 2019
Photograph copyright © 2019 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Tonight is the first occasion I've had to witness this folk metal Swiss crew in action since they experienced significant lineup changes in 2016, with five new members recruited (six, if you count the return of violinist Nicole Ansperger). Of course, 'Evocation II - Pantheon' has been delivered with the new personnel, and another new studio album earlier this year, ‘Ategnatos ‘, plus a recently released live album... all top notch stuff, but I was looking forward to see how frontman Chrigel Glanzmann and this latest incarnation of Eluveitie would fare on a live stage.

While nine bodies might look a little cluttered at times, even on The Ritz’s large stage, the commanding presence of Glanzmann leads his merry brethren of fellow musicians through 50 or so minutes of Celtic-infused metal bliss. Often throwing his arms up in the air, it's almost as if he's orchestrating his Swiss troupe as much as enthusiastically gesturing to the crowd. And the talented troupe work their way through a set that’s heavily biased towards ‘Ategnatos’… which is understandable, I guess, as, ‘Evocation II’ aside, it’s the only metal album released with the current lineup.

Fabienne Erni (who wields and plays a Celtic harp for some tracks) also has something of a fucking incredible voice. Previously, Anna Murphy was Eluveitie’s secret vocal weapon, but Erni’s voice is just as powerful, if not more so in a live context. The emotion, passion and power in her delivery is quite breathtaking, particularly when she’s afforded a solo spot, with the stage atmospherically lit, for a rendition of ‘Artio’ from ‘Evocation II’.

I feel like I've witnessed a recalibrated and rejuvenated band, with a lineup that's now as good as, if not stronger than, the Murphy/Henzi/Sutter era of the band. The future of Eluveitie appears to be in safe hands... a whopping 18 hands, to be precise. And 18 hands making music that’s admirably mixed into a perfect whole, so kudos to the band’s sound engineer. I guess you can’t please everyone, though - as I walk out the photopit after three songs and back into the crowd, one guy evidently felt the need to share his own three word review with me. “This is shit”, he emphatically and vociferously declares. Judging by the crowd reaction and large number of people clad in Eluveitie merch, this is obviously a minority opinion.
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Lacuna Coil seem to be hitting new highs in their 20+ year career lately. Weathering lineup changes in recent times, with the departure of longtime members Cristiano Mozzati and Cristiano Migliore in 2014 and Marco Biazzi two years later, the band seem to have soared rather than faltered. 2018 marked a special milestone in their history, when the Italians celebrated the 20th anniversary since the release of their debut EP with a special London show and, this year, they delivered a career best album in 'Black Anima'; 11 songs showcasing the Coil at their most ferocious, dark, sublime, atmospheric and diverse. And touring in support of the new record, ahead of hitting UK shores, their 5 UK/Irish dates have been long sold out. It seems their popularity in this part of the world has never been greater; which I guess is why Eluveitie have been headlining most of the mainland Europe shows, yet the Coil have been promoted to primary billing over here.

Hitting the stage at 9:30pm, newly recruited drummer, Richard Meiz, is first out, as he leers menacingly over his kit. He’s shortly joined by his bandmates, who cast a striking and cohesive image on the stage, in attire from the new album's aesthetic, with Meiz, Diego Cavallotti and Marco Coti-Zelati in face-paint, conveying a kind of black metal vibe. It brings a theatrically charged visual dimension to their show, but without any hint of histrionic pomposity. Quite the contrary, as there's a strong emphasis on fun tonight through their refined dark aesthetic, with band and audience bouncing off each other's energy, resulting in a discernible aura of merriment about the place. And while they might suddenly have adopted black metal style visages, which fits the far darker, more aggressive and theatrical nature of material from the new album, it's all about smiles throughout, with a healthy dose of Mediterranean passion and alt-metal rapture. And the band are on fire, musically, aided by a great sound and mix through the PA. Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro provide the onstage energy, bouncing around all over the place, and both in fine voice. Scabbia, in particular, sounds phenomenal. Based on tonight’s performance, her voice is evidently in incredible shape - with the depth, power and range of her tonality and emotionally charged delivery impressing me immensely.

With just short of an hour and a half on stage, Lacuna Coil’s set gives equal weighting to ‘Black Anima’ and material from its predecessor, ‘Delirium’. The new stuff sounds phenomenal tonight - ‘Layers of Time’, ‘Reckless’, ‘Veneficium’ and ‘Sword of Anger’ have their passion, aggression and sublimity all cranked up to eleven in these live versions. The band are indubitably at the top of their game. And it’s testament to their rich history of fine songcraft that they’re able to draw upon a slew of fan favourites; each greeted with enthusiastic cheers from a crowd who are discernibly loving every second of the Coil’s set. The likes of ‘Our Truth’, ‘Trip the Darkness’ and ‘Cybersleep’ all sound phenomenal in 2019.

An airing of their inventive take on Depeche Mode’s ‘Enjoy the Silence’ concludes their pre-encore set, before ubiquitous cheers of “we want more” pre-empts an encore of four more tracks. And Christmas has arrived early in The Ritz tonight, with their 2016 festive single, ‘Naughty Christmas’. Scabbia cheekily acknowledges it’s a little premature but says they’re not going to be here in December so wanted to wish everyone a happy Christmas now. The encores continue with two big hitters from back in the day - from 2002’s ‘Comalies’, to be precise - with fantastic renditions of ‘Heaven’s a Lie’ and ‘Swamped’. Scabbia then leads an empowering crowd chant of “We fear nothing”, before the Coil conclude with final track, ‘Nothing Stands in Our Way’. With the 11pm curfew looming, that concludes a strong and diverse billing of three immensely talented metal bands. Full of sincere gratitude, Scabbia and Ferro thank everyone for coming along, as punters start to make their way out of the sweaty interior of the venue and into the cold night air. A fantastic night’s entertainment, headlined by one of the scene’s very best. Following a naughty Christmas, it seems the Coil will be entering the new decade as robust and resolute as they’ve ever been, to revel and excel in the next ten years of their illustrious career.
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