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Tuesday 17th April 2007
Rock City in Nottingham, UK
The doors were advertised to open at 7.30pm tonight, so I was quite surprised when arriving at 7.20 to find Rock City nearly full, and Sanctity already on stage. Newly signed to Roadrunner, and with debut album 'Road To Bloodshed' just released, I'd heard much positive feedback about this American metal act. Apparently, Trivium's Matt Heafy saw the band live, and was so impressed that he hooked them up with Roadrunner which led to the deal. Further, legendary Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine also enjoyed one of their performances (supporting Dragonforce) and provided them with the opportunity to play on the bill of his prestigious Gigantour last year alongside, amongst others, Opeth, Arch Enemy, and Into Eternity. While Sanctity have been often compared to Trivium in the metal press, the song and a half I hear tonight negates that comparison. They perhaps share similar, if not the same, thrash influences from the 80s and early 90s, though Sanctity have a style that is discernibly their own. With mammoth riffs, up-tempo songs, and a dynamic stage presence, the band do a fine job at working the Rock City audience with their brand of neo-thrash, as most people appear genuinely into the music. Just wish I'd caught more than one and a half songs! Very impressive.
Continuing the strong billing tonight is French band Gojira. Formed back in 1996, and with their debut album 'Terra Incognita' released in 2000, they have only just started to gain recognition in the UK the past year or so. With 3 studio albums to date, and a fourth due for release later this year, Gojira's compositions combine an interesting fusion of metal sub-genres including progressive; death; and thrash. I would draw comparisons to Strapping Young Lad, Meshuggah, Morbid Angel and even mid-era Sepultura, though they also have a sound that is characteristically, and instantly recognisable as, Gojira. On stage for around half an hour, the French metallers are an intense live experience as their polyrhythmic song structures and heavy riffs are delivered with forceful intent, aided by a crisp, clear sound through the PA speakers. Well received by the near capacity Rock City crowd, Gojira leave the stage to huge cheers and applause, and with more exposure in this country, could become a prominent act on the metal scene.
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Canadian thrash legends Annihilator are up next. Originally formed back in 1984, only guitarist Jeff Waters remains from the original band and with a plethora of lineup changes over the years, they've continued to release studio albums, though with varying success. Their stage entrance tonight is preceded by a eulogistic introduction by Trivium's Corey Beaulieu, which is rather apt as the band appear on stage to ubiquitous cheers from a predominantly young audience, many of who probably hadn't heard of Annihilator prior to this evening. Playing a set incorporating both old and new, Annihilator's up tempo thrash anthems are enthusiastically performed to an appreciative crowd who even pump their fists in the air en masse when prompted to do so. I find myself contemplating how surreal this is, as I couldn't imagine such a young audience responding so positively to old-school thrash say 10 years ago. Tonight though, Annihilator prove themselves still a relevant metal band, and are simultaneously having fun on stage while enjoying such positive reactions. And who knows, with continued exposure to young Trivium crowds, Annihilator might find even greater success over 20 years after they first appeared on the scene.
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Just after 9.30, the lights dim once more as most people in a crammed Rock City begin cheering for tonight's main attraction. Following atmospheric intro music, Matt Heafy and co appear on stage, and an already lively crowd erupts with excitement as Trivium launch into opening number 'Entrance of the Conflagration' from last year's stunning release 'The Crusade'. With most material lifted from that album and its predecessor 'Ascendancy', they also air a couple of tracks from 2003's impressive debut 'Ember To Inferno'. It is kind of symbolic tonight by having the juxtaposition of Annihilator and Trivium on the same stage, as the contrast between the former's old-school metal and the latter's progressive neo-thrash refutes many critics' assertions that Trivium are 'too old-school'. Their retro-thrash influences are undeniable and clearly audible in many compositions as songs are infused with Slayer, Testament, Maiden, Metallica etc style riffs, but they also have a refreshingly contemporary sound. This is intensified by their impressive, almost virtuosic, level of musicianship both as individuals and collectively. Heafy and Beaulieu play complicated riffs and leads with great ease while simultaneously managing to sustain an energetic performance for those in attendance, underpinned by Paolo Gregoletto's skilled bass playing and Travis Smith's energetic drumming. Heafy's vocals are perhaps a little too similar to James Hetfield on a lot of the new songs, but this works more as pastiche than plagiarism as the band are self-professed Metallica fans.

Rock City is bursting at the seams tonight – not just with the near capacity crowd in attendance, but also metaphorically as Trivium’s constantly rising popularity has clearly seen them outgrow venues this size. They've already started to perform in larger auditoriums on this tour such as the Hammersmith and Manchester Apollo venues and I guess tonight marks the last occasion many will have of seeing Trivium in this size hall. They do look a little short of space as they move around Rock City's moderately sized stage, and I'm left with the impression of a huge band in a small venue. Trivium's popularity is ever increasing within the UK's current metal climate, though it's also a climate they've helped create. Performance-wise, they are flawless this evening, but my only criticism is the sound. The first 3 bands had a well balanced mix which was loud through the PA, but at a decent volume. Trivium's engineer, however, for some inexplicable reason, thought it wise to crank everything up to deafening levels so that guitar riffs sound very muffled, leads and solos often become lost in the mix, and Heafy's vocals frequently lack clarity. Overall, though, an awesome live band that are surely destined for even greater success.
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