GIG REVIEW: SUMERIAN ALLIANCE TOUR Live at O2 Academy Islington, London
For many Londoners, Thursday is the new Friday and with that comes the need to let your hair down, grab some drinks and to hell with the Friday morning hangover (one more day at work before the weekend, so who cares?) On a pleasant, warm evening in the capital, Sumerian were obliging and the Sumerian Alliance Tour rolls down south. What better way to celebrate Thirsty Thursdays and exacerbate your morning hangover by headbanging along to a night of furious growls, riffs and blast beats?
Progressive death metallers Black Crown Initiate have recently been through the wringer. After finishing their US tour with Ne Obliviscaris and Starkill, the group were venturing home to Pennsylvania only to have their van broken into and their belongings stolen – laptops, passports, gear, the lot. Yet on evidence tonight, there’s no hangover from it. The heady mix of lead-heavy riffs and arthritis-bothering shred offers a serene yet devastating introduction to the London-leg of the Sumerian Alliance tour, with cuts from their recent opus ‘Selves We Cannot Forgive’ landing solidly with the amassing crowd. The interplay between harsh vocalist James Dorton and clean-singing shredder Andy Thomas makes for a delight to behold – where Thomas adopts an impassioned yet tranquil approach, Dorton’s is more wild and chaotic, geeing up the crowd at every opportunity and stoking the fires for the next crunching, chugging riff. As an introductory bow to these shores and the capital goes, these Pennsylvanians delivered solidly and promised much more in future.
In contrast to the introspective progressive death metal Black Crown Initiate ply, LA massive Volumes bring the party. Bounding on-stage with all the energy of a toddler who’s had fifteen Fantas, they rip into their set with verve and an irrepressible bounce. Recent single “Feels Good” sounds absolutely gargantuan with its soaring chorus being sung in unison (and certainly enhances the good feeling purveying the gathered here), whilst “Erased” and “Wormholes” cement themselves as veritable crowd-favorites. Arguably less shreddy and technical than their predecessors, the riffs are no less sharp and tight with enough groove to get even the most inert object in the room jumping – it’s quite palpably gut-busting (especially in the pit). Even the emotional and anthemic “Vahle” proves a blast, with twin vocalists Gus Farias and Myke Terry roaring every syllable passionately – impressive given the former’s enforced absence due to a head injury (requiring seventeen stitches, which perhaps provide further fuel for their fire).
A change of vocalist can certainly be cause for concern, especially for long-running bands, yet Veil of Maya’s transition has proved seamless. Latest album ‘Matriarch’ has seen the inclusion of clean vocals to the repertoire (to typical consternation from die-hards within their fan base and the wider community), but continuing as a band is to grow, mature and progress. On evidence here, that progression works. Newer cuts sit amongst older tracks like old friends – “Aeris”, “Phoenix” and the sublime “Mikasa” are proud additions to classics like “It’s Not Safe to Swim Today”. It’s a frenetic set and a lesser band would baulk at following the frenzied Volumes, but on the power, with Lukas Magyar’s prowess as a vocalist standing out amidst the tight musicianship. So often, clean vocals fall flat live or sound horribly off-key, yet Magyar never misses a beat or a note – if there were any in the house that had any lingering negative thoughts for the increased melodicism Veil Of Maya have introduced, they were certainly drowned out.
Where Veil Of Maya offered a touch more melodicism, label-mates Born Of Osiris step out in front of a fever-pitch crowd to round off proceedings with crushing abandon. Their set is a grower, without the immediacy of the earlier support, but no less powerful and featuring strong rotation of recent album ‘Soul Sphere’. Ronnie Canizaro whips the crowd into frenzy and eventually has everyone eating out the palm of his hand, whilst Joe Buras’ backing vocals offer a vicious extra aural punch. Recent single “The Other Half Of Me” and fellow ‘Soul Sphere’ track “Throw Me In The Jungle” go down a storm with rousing chorus sing-along, whilst classic “Bow Down” slams like a haymaker to the gut. The spooky core-style keys and synths add an extra layer of complexity to the already technical shred of Lee McKinney’s fretwork, and provide a welcome addition to the low-slung, blistering machine-gun riffs. Both band and crowd clearly enjoyed themselves, prompting chants for one more song to which the band obliged. Cue a raucous rendition of “Follow the Signs” – thundering, ferocious and plenty heavy to bid a fond farewell to the deluge of bludgeoning breakdowns.
There’s something incredibly calming by the dulcet tones of someone screaming their balls off into one’s ear holes amid a swirling cacophony of grinding metallic loathing after a hard day’s work, and this evening’s festivities was just the sort of cathartic party that heralds the weekend’s start. With syncopated staccato riffs-aplenty, and enough energy to power the surrounding area of Angel, even the most exhausted and grumpiest sod would be unable to resist diving into the pit and cutting loose. Riotous fun.