GIG REVIEW: IMPERICON NEVER SAY DIE! Tour Live in Electric Ballroom, London
Whilst many in London will have enjoyed the frivolities of Guy Fawkes Night the previous night, one could argue that the bill for the Impericon Never Say Die! Tour in Camden’s Electric Ballroom is equally explosive. Seven of metal’s finest all gathered to light up a cold night in the capital – surely beats waving a sparkler around whilst watching a few multi-colored bangs and whistles, right?
UK’s very own sons Polar are first up to welcome a healthy gathered to the evening’s festivities. Now sports fans will know that the team playing at home will be buoyed by fervent home support. The prospect of performing in front of your own fans in your own back yard is the sort of thing that stirs the blood and ramps up the adrenaline. Tenuous sports metaphor-aside, this is exactly what spurs Polar to deliver a belting set. Chunky, bouncy riffs and rousing calls for pits to fire up are met with a willing and complicit crowd who lap it up. The mutual enjoyment between band and crowd is seldom seen in opening acts, especially for a seven-band bill, but the proof was there in spades. Hell, there was even a wall of death a short-way into the set and the beer count hadn’t even reached double-digits yet (probably). A demonstrably fun and rowdy start to the night.
Following on from their Pommy-counterparts are Australia’s symphony-bothering deathcore masters Make Them Suffer and their intent is evident from the outset, with opener “Widower” creepily twinkling into life before a meaty, syncopated crunch roars into existence. From there, it is a flurry of activity and frenetic energy duly mirrored by a baying crowd. Disappointingly, however, was the mix for Louise Burton’s vocals, which left a lot to be desired. Continuously low and incomprehensible above the din, only to be raised midway through the line as if the sound engineer remembered where the levels required adjusting just a little too late – it doesn’t do much good for the song when it’s such an integral part. Despite this, cuts from debut ‘Neverbloom’ and latest release ‘Old Souls’ have plenty to offer: from the blackened cacophony of “Neverbloom”, to the recent post-rock-tinged “Ether”, it’s more than enough to sink one’s teeth into.
Tonight’s third act have built up a rather strong furor and reputation for themselves over the years of their relatively-short existence. Fallujah currently carry the flag as bastions of progressive death metal, having carved a neat little niche as purveyors of atmospheric death metal and on tonight’s display, it’s easy to see why. Technically proficient and clinical execution is their modus operandi, and their set is delightfully encompassing of their entire catalogue. Acclaimed new selections such as the spell-binding “The Void Alone” make comfortable bedfellows alongside the likes of the jazzy “Sapphire” and esoteric yet blistering “Cerebral Hybridization”. The lead playing from guitarists Scott Carstairs and Brian James is spectacular, capturing he imagination and transporting you to a spacey world of shred, melody and reverb. It’s just a shame that the mix bug seemed to have befallen drummer Andrew Baird. Arguably one of the most technical and accomplished young drummers, his playing is something to behold yet such a sight is hindered by an inconsistent snare mix. Singular grooves are not a problem; blasts, less so. As an integral part of the kit, it is found wanting at a critical moment and leaves certain sections feeling somewhat flat. Nevertheless, they power on with a mesmeric set that certainly leaves a level of intrigue behind.
That’s more or less kicked to the curb when Obey the Brave take to the stage. What’s metal without a bit of fun? It can’t all be straight-faced doom and gloom, and it’s these breakdown-bothering bros that take up the mantle to lift the spirits and energy in the room. Thumping cuts like “Live & Learn” incite the crowd to tumultuous levels. Thick, juicy riffs crack into tight staccato breakdowns (Obey the Breakdown, anyone?), wherein the hardcore dancing becomes ever more prevalent. Obey The Brave’s brand of meaty metal is more plain steak than gourmet fillet, but oftentimes you just want to sample the delights of the natural flavors – and it tastes good.
It is well known that metal is considered somewhat of a primal genre. The aggression and cathartic properties it carries reaches a very basic part of the human psyche and explains our need to mosh, headbang, scream/growl and generally let loose at shows. Quite what Carnifex put into their rabid-brand of death metal is anyone’s guess, but clearly it’s something potent as the pits erupt into something approaching pure, actual violence. Title track “Slow Death” from their latest release is greeted with unbridled fervor to the point that the scenes in the pit were closer in resemblance to close-quarter skirmishes in a war-zone. This is all orchestrated by vibrant frontman Scott Lewis, carrying himself as an overseeing general who revels in the chaos of all-out war. It’s rare to see a frontman command a crowd with such rapt attention – the term “eating out of the palm of his hand” was made for such a scenario, and Carnifex’s spurious-brand of death metal is consumed with palpable hunger.
Not satisfied with what they got with Carnifex, the crowd breaks out into near desperate and fanatical violence when Australia’s The Art Is Murder grace the stage. Such was the crazed nature in the pit that our own photographer had to be ejected from the photo area after a song-and-a-half due to safety concerns! The dulcet tones of “The Purest Strain of Hate” and “Reign of Darkness” whip up a frenzy of a mosh pit, with an almost constant and steady stream of crowd surfers riding the wave of bodies to the barrier. The band’s heady mix of execution, low-slung riffs, hyper-speed drumming and bowel-churning, throat-grinding vocals mark a thoroughly enjoyable performance – the mix issues of early seemingly abated and allowing Thy Art Is Murder to deliver their art in musical violence.
Though the energy levels drop a notch, the excitement for Whitechapel is nowhere near dimming. Chants of “White-cha-pel!” greet the Americans as they walk out which they duly lap up before launching into a crunching set of old and new favorites. As vocalists go, few are celebrated as much in modern metal as much as Phil Bozeman is and his performance is rich with impeccable technique; gutturals sounding menacing and screams piercing. He is the one who holds court in the room; the one about whom the chaos revolves around. Blending classics such as “This Is Exile”, “Possession” with new jams like “Mark Of The Blade” from their recent release of the same name goes down swimmingly, whilst the clean vocals in “Bring Me Home” are met with overwhelming approval (even if they were a supposed controversial decision to include on the album). The blade certainly left a mark on the Ballroom.
Festival-goers will testify to the exhaustion a day crammed with bands can be, so to witness seven bands in a matter of hours could be seen as equally taxing. Mercifully, the evening ebbs and flows with a fine balance of metal: ranging from blackened symphonic, to thumping hardcore riffs with enough heft to level a wall, piquing interest and ensuring that virtually everyone’s tastes are catered for. The London leg of the Never Say Die! Tour promised plenty and delivered admirably, despite a few detrimental mix issues. Not that those in the pit would care one iota – after a long evening of some metallic mastery, they could leave happy and rest easy (though those in the depths of the pit may want to take it easy in the upcoming week).