GIG REVIEW: Devilment, She Must Burn & Diabolus Live at The Engine Rooms, Southampton
We’re at that time of the year where the vast majority of the Western world is gearing up for one of the most beloved of special occasions: trees are going up in living rooms, flickering lights are adorning the exteriors of homes and, of course, Gothic metal darlings Devilment are trekking up and down the UK, playing intimate shows that spread nihilistic and heavy melancholy. And on the 19th December, after two arduous weeks of touring that have included such joys as the entire band contracting the norovirus, the jaunt came to an end at the seaside city Southampton, in the town’s heavy metal home: The Engine Rooms.
But before either Devilment or their nationwide support act She Must Burn could take to the stage, it falls to the local Diabolus to lure metalheads in from the cold. Hailing from about 45 minutes down the road in Andover, the insanely young deathcore five-piece display a great deal of promise as the very small Engine Rooms audience begins to swarm. Even though they are only given a very short amount of time on-stage, the young act resonates mostly through the deep, penetrating growls of frontman Luke Robbins and the charisma and energy of bassist Andy Granata. Even though this band (as well as fellow deathcore act She Must Burn) differs quite substantially from the more Gothic and psychological approach of their headliner, they doubtlessly establish the macabre tone of the evening that was set to follow.
However, it must be said that the mixing on this set was nothing short of horrid. Robbins’ screams (as great as they were) could not survive anywhere near as well as they could have thanks to their very low place in the overall sound. These problems continue through She Must Burn’s set, as the main support band delivers a modern yet anarchic audial assault with probably better chemistry and tightness than their predecessors, although these are things that Diabolus will in turn learn to master in time.
It doesn’t take long for She Must Burn’s performance to transform into a festive yet somewhat ill-fitting Christmas party, as Devilment frontman Dani Filth et al barge on-stage within the first ten minutes of the half-hour show, blasting “Merry Christmas Everyone” over the loud-speakers while throwing tinsel, balloons and confetti around without regard. It certainly feels like a fun, spontaneous celebration of both the festive season and the end of the tour, yet it also dispels the very visceral and intense approach that She Must Burn has been building up until that point. Normally I would be very for this kind of on-stage behavior, as it helps to dispel the often alienating and clichéd “rock star” image, but for bands as visual as both She Must Burn and Devilment, the dark appearance aspect is as important as the music. It would be like watching Papa Emeritus put on a “Birthday Boy” t-shirt and then blow out a birthday cake mid-way through a Ghost set; it kills the aura.
One thing that links all three of the bands performing tonight is the previously discussed poor mixing. And while it greatly hindered Diabolus’ vocals, in the case of the evening’s latter two acts, it hurts their live keyboards. Particularly in Devilment’s instance, as one of their biggest and best appeals is their symphonic, grandiose backing thanks to Lauren Francis’ work on the keys on songs like “Full Dark, No Stars”. Their absence in the mix definitely ruins that atmosphere.
Yet, aside from this, the headliners knock it out of the park as they perform in front of a crowd that probably does not exceed 50 people. It led to a quiet yet intimate evening when it comes to audience interaction with the band. Dani Filth absolutely nails his role as frontman, roaring loudly with his signature swagger and show-stealing face-paint. His sheer charisma and enigmatic appeal is the best aspect of Devilment’s set. But take nothing away from the act’s other four members, as they all look at home on the stage, at times looking their ready to turn this 50-person show into an arena-level rock n’ roll smackdown.
Overall, this was a fantastic night that was only let down by a handful of sloppy elements, some of which were out of the control of the bands performing. From the mix to the almost insultingly low attendance, things just didn’t feel as bombastic or as epic as they usually do whenever Dani Filth is involved. Yet, purely examining this night from a performance perspective, it was extraordinarily well done, with all three acts earning their keep and proving they are capable of far, far more in the near-future.