GIG REVIEW: Havok, Warbringer, Exmortus & Gorod Live at Mama Roux’s, Birmingham, UK
At the beginning of April, myself and a couple of friends travelled to Birmingham to see what could only be described as perhaps one of the most impressive tour line-ups in terms of contemporary thrash metal. Colorado band Havok headlined the event; with support sets coming from Warbringer, French tech-death band Gorod and American thrash act Exmortus. Both Havok and Warbringer have released full-length studio albums at various points so far in 2017, with ‘Woe to the Vanquished’ and ‘Conformicide’ both coming out in March respectively.
Exmortus took to the stage first, with their unique brand of thrash metal mixed with flavours of melodic death metal. It has to be said that at this point, the room was fairly empty for the opening band as they had come on stage approximately 25 to 30 minutes after doors. But there were still enough people there for it to be an enjoyable performance. In terms of their setlist, the band performed a number of tracks from across their discography including “Metal is King”, making Exmortus a decent way to kick off the evening. On the off-chance that their frontman Jadran reads this, I came up to you in a Municipal Waste t-shirt and shook hands with you on the balcony after your set.
Anyway, back to the review. Following Exmortus was the French band Gorod, who if I’m being honest I had little knowledge of prior to seeing them live. Therefore, I just assumed that they were going to be another thrash band just like the rest of the bands that they were billed for that night. I couldn’t have been more wrong! At first, I found it quite bewildering of a decision to have a band as brutal as Gorod playing with thrash bands, but the choice made total sense in the end. First and foremost, a special shout out has to go to their vocalist Julien Deyres, who is without question one of the most impressive and versatile singers I have ever seen. Some of the things he was doing with his voice genuinely amazed me. If there is one a contemporary vocalist in the current death metal scene that deserves to be ranked up there with the all-time greats such as Frank Mullen and the like, it’s Julien. But generally, the band played brilliantly and it seemed like they had quite a few fans in the audience.
It is now time to ramp things up a notch. Exmortus and Gorod were both great bands to watch and I enjoyed them thoroughly, but it was when Warbringer arrived that things reached a new level (no Pantera pun intended). They were the first band of the night to have a pit during their set, which I am so glad about because it wouldn’t be a proper thrash metal show without one. The band played some new material from ‘Woe to the Vanquished’, in addition to the classic tracks that their fans had come to see them play in abundance. Warbringer was truly excellent, and an improvement in terms of performance quality over the bands that had played before them, which is no easy feat.
Last up was the headline act of the night: Havok. Everywhere you looked, people proudly sported the band’s merchandise, which is what it’s all about in some respects. Like Warbringer before them, Havok also had plenty of crowd energy in the centre-front with the pit, the size of which became surprisingly big considering the admittedly small size of the venue. The setlist went as follows: “Point of No Return”, “Prepare for Attack”, “Fatal Intervention”, “D.O.A”, “Covering Fire”, “From the Cradle to the Grave”, “Ingsoc” and “Intention to Deceive”, before ending the night with “Give Me Liberty… or Give Me Death”. A vicious circle pit erupted during the gig’s closing song, which was too much for me to resist doing half a dozen or so laps myself.
To round up my review, this gig proved to me once again what an enduring musical force of nature thrash metal continues to be so many years into the 21st century. The fact that the contemporary modern bands can play this style of music with the same level of bite as the legendary bands we all know and love is a sheer testament (another unintentional pun) to the willpower and determination that exists both in the hearts of the bands and the fans. Simply put, Havok, Warbringer and the rest of the bands that performed were fantastic – a great night out.