GIG REVIEW: Trivium, Code Orange, Power Trip & Venom Prison Live at O2 Academy Brixton, London
It’s a very warm welcome to London’s O2 Brixton Academy, the last stop for Floridians Trivium on their European and UK Tour where you got the distinct impression that it would be something a little bit special. With three of the most exciting fellow metal bands in tow, it would have taken a right misery guts to want no part of this. So, how would you like to spend your sunny Saturday evening: sipping a few bevs basking outside, or crammed in a capacity London music venue, headbanging and sweating one out?
Any patrons that wandered in a little late will have been dutifully met by a monstrous assault on the senses, courtesy of openers Venom Prison. The South Wales upstarts have certainly made some waves amongst the metal press since their 2016 debut “Animus”, and it’s easy to see why on the basis of their ferocious performance. It’s a whirlwind of death metal, with a few touches of black metal thrown in for added atmosphere, delivered with unrelenting verve. It certainly struck a chord with a sizeable number of the generously-assembled crowd – pits were opening up and a plentiful few were headbanging along.
With all of this maelstrom, it all revolved around one person: vocalist Larissa Stupar. Sporting a, frankly, terrifying voice and fine range, she commands to be heard and her stage presence is simply captivating. All neck-snapping headbangs and wide-eyed intensity, it adds an extra sense of power to bruisers like “Celestial Patricide” that feels oh-so-compelling. Cathartic, violent and stained with a black metal heart, it’s a different colour to what was to come for the night, but what’s life without a bit of variety? The spring sunshine will have encouraged a boozy haze amongst the early birds, but they’ll have been shaken out of their stupor once Venom Prison took their final bow. A fine start.
Up next were Texan mob Power Trip and, if you weren’t familiar with the band’s sound, just imagine a cross between Pantera’s groove and hardcore thrash, and you’ll be in the zone. But good lawd, the groove. Right from the off with “Soul Sacrifice”, these Texans tore through Brixton and installed an irrepressible urge to headbang along with their chunky riffs – even the ornamental statues beside the stage appeared to be joining in. The best of the best were saved until towards the end, with “Murderer’s Row” and “Firing Squad” offering an extra level of violence that the crowd absolutely lapped up.
A pity, then, that the band’s set was interrupted, not once, but twice to allow security staff to attend to an injured mosher in the pit. The first time was barely a few bars into second song “Executioner’s Tax (Swing Of The Axe)” – how appropriate – to which the band should be commended for stopping abruptly and calling for assistance. A round of applause greeted their compassion as vocalist Riley Gale implored the gathered to take care of themselves, but it was disappointing to see that the same occurred again during “Crucifixation”. Another few minutes were wasted as the band stood frustrated onstage waiting for the all-clear and it ought to have killed their momentum hard, but they powered on and delivered a thunderous end to their set.
It’s something of an indication of a band’s respect when you observe those gathered in the wings by the stage. Judging by complete lack of space that remained as Code Orange tore through a set of unbridled chaos, the band are very much revered by their peers and it’s easy to see why. Here is a band that doesn’t give a damn about anyone else and does what it wants without compromise – how else can you explain opting to end a sonically-abusive set with the weird, haunting and jarring “dream2”? Or beginning it with sheer noise and cacophony, as guitarist Dominic Landolina mounted the stage’s right-side sound system?
The set included among the band’s most celebrated and favourite songs, with “I Am King”, “Slowburn” and “Forever” sending the crowd into rabid pandemonium. To a degree, the band’s music can sometimes be difficult to grasp: one minute they’re grooving away, the next they’ve slowed to a crawl with an off-kilter rhythm. How are we supposed to headbang consistently if we’re changing it up every now and again?! Additionally, the lack of a centre-stage “vocalist” aided the insanity onstage, with the four guitar-wielders running about like kids after their first sip of energy drink. But that’s just what’s so appealing about Code Orange – it’s lead-heavy, crazy and a certified riot to observe. Appropriate then (or not), that another person was injured and required the band stop to allow the house staff to help. Mercifully, the band weren’t affected much and it became apparent that there was an unsavory aggressor in the crowd (who was promptly ejected), so things progressed smoothly from there. Points to the band for sheer bloody-minded perseverance (especially for bassist Joe Goldman who actually drew blood on his head!)
Remember, kids, play nice or we can’t have nice things!
Anyone who’s ever gone to see Trivium will know that they found a musical home in the UK when sophomore release “Ascendancy” dropped. In fact, they themselves have often quipped that they consider themselves a British band raised in America, something of which the Academy crowd most definitely appreciate being told. The amassed ranks are patently here for them and the roar that greets “The Sin & The Sentence” as it bursts into life sets a precedent for the course of the night. Matt Heafy et al. are on fine form, ripping through classic after classic spanning the entirety of their eight albums (“Ember To Inferno” or “Vengeance Falls” aside on this occasion), and their evident joy is palpable.
How good must it feel to have several thousand people who have all turned up to see you, sing back your songs with as much verve as you’re delivering? Damn good, if Heafy’s gratitude is anything to go by, and he stokes the fires further with the cajoling for more (Manchester were supposedly better the previous night, and Paris were the best of the tour). So the tumultuous tones of “Throes Of Perdition”, “Until The World Goes Cold” and fan-favourite “Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr” are met with a maniacal response, as the crowd attempt to show the band that London is where they are loved the most. Though the result of whether the crowd achieved number one status wasn’t divulged, the smiles Trivium wore as they took their leave after a raving rendition of “In Waves”, may have given it away.
Performance aside, it’s incredible that a band of eight albums can be so remarkably consistent when playing live. On each album, Trivium have delivered a number of verifiable bangers, so compiling a setlist must be a rather large conundrum. So it’s a measure of the band’s material that there was no place for the likes of “A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation”, “Black” or “Strife”, yet they weren’t missed (at least not in the sense of dropped momentum). How many other bands out there with Trivium’s longevity in this modern music industry can claim similar? Answers on a postage stamp, please, but as far as their set in a spring-bathed Brixton goes, the band once again delivered the goods as only they know how.
As the crowd headed for the Tube on a hot, sweaty (and bloody) night in Brixton, there was a purveying warmth that spread throughout, for which the spring heatwave had nothing to do with. A varied evening of heavy metal music was thoroughly enjoyed, and the animated chatter was reserved only for praising the show. Not even the actions of some knuckle-dragging Neanderthal could put a dampener on proceedings, even if it blighted two band’s sets. Nevertheless, the combination of Venom Prison’s visceral assault, Power Trip’s earth-shaking grooves and Code Orange’s anarchic assail with Trivium’s slick, roaring metal made for one hell of a riot. A special night, indeed.