(PHOTO CREDITS: CHIAKI NOZU ©2018)
February in London means being prepared for almost any weather, as long as it’s cold. As I walk towards Koko on this Sunday night the snow is just beginning to fall. That hasn’t deterred a line of black-clad fans forming down the street for one of the most important Metal gigs of the season, if not the year.
The first band of the night are Swedish Goth/Black Metal four piece Tribulation.
Never having heard of the band I had absolutely no expectations going in. I was in for a very pleasant surprise.
Emerging to the ominous sonic whirlwind that leads us into ‘Lady Death’, Tribulation show off an inspiringly rich Gothic sound that blends twin guitars and growling vocals with genuinely engaging songs. Sounding like Fields Of The Nephilim and looking like Eric Draven, the band are truly impressive throughout.
Guitarist Jonathan Hulten whirls and dips like a ballet dancer while pulling off melodic solos. The organ/piano and tribal drums that begin ‘Strange Gateways Beckon’ show that Tribulation have the finesse to do things their own way. Instead of simply pummelling the audience into submission with shredding speed and machine-gun drumming, the band dip in and out of the darkness to deliver a great show.
Finishing with the most recent single from their new album ‘Down Below’, the Gothic guitar tones and growling vocals of ‘The Lament’ are the perfect ending of a very solid set. They leave the stage having won over more than a handful of new fans.
The Motherhood of God
Suspiria De Profundis
Strange Gateways beckon
Johannes Andersson - Bass & Vocals
Jonathan Hulten - Guitar
Adam Zaars - Guitar
Oscar Leander - Drums
Follow the band here:
The next band up are Wintersun and they are an entirely different beast. Led by singer and composer Jari Mäenpää, this Finnish group’s brand of melodic death metal has gained an impressive reputation as both technically stunning and musically uncompromising. When a band has to crowd-fund the building of a new studio just to meet their musical needs, you know you aren’t dealing with casual rockers. This is metal played with surgical precision.
Opening with ‘Awaken From The Dark Slumber (Spring)’ Wintersun proceed to play some of the most challenging heavy and progressive music ever created. Guitarists Teemu and Asim trade speed-demon solos that would make Marty Friedman sweat while drummer Rolf Pilve does an outstanding job filling in for the out-of-action Kai Hahto. Bassist Jukka Koskinen is playing so fast and varied it’s a miracle anybody can follow.
While their music certainly won’t appeal to everyone, it has found an adoring audience in London tonight - they seem to be as overjoyed as Wintersun are to be there. Frontman Jari simply can’t keep the grin from his face! “Are you Alive?” he asks the capacity crowd - “Then show me!” They respond with waves and a roar of approval while the drums of ‘Winter Madness’ kick into hyper-speed. At times you are left truly in awe of Wintersun’s dedication - over their hour long set they play six songs that Dream Theater might find dense and complicated. While much of modern metal music is getting blander by the day you really have to admire Wintersun for their bloody-minded passion.
“Do you want to hear one more?” Jari asks the crowd. The faithful cheer and the band close their set with the epic fan-favourite track ‘Time’ before taking a series of bows amidst the beginning of a standing ovation.
Awaken From The Dark Slumber (Spring)
Sons of Winter and Stars
Battle Against TimeTime
Jari Mäenpää - Vocals
Rolf Pilve - Drums
Teemu Mantysaari - Guitar
Asim Searah - Guitar
Jukka Koskinen - Bass
Follow the band here:
There are rare times when you see a band on the cusp of arena headlining status and you come to appreciate just how focused that group of musicians has to be to reach the top of the proverbial mountain. The ‘Will To Power’ tour has been snaking its way through Europe for the past several weeks with sold out show after sold out show and tonight it’s London’s turn.
From the moment the lights go down and the shredding guitars of ‘The World Is Yours’ kick in the whole crowd is lifted up and the endless mosh pit begins. With a voice that flies between the angelic and the demonic and a stage presence to rival any WWE champ, Alissa White-Gluz is something to behold. From the battle cry anthem that is ‘You Will Know My Name’ to older songs like the Death Metal hurricane ‘Dead Bury Their Dead’ she never falters or even slows down. At this moment in extreme metal, I struggle to think of any other front-woman who is in her league.
Arch Enemy are a well oiled machine; with barely any crowd banter and no pauses, they start and end songs on the dime. The rhythm section of Daniel Erlandsson and Sharlee D’Angelo take on the most punishing patters with ease and, amazingly, still manage to avoid sounding mechanical. When you combine that with a spotless sound mix there are simply no rough edges left to smooth.
From their current album ‘Will To Power’ , ‘The Eagle Flies Alone’ might be my highlight in a phenomenal set. The twin guitars of Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis lock in for harmonies and riffs before rising effortlessly to the solos. It’s followed by the alternatively melodic and thunderous call to arms ‘Reason To Believe’. The fact that this 20 year old band is only now producing its finest songs says it all.
It’s been well over an hour and the band make their exit before returning for the encore that begins with the hurtling riffs of ‘Avalanche’. The lights dim for the simply gorgeous Amott and Loomis guitar solo ‘Snowbound’. Ending their hour and half long set with their fists in the air anthem ‘Nemesis’, the band take a bow to seemingly endless applause.
Tonight, Arch Enemy have firmly planted their (black) flag at the top of the mountain. In the realms of Melodic Death Metal, they truly fly alone.
The World Is Yours
You Will Know My Name
Dead Eyes See No Future
The Eagle Flies Alone
Reason To Believe
As The Pages Burn
Dead Bury Their Dead
We Will Rise
Arch Enemy Are:
Michael Amott - Lead Guitar
Alissa White-Gluz - Lead Vocals
Daniel Erlandsson - Drums
Sharlee D’Angelo - Bass
Jeff Loomis - Guitar
Follow the band here: