Defenders of the Faith Tour – Bristol O2 Academy
The Metal Hammer sponsored Defenders of the Faith tour arrived in Bristol with four bands on the bill representing pretty good value for money on paper anyways. Having wisely travelled across the bridge early in the afternoon, we were able to have our customary visit to the Hatchet before getting to the front of the queue for the ridiculously early start, thanks to the Ramshackle nightclub event that was taking place in the same venue later that evening.
Straight onto the barrier for the main reason for our trip. Hell. Following the quite stunning Human Remains album and the breath taking performance at BOA earlier this year, I really wanted to see the band again. Arriving on stage at the stupidly early time of 6:15pm, the band launched into The Age Of Nefarious, a new track from the hugely anticipated Curse and Chapter album. With Dave Bower delivering his vocals with the usual theatrical aplomb, the band kicked into On Earth As It Is In Hell with audience participation and the twin guitars of Andy Sneap and Kev Bower soaring through the mix. In an extremely short set, Blasphemy And The Master followed, complete with Dave Bower’s self-flagellation antics. This band are getting better all the time with sinister looking bassist Tony Speakman and drummer Tim Bowler content to maintain the momentum whilst Sneap and Kev Bower flank the ever moving frontman Dave Bower. At one point I’m sure I even saw Sneap smile! The band aired another new track, Something Wicked This Way Comes and finished with The Quest to a massive ovation from those who had ventured into the venue early. Hell will hopefully be hitting the road to promote Curse and Chapter next year and I will be waiting with much anticipation for both the album and the opportunity to see them again. 9/10
Bleed From Within
Now it may just be me but with these Metal Hammer tours there is always one band that does very little for me. Tonight it was Glaswegians Bleed From Within. Billed as one of the new generation of UK metal bands, they do absolutely nothing for me. I don’t like this genre at all. BMTH, While She Sleeps etc., all bore me rigid but that’s probably because I am very old and raised on classic rock. I’ll give BFW 7/10 for effort but 1/10 for music. Rubbish.
UK Death Metal legends Carcass took to the stage with no fuss and proceeded to deliver 45 minutes of thrash and death metal to an expectant crowd who by now had started to fill the venue. Kicking off with Buried Dreams from Heartwork Singer and bassist Jeff Walker’s growling delivery incited some ferocious pit action. “Don’t make me tell you what to do” he threatened as the band launched into the old school Incarnated Solvent Abuse from their early years. Flanked by original guitarist Bill Steer and new boy Ben Ash, Walker’s bass combined with the hammering drums of Daniel Wilding. This was a 45 minute aural assault. Blasting through three tracks from this year’s bloody good Surgical Steel album, including the ludicrously named Cadaver Pouch Conveyer System, Carcass thrashed the O2 to within an inch of its life. Closing with a medley (Ha-ha!) of Ruptured in Purulence and Heartwork this is a band who have returned in a fitter state then they were when they originally split in 1995. If you like your death metal, get along and see these guys. 8/10
Headliners Amon Amarth need little introduction. The Swedish melodic death metallers have been part of the metal landscape for over 20 years and every time I see them they put on a storming show. Alas, no Viking longboat on the set tonight but an impressive array of backdrops opening with the cover to their latest offering, Deceiver Of The Gods. It was from that album that the band choose to kick off proceedings with the powerful Father Of The Wolf. Johan Hegg immediately filling the front of the stage with his imposing frame, head banging like a maniac and swigging from his Viking horn at his side. No respite as the band went straight into the title track from the new album before an old school one in Death In Fire was dispatched. Throughout the show Hegg demonstrated why he is perfectly suited to this band and the type of music they play. His low growl totally fits the speed and thrust of the twin guitar attack of Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg along with the bass of Ted Lundström and the ferocious drumming of Fredrik Andersson. The O2 was by now rather full and the pit was in full swing, especially when Amon dropped in fan favourite after fan favourite. Free Will Sacrifice followed by As Loke Falls, Runes To My Memory followed by Varyags Of Miklagaard. You get the picture I’m sure. It is not only Hegg’s voice that suites this band though. He is brilliant on the microphone and engaged with the crowd, reassuring everyone that despite the early finish “don’t worry, we’ll still be giving you the full set” which they did. True to all my expectations this was another expert demonstration in how to deliver a headline set. Using all of the (admittedly small) stage the band ran around throughout, using just about every pose that is available in the heavy metal manual. But they are also fantastic musicians and damn heavy too. They headed to the encore with Cry Of The Blackbirds, Guardians Of Asgaard, Destroyer Of The Universe and War Of The Gods before a quick break for a well-deserved ovation. The icing on the cake came with the final two songs, Twilight Of The Thunder Gods and everyone’s favourite The Pursuit Of Vikings, complete with crowd participation. It’s not often at a death metal gig you get the entire audience signing “do, do –do, do, do” at the start of a song but it happened here! Once again, Amon Amarth delivered the goods and were worthy headliners of this tour. 9/10