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Friday, 24 February 2017

A View From The Back of The Room: Firewind, Manimal & Scar Of The Sun (Review By Matt & Nick)

Firewind, Manimal & Scar Of The Sun, The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton

Wolverhampton on a pretty dismal Saturday, is probably not how most people would envision spending their weekend but when we get to spend an evening with three European metal bands it makes everything worth it. I headed into the venue early for an interview with Manimal (coming soon) so I let the rest of our party park in the labyrinthine city centre of Wolverhampton, after the interview I walked up to our meeting point and it was only then I realised that Wolves were playing Chelsea at home (they lost 2-0) meaning that the police presence and volume of people was higher than expected, with our primary meeting point denied (Wolves fans only) we decamped to the neutral ground of a Wetherspoons, a couple of acceptable pints and perfunctory burger later we were ready to head back to The Slade Rooms for the evenings show.

With a small queue formed outside we waited in the cold and finally headed inside the cosy venue which features a bar lounge before you actually get into the performance area, disheartened by the choice of beer it was a water and into the venue for the opening act. We thought this was going to be Greek modern metal band Scar Of The Sun but no it was local group Vicious Nature (3) who I have to admit were dire, sort of like an angry Dad band the songs were filled with charity shop Pantera riffs, Year 7 English student lyrics and a vocalist that couldn't hit a note if it swore at him. I'm all for local talent and local scene but on bill that already featured 3 bands adding a fourth seemed unnecessary and when the fourth was of this quality then I would have preferred a longer set by Firewind a band that has 8 albums to their name. Still by the number of Vicious Nature shirts in the crowd maybe I'm wrong, who knows.

Next up were Scar Of The Sun (7) who were formed in the UK but all the members are from Greece, their album was very favourably reviewed by us here at MoM towers and as they took to the stage with their heavyweight riffs, as soon as frontman Terry opened his mouth you could tell something was wrong, he was struggling to sing, meaning that the vocals were being shouted rather than sung. After the gig Terry told me that this was because he couldn't hear anything but keys in his in-ear monitors, but it took a little away from their performance as it sounded like he and the rest of the band were on a different page. This was a shame as the instrumental part of the band were tight, heavy and focused as they played and without the technical hitches they would have given a much better performance I'm sure, still these things happen and I hope to see them again soon when everything works.

With four bands playing the change overs were short and almost a soon as Scar Of The Sun left the stage Gothenburg natives Manimal (8) took to the stage with the rampaging set of dark German influenced power metal built on the supreme shredding of Henrik, who plays with so much dexterity one of our party couldn't believe the band just had one guitarist. The other key factor to the bands' sound are the sky scraping vocals of Sam who is part Ralf Scheepers, part-Geoff Tate hitting notes only dogs can hear at items. The set was drawn from both of their records and they really made an impact on what is their first UK tour, although there were a few bemused faces when they arrived on stage their faces painted like a black metal band, as they wound up the set you can consider the whole crowd a Manimal fan as the applause they got was the biggest so far. There didn't seem to be any technical hitches in their set either which was a bonus, although they would reoccur for the headliners

From here my colleague Nick takes up the rest of the review:

So, following the triumph that was Manimal it was time for the moment I had been looking forward too for a good few years: the return of one of my favourite bands, Firewind (9). Entering the stage to the intro of Ode To Leonidas the band headed by new frontman Henning Basse broke in to their patented Greek melodic splendour as if they had never been gone. Probably the most anthem like song on the album it was understandable that the band chose to open with this track, however the crowd tonight were pretty stale throughout the entire evening, which was a disappointment. It seemed that apart from the one or two others, only the MoM were there to have a good time in this almost full venue. Noted by Henning himself Matt and I received a few appreciative nods and points from the front man for our incessant air guitaring and power arm flailing throughout the gig.

After this fun, thumping intro we were treated to another track from new album Immortals, this time it was We Defy. This track gave the entire band the chance to show of what they can do, especially Bob who time after times shows that anything Gus can to do... he can do just as well. Breaking out riffs and ballsy rhythms at times while simultaneously playing the keyboard, the man is brilliant! It was at this point the sound problems seemed to kick in, for some reason the tech seemed to have fiddled with what was working nicely in the first few songs. One second Gus' leads would disappear, then Bobs keys then at one point the stunning vocals of Henning. I'm never sure why techs feel the need to play with the sliders when everything is perfect to begin with. If it sounds good, stand back and enjoy the show, its not about you... its about the band! Despite the sound issues the band cracked on with old classics including Few Against Many, Head Up High and Between Heaven And Hell the latter was the song of the night which the band delivered with sheer power and aplomb. Henning's vocals here were flawless and also effortless, what a vocalist the band have acquired!

Following this brief flurry of old school anthems the band quickly dived back into the new album with Back On The Throne, Hands Of Time, War Of Ages and the beautiful Lady Of 1000 Sorrows. The entire ensemble showed what they were made of during the passion filled delivery of Lady Of 1000 Sorrows. Gus and Bob making their guitars weep while Petros and Johan set the almost depressive pace of the track with great delicacy, topped off with the voice of Henning, who has proven tonight that there are no notes to high or low that he cannot hit. To finish the main set the crowd were again sent back in time when the band ploughed through old anthems such as Tyranny, and World On Fire with the ever brutal The Fire And The Fury squeezed in for good measure. This instrumental track never fails to put a smile on my face with its organ shaking break downs and symphonic riffs, The Fire And The Fury is always a statement of how tight Firewind are as a band and how brilliantly accomplished each member is.

Returning to the stage after after some surprisingly hearty encouragement from the crowd the encore was was finished with two more Firewind greats; Mercenary Man and fan favourite Falling To Pieces. All in all this was a triumphant return for Firewind, sound complications and stale crowd aside the band showed what they were made of, even after a few years apart. The addition of Henning is undoubtedly a move of sheer genius, if he stays I really feel he may be able to lift the band to the next level with his talents. However I felt that the set list could have been separated with classic Firewind anthems a little more, as my only criticism of Immortals is that despite it being musically brilliant, it does lack the anthems that we come to expect from Firewind. Putting three or four new tracks back to back meant a lot of the less hardened fans in the room lost their focus which didn't help the already lacklustre atmosphere. Nonetheless Firewind are back; new and improved and better live than ever! καλώς ήρθες Firewind!

On a side note, I feel that the new “trend” of having three or four support bands at gigs is starting to get a little out of had, and definitely having an effect on the quality of the gig and the energy of the crowd. In my opinion the first support band of the night could and should have been dropped (agreed -Ed) allowing for either fifteen more minutes of the superb Maninmal and fifteen more of Firewind; or an earlier finish. A headline band not starting till 9.45pm is ludicrous and unfortunately we are seeing more or it in recent years.

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