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Friday, 3 February 2017

Another Point Of View: Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, In Flames (Live Review By Ant)

Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, In Flames, Motorpoint Arena Cardiff

The younger Mr Hutchings graces us with his debut review for the blog and it's a stormer!! Get ready folks:

Such was the anticipation for the first bumper tour of the metal year, as I walked to work at 08:00, a young Avenged Sevenfold (A7X) fan was just clambering out of her sleeping bag at the front of the queue. By midday, the queue was already stretched around the Motorpoint, signalling the sweaty night ahead with the modern metal messiahs. It was going to be a moist one.

After a couple of looseners at the nearest establishment, my party and I joined the queue as the excitement grew. Avenged Sevenfold and Disturbed have had their critics throughout their careers, both gathering derision from trve kvlt metal fans. There was no such atmosphere tonight though, as the even split of band shirts proved the loyalty of the, albeit youthful, audience. A7X and Disturbed are both headliners in their own right and so the prospect of the two together, preceded by the evergreen In Flames, was enough to sell out the shed, sorry Motorpoint, in no time.

Doors were set to open at the startlingly early 17:30, with the In Flames due to hit the stage at 18:15. At 18:20, I was still getting rained on, as the thorough (but admittedly friendly) security checked people’s clothes, bags and occasionally cavities. This resulted in my party missing the classic opener Bullet Ride. Now, I’ve seen In Flames (6) a number of times and they have always left me a bit cold. Sadly, tonight was no exception. They are perfectly competent group and have a devoted following, but a combination of muddy sound quality and a new album heavy setlist, resulted in a disjointed performance, lacking any real guile or ingenuity. In Flames are clearly a vital band in heavy metal history, but songs like The End and Paralyzed generated a muted response as the crowd seemed to long for the strangely omitted classics such as Pinball Map and Only For The Weak’. Anders Frieden didn’t spend long on interaction with the crowd, instead rifling through nine melo-death tunes in a short half-hour performance. The set finished strongly, with the insatiably catchy Deliver Us, full of edgy, angular riffs and off-kilter vocals. Set closer Take This Life continued the impressive finish as the chorus soared around the arena. The crowd warmed as the show developed and by the end, the Swedish veterans were met with rousing cheers and devil horns a plenty. If only they could have sharpened the saggy middle of the set.

A quick set change, followed by the hoisting of the apparently now obligatory curtain, gave the horde a chance to lubricate and get the pipes ready for the Disturbed beatdown. Since returning from a four year hiatus with 2015’s solid Immortalized, Disturbed were yet to hit the U.K. in earnest and the atmosphere was at fever pitch. As the curtain dropped to the creeping intro Eye Of The Storm, Disturbed (9) hit the stage, iconic frontman David Draiman looking lean and menacing, flanked by his perennial axemen Dan Donegan and John Moyer and supported by the tub-thumping excellence of Mike Wengren. Opening with the title track from their comeback release, Disturbed sounded fresh and relevant, perhaps suggesting that a hiatus did the band the world of good. Disturbed commanded the stage like the headliners they truly should have been, with Draiman utilising the walkway into the crowd at every opportunity. Disturbed showed In Flames exactly how to pace a set, with old bangers The Game and Prayer sitting comfortably next to new tracks The Vengeful One and The Light. The crowd were in top form, with pits erupting in every direction, matching the literal fire being produced on stage. With video screens, pyro and a host of costume changes, Disturbed seemed to be proving a point to the doubters and naysayers. Liberate sounded as heavy as it did in 2002 inciting even more chaos in the sweaty throng.

Disturbed have built up such a collection of singles that choosing a setlist should never prove too difficult however, the perhaps surprising highlight of the evening came in the form of the Simon and Garfunkel cover The Sound Of Silence. Draiman’s voice was imperious, producing goosebumps and even a sneaky tear or two from the gnarliest of mean metal heads. Closing with three anthems like Indestructible, Ten Thousand Fists and nu-metal classic, Down With The Sickness is rarely likely to fail and as hair is flung, necks are snapped and vocal chords are strained, Disturbed bring their show to a close. Headline show next time please lads, that was incredible.

Following Disturbed always looked to be a tricky task for the 21st Century’s answer to Metallica, especially given the performance by Draiman and co. However, A7X (8) are true rockstars, genuine festival headliners with an arsenal of heavy metal thunder to draw upon. 2016’s ‘surprise’ release The Stage generated some mixed reviews, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the crowd’s response to the title track opener. Eight minutes of noodling guitars from the new-age Toxic Twins, Zakky Vengence and Synyster Gates combined with M. Shadows’ effortless cool, kicked away the memory of Disturbed’s triumphant performance. A7X look sharp, slick and polished, every inch the torch bearers of the modern metal revolution. However, as the opening riff to the infectious Afterlife kicked off, Shadows’ mic failed, leaving the crowd looking around in confusion. After a brief technical hiccup, the band recovered and banged through the rest of the catchy number. Avenged mix Iron Maiden-esque guitar playing, erratic but incomparable drumming and screeching vocals to deliver a strong set with crowd favourite Hail To The King up next. The exuberance of the crowd was palpable as the air filled with screams and horns raised. The set continued to swell with tunes from every A7X album making it into the set, including a particularly evil sounding Chapter Four from sophomore release Waking The Fallen. My personal favourite track Buried Alive’ from 2010’s Nightmare, was next and the band were on fine form, stalking the stage as the zany video played on the big screen behind new drummer Brooks Wackerman.

Unfortunately, Avenged were unable to maintain the high levels of performance displayed in the opening section, with the turgid Angels unnecessarily slowing the pace. However, next track Nightmare never fails to generate some action, with M. Shadows looking for a volunteer for backing vocals. James, your typical looking metal head, was chosen and put on a sterling performance, leading Shadows to dedicate the next track to ‘fucking James’ before breaking down into genuine giggles after his faux pas. The set saw a real dip from Nightmare onward with some odd song choices including the flabby Planets. This also introduced the Spinal Tap element of the evening, as for some inexplicable reason, an inflatable spaceman was lowered from the ceiling. The spaceman then deflated and looked as if his Uranus (I thank you) was ready for exploration. The main set closed with the forgettable Acid Rain, before a devastating encore of Bat Country, Unholy Confessions and A Little Piece Of Heaven rescued the show. A7X are a great live band and the vast majority left tonight’s performance with wide shit-eating grins. Despite the weird inflatables and disappointing omissions (where the fuck was Beast And The Harlot?!) Avenged were triumphant, proving their status as the new Kings of modern day metal.

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