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Thursday, 19 April 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Trivium

Trivium, Code Orange, Power Trip & Venom Prison, O2 Academy Bristol

Floridian metal band Trivium are one of the first ‘new’ bands I got into when I was first getting into heavy music. Having been brought up with classic rock and prog, Trivium were a perfect mix of Maiden melodies, Metallica thrash while also serving as my gateway into the more extreme genres such as death and black metal. Since then I have followed the bands progress with great interest and while on record they do tend to be a little inconsistent on record, although this maybe due to the amount of attention garnered by second album Ascendancy, live they have always delivered the goods, except for that one Bloodstock headline shot.

So with the nostalgia of Andrew W.K still at the forefront of my mind it was time to head to Bristol’s premier venue for their most high profile tour yet. Promoted by Metal Hammer and subject to a lot of press, this tour could have been seen as a passing of the torch as it featured three support bands that are all being touted as the next big things in metal much like the headliners were at the beginning of the 2000’s.

The O2 Academys ridiculous policy of opening the doors at 6pm meant there was little time to dilly dally and it was straight into the venue and upstairs (thankfully open) for the first band. I was hugely excited to see Welsh death metal crew Venom Prison (8) take the still filling room by the scruffs and set about destroying everything in their path. A maelstrom of blistering riffs from Ash Gray and Ben Thomas, a vicious rhythm section consisting of Mike Jefferies and Jay Pipprell came together from Hell’s undercarriage. Venom Prison were determined to make a name for themselves on this larger stage and my god did they, taking tracks from their debut album Animus the entire band were a flurry of unadulterated rage with Larissa conducting the mayhem and spitting bile with every line she barked down the mic.

What stood out though was the clarity of the mix meaning you could hear every note that was being played opening your eyes to the complexity of these songs rather than thinking it was just pure fury. 30 minutes flew past and the pits were already kicking off in the middle of the room incited by the hostility that was coming to the stage. With the room only half full as they started playing I thought that Venom Prison got a bit of a raw deal as it was only towards the end of their set that they started cooking on gas and the crowd responded in kind. Acts like VP thrive on this symbiosis between band and audience so in a slightly smaller venue they are unstoppable but here they gave a great account of themselves despite a mostly unmoved crowd.

With probably the rawest and heaviest band of the night opening proceedings Power Trip (9) had to do things a little differently and they burst onto the stage with scything crossover thrash riffs and loads of stomping grooves. The Texas band was on fire their most notable song Executioner’s Tax (Swing Of The Axe) coming early in the set, it was a bold confident move that paid off as the slightly unruly pits started to kick off again buoyed by encouragement from Power Trip, their music needs to be head banged to and the now packed O2 acquiesced this request with vigour. With the majority of the group statically plugging away frantically at their instruments your eyes were drawn to the wild hardcore slam dancing of the frontman who when he wasn’t slugging Bourbon, bouncing around like a nuclear powered Energizer bunny and fly kicking thin air he was barking down the mic usually while on the floor. Elements of Anthrax, Suicidal Tendencies and Slayer were all firmly fixed in place for 30 minutes of an unrivalled thrash metal assault. If Venom Prison were here to make an impact through the medium of head trauma, then Power Trip were trying to take the rest of the body out too. Now if we could see this in a field in Derby sometime in August that would be great?

With the room now full to the gunnels it was time for the exclusive UK support act Code Orange (6) a band I’m really nonplussed by. Hardcore is not a genre I find appealing and when they supported Gojira they were bloody dreadful in my opinion, with the frequent stops killing their momentum. This time they faired a little better, seeming to be a slicker unit using their reckless, untempered performance style to great effect as bassist Joe Goldman prowls the stage and the dual vocals added to the overall effect of a danger the band rely on in their music. The problem I have is that their songs all seem to drift into one and they did kill any momentum with quite slow track to finish, the audience went nuts however so maybe it was me or perhaps fatigue was starting to set in by now as it did start to feel as if I’d been locked in a cage with Brock Lesnar.

Still a nice 30 minute change over allowed time to prepare for a for what was about to come, with Maiden’s Run To The Hills exploding out of the PA Trivium (9) confidently took to the stage with new drummer Alex Bent behind the colossal kit and hit the ground galloping with the title track of their last album The Sin And The Sentence a tour de-force of a song and the closest thing to their breakthrough as they’ve gotten without sacrificing their more technical approach, next came Throes Of Perdition from Shogun which increased the complexity again prowling the stage frontman Matt Heafy was in fine vocal form leaving Corey Beaulieu to handle the harsh vocals as both of them linked to create an awesome guitar pairing as Paulo Gregoletto bass work could be picked out as some of the finest around.

Much of the set was drawn from The Sin And The Sentence but they played at least one song from every album, with Vengeance Falls the only exception, this was due to the addition of Light To Flies and Drowned And Torn Asunder were two extra tracks from their UK breakthrough record Ascendancy near the end of the set, they replaced Strife meaning nothing from VF was showcased. Before then this though Ascendancy (the song) gave the first sing along of the night as Sever The Hand and Inception Of The End got yet more pits sort of moving. (I could rant about pit etiquette but I won’t).

Like I said I’ve seen Trivium many times but here they seemed like real arena headliners, the performance was slick, the light show was mesmerising and the set list had enough peaks and troughs to keep your head banging away and your fist pumping, with the between song speeches kept to a minimum rather than becoming overbearing, there were a few thanks and a little side note about the UK being ‘home’ for the band, then it was back to guitar shredding and proper metal. Becoming The Dragon sat nicely as mid set melodic track with Beaulieu and Heafy duelling in the solo section. Trivium were on imperious form here and when the encore of Shattering The Skies Above, Pull Harder...and In Waves has concluded the entire crowd was hanging on every last note. A pretty good way to spend a Monday evening, ushering in the reign of the latest wave of world beating heavy metal bands.

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