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Thursday, 11 April 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: In Flames (Live Review By Paul H)

In Flames, Norma Jean, Light the Torch, SWX Bristol

Not a gig I’d usually have been that interested in, this proved to be a decent evening and for me the discovery of a band who really killed it in the live arena. A close to sold out venue, with the queue snaking way up the hill around the back of the venue, this was night five for the tour, which will travel through parts of Europe before concluding with a gig in Russia at the end of April.

SWX is taking in some decent bands in recent times, and despite the stinking stench of a number of the audience who really should take a bath now and again, combined with the usually spotless toilets reeking of urine, there was opportunity to grab a reasonable vantage point and listen to another excellent sound.

I knew about Light the Torch (9), the metalcore outfit from Los Angeles. Formerly known as Devil You Know, what I wasn’t familiar with was their music, metalcore rarely making an impact on me, But Light the Torch were superb. With Howard Jones on vocals, Francesco Artusato on lead guitar, bassist Ryan Wombacher and drummer Micke Sciulara, they promptly got into their 30 minutes and delivered a captivating set which was so impressive. Jones is a fine frontman, a massive stage presence and one of the best voices in metal today. Wearing a plain black t-shirt and cap, he dominated the centre stage, his energy evident as he jumped on and off the monitors whilst his interaction with a certain local singer ended up with some self-deprecating humour. With only half an hour, the band raced through a seven-song set of six tracks from 2018’s fine Revival and Consume The Damned from 2016’s They Bleed Red. The movement of made this a visually enjoyable set, but it was the quality of their music which really made me take serious notice.

A more aggressive straightforward take on metalcore next with Georgia’s Norma Jean (6) a band with no original members and who have been reconstructed around vocalist Cory Brandan, who has fronted Norma Jean since 2004. This was pure in your face metalcore with little subtlety. An energetic start saw the band working hard, their frightening intensity matched by some bone fracturing heaviness. The set included four songs from their most recent 2016 album, Polar Similar. A simple but effective lightshow and clear sound helped but the one-dimensional sound became a little wearing after a while and despite possessing the heaviest sound of the night, their set was the least enjoyable. If You Got It At Five, You Got It At Fifty did spark the first pits of the evening and their high energised show did elicit a warm ovation.

In Flames (7) position in the founding of melodeath metal is assured. In recent years, the band has strayed further away from their origins, much to the dismay of the purists. However, the band still pull huge crowds, and this was a partisan mob who cheered the Swedes every move or their importance in the world of heavy metal. Their recent I, The Mask album is much improved on recent efforts, and several tracks from it were aired. Utilising a blinding bank of lights In Flames emerged to a tumultuous welcome and hit the ground running with Voices. With tracks from ten of their thirteen albums, it was unsurprising that the band focused on recent albums Battles, Siren Charms and Sounds Of A Playground Fading to select the core of the set. A brief return to 2000 saw a blistering Pinball Map raise massive cheers. However, like Norma Jean, In Flames do have a formula that whilst tried and trusted blends after about 12 tracks. They also threw in a couple of rotten tomatoes in Monsters In The Ballroom and The Chosen Pessimist. Aside from this, no-one could complain with a slick and polished show that benefited from a typically partisan crowd but by the end of the main set I was flagging with the repetition and left the crushing, stinking throng to their final couple of songs and their farty anal stench.

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