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The Misplaced Metalhead Volume Two

Defenders of the Faith III

Promoter: Metal Hammer Magazine

Date: Saturday 1st December 2011

Venue: The Guildhall, Southampton

Bands: Trivium, In Flames, Ghost, Rise To Remain, Insense

Well this was a night I’m not going to forget in a long time. Arriving in Southampton by myself in the sodding rain I was not in the best of moods, not least because my cheap shoes had officially crapped out and I was struggling to feel my toes as the shoes filled with rainwater. Nevertheless, I powered on safe in the knowledge that for a meagre £25 (already spent) I would be seeing 5 bands including some of the biggest and best talent on the scene right now. I arrived at the venue, got in and waited patiently for the opening act to start.

Now Insense is a band I had  not heard of prior to their listing in the Metal Hammer advert so I was not too fussed about seeing them at first. That said, looking back on it, I am now a little pissed that the opening support started their set while I was disposing of my jacket in the cloakroom. I returned upstairs and found the Norwegian metalcore machine in full swing and getting the audience going for what promised to be a great night. Epitomising everything which is right about the metalcore genre, Insense brought a relentless, no-holds barred assault on the senses which left us hoping for more from their ever so short set. Particular highlights were Tommy Hjelm’s energetic vocal delivery and the unbridled ferocity of  Ola S. Hana’s basswork. Tarnished only by what I assume was a slight issue with monitors leading to some sloppy timings (making a decent headbang rhythm difficult) Insense proved their worth tonight and were perfectly placed to up the energy to fever pitch and lead us through to the rest of the gig.

With the energy now high enough to encourage some serious fucking moshing, we were then taken to an entirely new level with rising stars Rise To Remain. Unbridled is the best way I can describe the blistering set which followed. As soon as the young London metalcore outfit literally jumped onstage the room exploded with moshpits and headbanging left right and centre. The one thing that will stick with me as these boys played (besides the headbutt in the jaw when trying to help someone up in the pit) was the energy that vocalist Austin Dickinson and co brought to the stage. Jumping, running, headbanging and spinning around with all the relentless energy of a youthful band firing on all cylinders, Rise To Remain proved to everybody why the world is taking notice. With City of Vultures, Bridges Will Burn and Nothing Left bringing particular flare as some of their most recognisable songs, it’s clear that the boys are more than ready for the days when stadiums scream for them and, in my opinion, those days are not far off.

To bring the furious crowd into any more of a frenzy would’ve been nigh-on impossible so it was perfectly suited that Swedish wildcards Ghost were the next band to grace the stage. Far from the furious pitch set by Insense and Rise to Remain, Ghost instead took us down a dark and surreal path of utter theatricality. Outside of their existing fanbase, not much is known about Ghost except for their status as ‘James Hetfield’s favourite band’ and that they must be seen live instead of just listening to their album. Having now had the pleasure of seeing Ghost live I can honestly say I completely agree. As the 5 Nameless Ghouls entered the stage to the strains of a haunting melody we stood transfixed in wondering what was to follow. It was only when vocalist Papa Emeritus emerged in full Unholy Bishop garb and the opening bass riff of Con Clavi Con Dio began that we all knew we were in for something special. Ghost’s set cannot really be described as a metal gig but more of an act of theatre. Emeritus was truly hypnotising in his onstage persona, orchestrating the Nameless Ghouls and moving his whole body in an effortless glide, accentuating the majesty of this surreal blend of Swedish Doom Metal and performance art. Every movement painstakingly thought through, right down to the minutest flicks and adjstments of his Bishop’s robes with unprescedented precision and focus. With the sermon drawing to a close after 4 or 5 songs, Emeritus thanked us for joining them and finished with the haunting ‘Ritual’, reminding everyone in attendance, fans or otherwise, why these Swedish heathens are hot on the lips of some of the biggest names out there.

And so, from upstarts to rising stars and manic wildcards we come to what was, for many, the highlight of the night: Heavy Metal pioneers In Flames. Having been active since 1990, I don’t need to spend any time in this post describing In Flames, they have time and again proven their worth for over 20 years and tonight’s gig was a testament as to why they have lasted that long. As soon as they entered the entire crowd surged forward in palpable anticipation of what was to come. The five backlight sillhouettes of the Metal behemoth thundered through every single crushing track; double bass drums from Daniel Svensson sending a shockwaves right into our hearts and the guitar harmonies of Björn Gelotte and Niclas Engelin delivered with such fercious precision that the crowd erupted in ferocious pits and screams from our very souls. Earlier in the night Insense had shown us the new and emerging face of the Swedish metalcore scene but right here is where it all began. In Flames not only defined a genre but pretty much defined an entire generation and showed the world how it was to be done, none of the bands on tonight would be who they are now were it not for these guys and, even as someone who is not too familair with their work, you can see why. Uncompromising, brutal, brilliant. All summer up and ecapsulated in the closer ‘Take This Life’ which took the whole Guildhall into a Maelstrom of Metal.

Now you know you’re doing something right with your career when a band as established as In Flames are your lead support act. Trivium are the band with everything to play for on the metal scene right now with one half of the world hailing them as the saviours of metal and the other deriding them as shameless copycats. I, myself, am in the former camp and, having listened to latest album In Waves twice in the 48 hours preceding this gig, was looking forward to this one.

As the opening strains of Capsizing the Sea washed over the crowd we all knew what was coming and the Floridian foursome left us waiting just the right amount of time before launching into the brutal opener of In Waves, sending the room into a frenzy as we came together, screaming along. Following this blistering arrival to the stage each and every track was nothing short of perfect, an uncompromising plethora from Trivium’s entire back catalogue (including Ignition, a nod to the less than perfect third album which still had some pretty great bits) punctuated flawlessly by ‘Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation’ at the beginning of the gig and ‘Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr’ to close. Of course each of these songs encouraged some of the biggest pits I have ever been in, proving why these were the two specific tracks were the ones which brought Trivium to the wider public’s attention.

That said, the set was not one long mosh out and proves why Trivium have resonated with so many different people as there was a definite range on display. From the crushing ‘Dusk Dismantled’  with the whole audience screaming along through to the more sombre of ‘Departure’ and powerful love song ‘Dying in Your Arms’ the whole array was on display. Even in between songs Matt Heafy kept the crowd going with his positivity and commitment to the enjoyment of the fans. Constantly reminding us that this communal experience and our enjoyment was what they and the other bands played for, never once being too pretentious or taking themselves too seriously, even going so far as to deliberatly (I hope) fuck up the opening riff to Black a few times complete with clownesque ‘oops’ face.

With ‘Martyr’ finished Trivium left the stage and a few of us turned to leave but others knew better and it was not long before the guys were back and sent us off with an encore of ‘Down From the Sky’ and ‘Throes of Perdition’ in what had thusfar been a relatively Shogun-free gig.

So with that  it was time to head home. I was stiff, in pain, sweaty, hungry, cold, (Especially at Eastleigh station, Jesus) and my feet were still soaked. Despite all this the night was totally and utterly worth the money, the time, the travel and the pain. Metal is about being part of something greater than yourself and that night the pit and the people reminded me of that. The bands playing kept saying (With the obvious exception of Ghost who could not break character) to us that Britain was the first place to accept them and they truly felt that it was their favourite place to play. They were accepted, worshipped and genuinely happy there. Like them, I felt the same, like them, I was home.

Summing Up:

Insense: 8/10
Rise To Remain: 10/10
Ghost: 10/10
In Flames: 9/10
Trivium: 10/10

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