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The Misplaced Metalhead Volume Eight

Chimaira’s Age of Hell Tour

Promoter: eOne Music

Date: Sunday 25th March 2012

Venue: The Joiners, Southampton

Bands: Chimaira, Revoker, Neosis, Dukes of Agares

Sunday’s an odd day for a gig, don’t know what it is. Probably the fact that, traditionally, people have work the next day (myself included) so you’re more likely to get gigs on Fridays and Saturdays when people have the following day off and can go absofuckinglutely mental. Nevertheless the atmosphere of anticipation in the Joiners was palpable. This was my first time seeing a genuinely big time band in such a small venue so I was looking forward to great things not just from the show but from the crowd too. This tiny venue with its oddly L shaped layout was sold out and once doors opened the crowd came pouring in.

Greeting us with a bang was opening support act Dukes of Agares, a band who, frankly, look like they’d be more comfortable on a fishing weekend than performing for a slew of Heavy Metal fans. Nevertheless their collectiove age was pittance compared to their collective talent and their chugging riffs came thick and fast, washing over the crowd and firing us up with some good old fashioned Death Metal glory. Vocalist Geoff Kinch has a voice which sounds like James Hetfield gargling nails and suited the stripped down and raw sound this band has achieved perfectly, accentuated by some collossal shredding and backing vocals from Ian Yabsley, diversifying their sound in what can often be a touch of a homogenised genre. The purposeful and grinding guitar work was kept on track by the tight bass and drum lines ensuring a monolithic behemoth of sound, unsoppable and pounding through everything in its way.

Probably my favourite thing about this act though was their sense of humour, with such doom laden style and lyrics its always great to see bands ripping the shit out of themselves and having a laugh. Let’s face it, live metal in venues like this is often a young man’s game and the guys were perfectly willing to joke about their comparative seniority but one thing’s for certain, the talent and experience that Dukes of Agares opened this gig with was anything but a joke.

Once Dukes of Agares had left the stage we would be waiting a while for the next band to get ready as, in my years of going to gigs, I have never seen anybody quite as obsessive-compulsive with their sound check as second support Neosis. It wasn’t until they were absolutely sure that everything was perfect that the set began. With eight guitar strings and five bass strings in tow, Neosis were promising a lot just by walking on the stage, boasting high end equipment which demands respect and better not be wasted. I’ll be honest and say it took me a while to get in to these guys. There was a polyrhythmic, almost math-core style on display which demanded the sort of attention which made a mosh out difficult, owing to the odd timings and changes on display. It wasn’t until halfway through their second song that I got my feel for it and bowed down to the intricate fretwork of guitarist Greg; who flew across all eight strings to create incredibly technical solos befitting years and years of practice and showing that flare which sets this band out from contemporaries of the genre.

The extended length of these songs created an incredibly experiential atmosphere that took you on a journey through their warped view on the world (check the band’s myspace, trust me) and threw you out on the other side wondering what the fuck just happened. Unfortunately, I have to admit, I found the set to have a bit of a forgettable quality to it. The talent and technique were both there but I came away not having felt anything in the same way I had for the opening act. Sometimes simplicity is the answer when you want to communicate these massive ideas and feelings and in this respect Neosis have somewhat trapped themselves in complexity. I’d still recommend them though, if you like that sort of thing.

As the time ticked away and we got closer and closer to the sainted Chimaira there was only one support act left to take the stage; the South Wales rock powerhouse Revoker. I’m probably going to slip into a lot of cliche here but here goes, some words to describe Revoker: Aggressive, strong, powerful and fucking alive (Told you). Like Bullet for My Valentine in their early days, Revoker brought an uncompromising rock sound tinged with all the grit and hardness of balls to the wall metal. There was a vibrant and accessible quality to the band’s music which set them apart from the throng of doom laden aggression of many bands in the contemporary metal landscape and, at times, that’s exactly what you fuckign want from a band. Particularly impressive were the blistering solos firing from the fingers of guitarist Chris Green which set of the explosion of the night’s first moshpit. I don’t know what it is about Wales, maybe it’s in the air, maybe it’s that there’ fuck all to do outside Cardiff (so I’m told), whatever the case – it fucking rocks.

When Revoker left everybody was fired up to fever pitch and ready to crush some skulls in reverance of Chimaira’s latest offering ‘The Age of Hell’. Problem is that with big bands like this there’s often a lot of tech to get sorted so we had to sit through the sight of the roadies doing their work. In most gigs this is where the energy drops but not this one. Incense sticks were set off and the soundtrack changed to a chilling mix of ambient sounds, creating an atmosphere of intense anticipation so that all we knew was there was something special coming. Sure enough, as Chimaira took to the stage and launched full tilt into their opening number the ferocity from earlier had not dissapated at all and I instantly found myself hurled to the opposite side of the floor under the power of the pit.

The aggression of Chimaira’s music was like a shot in the arm for all of us, dosing the whole crowd up with a feral rage few gigs are capable of. In this small venue the pit was all encompassing and flamed higher and higher with each passing song. Every note, drum beat and scream came hammering down upon us and reverberated around to create a sea of metal madness, ensnaring everybody in its thick waves. Listening to the music you could tell this was not just hype; despite the almost entirely new line-up Chimaira sound as tight as a band who have been playing together for years and not one part of the thrashing groove metal monster slacked as they broguht their rage down upon us. Lead guitarist Emil Werstler was particularly on fire with his intricate yet powerful solos punctuating the end of several songs and hypnotising us all as the rest of the band fell silent, momentarily taking the focus off of the one-man powerhouse of Mark Hunter on vocals. Only being familiar with one of Chimaira’s albums (the latest one) I saved most of my moshing for the insane ‘Year of the Snake’ and was completely blown away by how well it translates to the live atmosphere, particularly the punishing breakdown and vocals of keyboardist Sean Zatorsky.

You may rememebr me saying that Sunday is a weird day to have a gig on and now I get to the main point as to why. Everything, including TRAINS, operates on Sunday trading hours so with the gig finishing at 11.15, a twenty minute walk to the station and the last train home at 11.10…well…I’m sure you can figure it out. LEaving a gig in full swing absolutely sucks but, even seeing part of it, I feel like this was a gig I’m going to remember for a long time. It fucking rocked. There’s not really anything else I need to say.

Summing up:

Dukes of Agares: 8/10
Neosis: 6/10
Revoker: 9/10
Chimaira: 9/10

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