Remember that volcanic ash cloud that balls’d up every plane flight in Western Europe earlier this year? Tom Dare does – the bloody thing stopped Arch Enemy coming to town. Last weekend he busted down to their rescheduled gig.
I have a dream. That one day, rock writers may go to a gig at The Kentish Town Forum and not bitch about sound problems. That every band will come on and sound crystal clear and at a respectable volume. That day is not today, however – and is probably further away than the day The Horned One toddles off to work driving a snow plough whistling ‘I Feel Pretty’ – but most of the bands come as close to overcoming these problems as you could really ask of them.
That’s why through absolutely no fault of their, openers Chthonic are totally hamstrung right from the start. They are perfectly energetic and engaging, but their riffs turn into mud immediately and the melody is buried underneath. You feel genuinely sorry for them – anyone who has listened to last year’s excellent Mirror Of Retribution knows the tunes they bring with them from Taiwan, and to come all this way only to get shat on by dodgy sound is horribly unfair. They deserve better than to be struck down by The Forum’s “unique” acoustics.
Someone seems to have turned Malefice down. It’s heavy fucking metal, it needs to be turned up, for crying out loud. But this being Malefice, this cannot hold them back – we’re not sure they’re medically capable of being anything but excellent live. Their pounding groove burns through the muddy sonic issues as they storm through a blistering set, frontman Dale Butler yet again whipping up a frenzy. On top of this, we are treated to a new track. It’s filthy, dark and as groove-laden as ever, but with an added level of vocal hook over and above anything we’ve heard from them before. Roll on the new album.
Grand Magus come on with little fanfare, but immediately own that stage. One glance tells you that these Swedes are fucking metal as fuck: aviators, Unleashed t-shirt, leather jacket, beard and big bastard-heavy metal riffs with balls-out vocals perfectly delivered. New songs ‘Hammer Of The North’ and ‘I, The Jury’ sound as immense as older numbers like ‘Wolves Return’. And despite there being just the three of them, they make more noise than anyone else all night. Such traditional metal isn’t supposed to sound as fresh and vibrant as this.
Slightly disappointing to see this drop off the setlist, for obvious reasons.
By the time Arch Enemy hit the stage, the bar has been set high. Performance wise, they match that standard. Angela Gossow is a hugely imposing presence on stage, and the band operates like a slick and well-oiled machine. And shit the bed, can they play. It is easy to forget what a stunning axeman Michael Amott is, but watching it in the flesh reminds you immediately however, and Daniel Erlandsson’s drumming is equally as masterful. And they have the tunes to back it up, the double-header of ‘Revolution Begins’ and ‘Ravenous’ early in the set hammering this fact home. There is an anthemic quality about Arch Enemy that few bands in their sphere can match – it’s thunderously heavy and vicious, but it sounds massive in a way that is rare for such aggressive music.
The only slight proviso once again is those fucking acoustics. It’s still too quiet – don’t bother with ear plugs tonight, you won’t hear anything if you’re not right next to the PA – some of the melodic leads are a bit muddied and Angela’s vocals should be much higher in the mix. It’s another case of the band doing everything right, having all the songs and playing them seriously stonking well, but being held back by factors beyond their control. It’s nights like tonight that make you miss the Astoria even more.
Arch Enemy @ Kentish Town Forum setlist:
Taking Back My Soul
I Will Live Again
Dead Eyes See No Future
Dead Bury Their Dead
We Will Rise