The fourth installment of the Metal Hammer: Defenders Of The Faith IV tour once again threw together four top bands (possibly their strongest line up yet) in front of a packed and expectant Manchester Academy.

The evening started with Hell, and they drew a massive crowd for an opening band in the Academy. The NWOBHM legends put on a theatrical half hour show, which saw frontman David Bower prowling the front of the stage preaching to his followers. During ‘Blasphemy & The Master’ Bower produced a cat-o-nine-tails and proceed to whip himself. Using a headset instead of a mic added to the performance, as it allowed him to perform without any hindrance. Due to the short set, interaction with the crowd was limited but they did remark that they were onstage across the road from the local Catholic church, but hadn’t found time to “pop in” just yet. Only five songs but an excellent performance, and more than enough to set a high standard for the rest of the bands to follow.

Bleed From Within had the unenviable task of following, and the band I knew least about going into the show. Despite being the obvious odd one out of all of the bands appearing, they set about endearing themselves to the crowd straight away. This has been what the Defenders Of The Faith shows have always been about. The first couple of songs got a decent response, but the turning point in the set came after vocalist Scott Kennedy thanked the crowd for watching them “even if you think we are shit, you have stuck around and thanks for that”, an honest remark which gained them a lot of respect from the crowd. They knew most people were there for the other bands, but there commitment to giving everything they could for their half hour slot gained them a lot of new fans, with the pit growing bigger track by track. Definitely worth watching out for in the future.

A couple of early sound issues aside (you could barely hear guitarist Ben Ash in the mix for the first track), Carcass powered through a criminally short 40 minute set. Four songs from this years “Surgical Steel” release fitted in well with the more familiar classics which showed why the comeback was as anticipated as it was. Difficult to pick a highlight from such a good set. The four new tracks on show fit well in and the classics sounded as good as ever. The band have been back for a few years now, but with a new album behind them, there is a new fire behind the band. You could see the band were loving it as much as the crowd. When a band a crowd feed off each other like this, it reminds you what is so great about live music.

Vocalist Jeff Walker was in fine form during the night, asking how many Vikings were in the crowd, and then how many pathologists. “It’s been ages since we played in Manchester” he remarked later on. It has been a while, November 29th 1994 to be exact, I was there, just don’t leave it so long next time…

I have only seen Amon Amarth once before, as opening act on Slayer‘s ‘Unholy Alliance Chapter III’ tour in 2008, and although I knew they had become quite a big deal over the last five years, I didn’t realise just how big. From the moment the artwork from the latest album “Deceiver Of The Gods” was raised, till the last moments of the night, Amon Amarth put on a show which threatened the very structure of the Academy. Things only got more intense from there, with the lights looking like they were band were performing in the depths of Valhalla from early on in the set.

Bringing a slightly stripped down set from the summer festival adventures (no Viking longboat tonight), they used the big open stage well and with an impressive light show and plumes of smoke rising from the front of the stage. We were even treated to huge glowing rune stones at the side of the stage, it all just added to an excellent night. The band have made the transition well into bigger production shows, and more than have the talent to back it up. A consistently good band on record and even better live. Since this show they have been added to the Bloodstock Festival 2014. On this sort of form, this band will be heading further up the festival bill over the next few years.

Setlists

Hell:
The Age Of Nefarious – On Earth As It Is In Hell – Blasphemy And The Master – Something Wicked This Way Comes – The Quest

Bleed From Within:
Colony – Leech – Our Divide – I Am Oblivion – It Lives In Me – Uprising

Carcass:
1985 – Buried Dreams – Incarnated Solvent Abuse – Unfit For Human Consumption – This Mortal Coil – Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System – Genital Grinder / Exhume To Consume – Captive Bolt Pistol – Corporal Jigsore Quandary – Ruptured In Purulence / Heartwork – A Congealed Clot Of Blood

Amon Amarth:
Father Of The Wolf – Deceiver Of The Gods – Free Will Sacrifice -Death In Fire – As Loke Falls – Varyags Of Miklagaard – Runes To The Memory – Guardians Of Asgaard – Cry Of The Black Birds – Destroyer Of The Universe – War Of The Gods – Twilight Of The Thunder Gods – The Pursuit Of The Vikings

Photos taken by Sabrina Ramdoyal.