There’s a bit of a buzz in the Wulfrun tonight as arguably the most influential British metal band of the last twenty years begin their 25th anniversary celebrations by coming to the Midlands with a couple of their apprentices in tow.

And it’s for the first band on that a good portion of that buzz is about, for Swedish death/doom favourites Katatonia are playing their 2003 album “Viva Emptiness” in it’s entirety, albeit back-to-front. ‘Inside the City of Glass’ begins a little awkwardly but the band soon hit their stride and by the time they launch into ‘Omerta’ they’re flowing along nicely. The sound is very bass heavy and singer Jonas Renkse‘s vocals do get a little lost in the mix at times but as the set goes on there are visibly more and more heads beginning to nod along. With not a lot of room to move about on the stage the focus is on the songs rather than any stagecraft and Katatonia deliver a passionate performance, pleasing the faithful and making many new friends as the dying chords of ‘Ghost of the Sun’ rumble out of the speakers.

Katatonia setlist:
Inside the City of Glass, Omerta, Evidence, Complicity, Walking By a Wire, One Year From Now, Wealth, Burn the Remembrance, Will I Arrive, A Premonition, Criminals, Sleeper, Ghost of the Sun

Italian metallers Lacuna Coil arrive on stage to enthusiastic applause and although they give a solid performance there’s something not quite right, even after the sound gremlins that play up when both singers open their mouths and nothing comes out disappear. Despite protestations to the contrary, frontwoman Cristina Scabbia is the focal point of the band, both visually and sonically, and the front of the stage looks a little bit crowded, with Scabbia, frontman Andrea ‘Dave Wyndorf 20 years ago’ Ferro, bassist Marco Coti Zelati and guitarists Cristiano Migliore and Marco Biazzi looking like a prison protest march in their matching black shirts. The thing is, Lacuna Coil are good at what they do and they have a decent, heavy live sound that didn’t come across on their recent albums but they are infinitely less interesting when Scabbia is not singing. Frontman Andrea Ferro may be energetic on stage but his Marmite vocals don’t add anything to the songs or hold the attention like Scabbia‘s, and he ultimately comes across like a stage invader who managed to get lucky and grab a microphone. However, it doesn’t seem to matter to the swelling crowd who lap up strong versions of ‘Our Truth’ and ‘Swamped’ and respond to the band approvingly.

Lacuna Coil setlist:
I Don’t Believe in Tomorrow, Kill the Light, Fragments of Faith, Heaven’s a Lie, The Game
Our Truth, Upsidedown, Without Fear, Swamped, Intoxicated, Trip the Darkness, Spellbound

And so to this evening’s main attraction, and straight away Paradise Lost throw a curveball and hit the stage to a long-overdue and most-welcome ‘Mortals Watch the Day’, which is met with roaring approval from the audience. Those technical niggles are still in evidence as there is a slight delay before the electronic intro to ‘So Much is Lost’ begins – something that doesn’t go unnoticed by singer Nick Holmes – and that pairing of the traditional and the experimental sums up what a cracking setlist Paradise Lost can come up with in their 25th year, the death metal of the former sitting snugly alongside the dark electronica of the latter.

An atmospheric ‘Gothic’ is aired before Holmes, bassist Steve Edmondson and dreadlocked lead guitarist Greg Mackintosh abruptly leave the stage for some reason – perhaps those pesky gremlins again – and return again for a brilliant rendition of ‘Enchantment’ and then it’s full-throttle into the set as at least one song from each of their albums – except for 2001’s underwhelming “Believe in Nothing” – gets an airing. Nick Holmes is in fine fettle as he introduces most of the songs with a deadpan quip, even invoking an onstage argument about the strength of his lager, and genuinely seems to be enjoying himself (in his own way) as the band burn through some of their heavier material.

From their 1990 “Lost Paradise” debut, ‘Rotting Misery’ sees Holmes resort to his death metal growl and many grown men weep into their pints, before Holmes informs the crowd that the band haven’t played that song for “67 years” (probably just over 20, but the sentiment is the same). Ironically, the more melodic ‘One Second’ invokes a pit down the front before a singalong of ‘True Belief’ and “In Requiem” album track ‘Over the Madness’ brings things to an emotional close.

For any band with an extensive history, choosing a setlist that pleases everybody is impossible and it would be easy to criticise the band for not playing a certain song; ‘As I Die’ was notable by its absence and ‘Embers Fire’ would maybe have been more welcome than ‘Remembrance’ but it’s more constructive to comment on what they did play rather than what they didn’t, and Paradise Lost played a bit of a blinder with this set. Performance-wise they sounded as tight – possibly tighter – than they ever have and they still look the part, with Steve Edmondson and rhythm guitarist Aaron Aedy constantly moving and headbanging and Greg Mackintosh looking intense as he effortlessly peels off those blazing guitar solos. Drummer Adrian Erlandsson makes light of all the material and the different styles the band have in their back catalogue, switching from full-on double-kicks to slower, doom playing and making it look too easy.

So the band leave the stage as they arrived on it, with a rarely-played song and a rabid crowd, and Nick Holmes threatening that the band can kill themselves now they’ve hit the 25-year mark. Hopefully not, Nick, as we’re expecting you back for the 30th anniversary tour in the same crowd-beating form you’re on now. See you there… hopefully.

Paradise Lost setlist:
Mortals Watch the Day, So Much is Lost, Remembrance, Gothic, Enchantment, Faith Divides Us-Death Unites Us, Tragic Idol, Never For the Damned, Isolate, Say Just Words, Rotting Misery, One Second, True Belief, Over the Madness

Paradise Lost – Official Website
Lacuna Coil – Official Website
Katatonia – Official Website

Photos by Sabrina Ramdoyal