Miss May I get a very enthusiastic reception and deservedly so. With barely 25 mins to parade their wares for a crowd here to see the two heavyweights, they waste no time slapping us around the face with some raucous and neatly crafted metalcore business. Ones to watch for the future as their combination of natural stage presence and quality material gives them that something extra that many up and coming bands lack.
With album number six safely under their belts, Trivium are a very different kettle of metal. The Floridian quartet are seasoned road dogs with a huge back catalogue to choose from despite most of them only being a few years older than my favourite Maiden t-shirt.
The set faltered to begin with due to some young fainter collapsing at the front (despite the lack of any real crush or heat) but frontman Matt Heafy deals with the situation with aplomb. He stops the song dead, is clearly genuinely concerned and gets the house lights up and firmly orders the crowd to move back so paramedics can get in. He asks those close to the fan in question to let the band know later that their friend is ok and then, without missing a beat roars back into ‘Brave This Storm’, and re-ignites the previously charged atmosphere.
Ripping through new tracks like they’ve been playing them for years is testament to their stage craft and no matter how intricate or fast the riffs are, the headbanging rarely stops. Old favourites ‘Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation’ and ‘Like Light To The Flies’ still sound fresh and vigorous, fitting perfectly alongside more paced and melodic newer cuts such as the superb ‘No Way To Heal’. “The Ascendancy” era stuff is played with more of a sense of groove than ever before thanks in part to drummer Nick Augusto, who is now as much a part of the Trivium family as Travis ever was, if not moreso.
‘Strife’, a track that felt a little sterile on the latest album, absolutely brims with life and gets the crowd moving and chanting albeit soon there’s another fainter and lightweights stop play once more. At some point the yoof of today may learn their alcohol limits and/or realise that if you can’t deal with being in a moshpit…don’t go into a moshpit.
Trivium keep the pace up despite these interruptions and their musicianship is underlined by the fact that they clearly work really hard on nailing their vocal harmonies. This may seem a minor point, but in the live scenario it makes a huge difference to the sound and means the choruses are fatter without the need for backing tracks.
Despite the almost flawless performance it is never explained why they have a 3 foot high chipboard fence, painted to look like some rocks, running the entire width of the stage, forming a boundary between the drummer and the rest of the band. None more metal, though.
As a cloud of foamy snow falls on the band during ‘Shogun’ the crowd seem rather thrilled so my bemusement may make me an isolated killjoy, but it seems a wee bit daft in the grand scheme of things when a little pyro would fit the mood better.
Closing with the sonic duo of ‘In Waves’ and ‘Pull Harder’ is a guaranteed winner. A seething pit of young moshers and old crusties give it their all and I was not the only one hoarse by the end of the set. A band that have too often been written off as Metallica wannabes, Trivium continue to prove they stand head and shoulders above most on the metal circuit and still have bags of enthusiasm and no doubt more great albums to come.
And so to Killswitch Engage and their rebirth of sorts via new album “Disarm The Descent”. Bringing the rather introverted and enigmatic Jesse Leach back to the fore was an interesting move considering the abrupt manner in which he left the band all those years ago. It was clear at the time that being a professional musician – and more importantly one touring the globe – was not the life he wanted, or at least not one he felt able to cope with.
Interviews he gave upon his return made it clear he wasn’t stepping back into the fray lightly – on the contrary he wanted to make sure he got comfortable with the Howard-era material so he could deliver it with the same passion as his own lyrics and that is to his enormous credit. He also emphasised that he had thought long and hard about whether he was up to the task of being the frontman the band needed and being able to deliver in the live arena.
A couple of small gigs in London and Nottingham last summer proved that he is firing on all four cylinders and now Killswitch Engage are back to prove themselves to a much larger crowd.
A rapturous reception greets all five of them from the moment they bound out to the strains of ‘Eye Of The Tiger’. Owning the stage and inhabiting every one of their songs from the off, Jesse leads the band like he has never been away. It is a heartwarming sight and although he seemed happy and comfortable at the Rescue Rooms gig last year, here he really fills the part of singer and showman. His interaction with the crowd and sweaty ferocity give out the kind of energy that fans feed off.
Adam D on the other hand remains the court jester – jogging on the spot, gurning and bellowing occasional nonsense with glee. His trademark bandana and quite horrific jean shorts are an unwelcome sight to some and his antics can grate, but they remain a marked indication of how little this band care about style, image or cool and genuinely want to just play great music and ensure every punter goes home having been thoroughly entertained. His immsense skill as a guitarist, songwriter and producer should not be overlooked despite his ever present urge to be the Howling Mad Murdock of the band.
His announcement midset that Killswitch Engage is all about “beer, mediocre riffs and titties” is unfortunate in that it actually belies the technicality of the music, the sincerity and intelligence of the lyrics and the sheer magic of their glorious vocal hooks.
It must be heartening to any band to see people singing along to newer material but here there is a spectacle to behold as almost all of the capacity crowd appear to be singing all the words to the cuts from the latest album. As Adam pipes up again and hails the crowd to “do some slam dancing in a circular motion”, Jesse absolutely nails ‘Rose Of Sharyn’ and I cannot be the only one who, with a little sadness, has to report that Howard is not missed one bit.
The relentless pummelling of ‘Rise Inside’ is the perfect precursor to the smooth melodies of ‘Always’. If you can do power ballads this well then why the hell not. The Alice In Chains swagger of the main riff gives way to a heartfelt chorus about losing someone close. This is no mere emo-schmaltz, and is introduced with a touching monologue from Jesse whose family are currently dealing with the spectre of cancer. The fact that the bands asked all press and guest-list attendees to make a £5 donation to a cancer research charity was a nice idea to raise some cash for a worthy cause from the regular liggers and freeloaders.
Typically rousing renditions of ‘My Last Serenade’ and ‘Fixation On The Darkness’ receive yet more bombastic yells of delight from the gathered masses, and the typically British tradition of clapping along to an entirely different beat from what the drummer is playing is annoyingly brought to life once more.
The final trio of ‘In Due Time’, ‘End Of Heartache’ and ‘My Curse’ form the finest ending to a show I have seen in some time. Possibly my favourite three songs from their catalogue, blending power and melody with a wealth of emotion, I am hollering like a loon throughout.
‘My Curse’ in particular still sounds as vibrant as ever despite these fellas playing it a hundred times a year. The opening strains of AOR tinged twanging lead suddenly into the finest riff that Mick Mars never wrote before the textbook of “metalcore” gets rewritten by the groove and chant that follows. This is their ‘Trooper’ or ‘Enter Sandman’ – anthemic, uniting, and unlikely to ever be dropped from their setlist.
Having interviewed drummer Justin Foley earlier in the day it is clear there was a period after Howard left that the band worried about their future and where it would lead. Today is proof (if any of us needed it) that they are an unstoppable force with one of their best albums ever propelling them forward and packed out halls screaming the choruses and airpunching like their lives depended on it. Long may it continue.
Photos taken by Sabrina Ramdoyal in Manchester.