Date: February 11, 2018
Review By Thomas James Henry Saunders
Photography by Graham Hilling
An evening of anticipation here tonight, give that Arch Enemy and Wintersun both are riding the wave off of their 2017 releases of Will To Power and The Forest Seasons respectively.
After traversing the high street bothering line, snaking around and impressively away from tonight’s venue, we are ushered into it’s crimson depths. The space, being more commonly utilized as a (sadly non-metal) nightclub, is a little labyrinthine-like, through tunnels and down elaborate stair cases we find ourselves at tonight’s stage.
The crowd pours in from all directions, first beers of the night in hand, as first band upon the stage Tribulation (2.5/5) of Sweden enter among thick smog and a certain love of theatrical make-up, before plunging straight into their opening track.
Their brand of blackened death metal makes for a good start to the night, the sound filling the space nicely and they certainly gain interest by their strong, theatrical style.
Their sound however, through the multiple styles on display here, do suffer from a lack of major depth in their tracks, albeit they are still certainly a band that thoroughly enjoy their stage-time, strutting about the stage and fully making use of the gothic aesthetic.
Vocalist Johannes Andersson does a fine job tonight, utilizing a strong grunting vocal style and using it to great, graveled effect. He holds himself with a strong sense of belonging to the stage, but despite this they are left a little cold by the audience, having to persevere 15 minutes into their set for any kind of participation form the now growing crowd.
During almost every song break Andersson calls out “LOOONNNDDOOONN” as a means of inciting a response from the crowd, which with his strong presence and powerful vocals, does work, eventually.
Guitarists Jonathan Hultén & Adam Zaars have to be mentioned for their commitment to their gothic atmosphere, creating an eerie and at times haunting dual guitar sound that reverberates well in this venue.
What they do, as a gothic themed metal band, with black, death, and a good deal of progressive influence, they do in good form, at points even being genuinely enjoyable to behold. But as opening act tonight I feel they were a little ill-received, perhaps unfairly by the stoic and unflinching crowd.
1. Lady Death
3. The Motherhood of God
4. Suspiria de Profundis
6. Strange Gateways Beckon
7. The Lament
After Tribulation’s farewell, the majority of the now bulging crowd stay put, saving their place during the 20 minutes before Finland’s Wintersun (5/5) attack the stage in full fury & excitement.
The last appearance of Wintersun here in London was at an overcrowded and sold out Garage event in 2013, so the atmosphere here among the crowd is a palpable one. Gauging by the sheer number of Wintersun shirt cladded fans that have sprung up, they certainly have the air of a headline act tonight.
As Jari Mäenpää and his ensemble rush upon the stage, the crowd erupts into pure joy, which is doubled up and thrown back by the enigmatic, yet excitable Jari as he pours his whole self into tonight’s performance. A near flawless set. They were on top form tonight, playing each track with practiced precision, enticing the crowd with their presence and enjoyable showmanship.
The highlight for me was the inclusion of perhaps their most powerful and immense song “Sons Of Winter & Stars”, sending the whole crowd, with little in way of persuasion into singing along as one to that mighty chorus. The only negative to be said about the set was that the sound mixing for the first couple of songs sent the guitars into a slightly murky and undefined sound.
With Asim Searah being given the responsibilities of back up vocals and guitar since mid-2017 , this leaves Jari Mäenpää to fully explore his own stage presence, unburdened by his guitar. And wow does he shine, galloping about the stage with glee and whipping up the excitement of the surging crowd with each gesture he clearly enjoys his onstage antics.
As their final track “Time” comes to a crushing close, the enthusiasm, cheers and raised fists are indeed a testament to their own glory. Certainly a band I wish would play at least annually, if only.
1. Awaken From the Dark Slumber (Spring)
2. Winter Madness
3. Sons of Winter and Stars
4. Loneliness (Winter)
5. Battle Against Time
With everyone, especially toward the front tentatively sipping their beers in hope it’ll last the final set, the interior of the Koko now feeling alive with sweat and energy. As the lights begin the dim for the last time tonight, a full volume recording of Motorhead’s “Ace Of Spades” plays out to great effect and signals the imminent oncoming of ARCH ENEMY (4.5/5).
They erupt on to the stage a great wall of cheer from the emotive audience, and, after their intro go straight into “The World is Yours” which serves as a great jumping point for these Swedish masters of noise to flaunt their worth.
Alissa White-Gluz is on fine, fighting form, throwing her kinetic energy along with that crushing growl of a voice of hers to fantastic effect. Her energy alone is powerful as she stomps, jumps runs and head-bangs with fury throughout the entire set.
The energy is turned up a few notches to total pit inducing fever as the band break into “War Eternal” and “My Apocalypse” from albums “War Eternal” (2014) and “Doomsday Machine” (2005) with Guitarists Michael Amott & Jeff Loomis playing blisteringly well here, pumping out sublimely fast riffing in fantastic detail and execution.
My highlight was without a doubt their choice to end the main set with “We Will Rise” from 2003’s “Anthems Of Rebellion” . The crowd, myself included, went into a frenzy as this anthem of theirs was impressively performed by Alissa and co.
Especially so as I whom before seeing them tonight had reservations to how she would compare to the prior front-woman’s vocal abilities, Angela Gossow. Needless to say, since seeing both iterations of this band play live I can say certainty that Alissa White-Gluz is a commendable show-woman and worthy successor.
As they return to the stage for the encore they blast through a further 3 tracks, ending with the crushingly heavy “Nemesis” From 2005’s “Doomsday Machine” which fires up the audience one last time into a furious swirling mosh-pit of sheer joy.
A powerful set, with impeccable sound, dazzling lighting effects and a solid performance that will not be soon forgotten.
Set Flame to the Night (tape)
1. The World is Yours
3. The Race
4. War Eternal
5. My Apocalypse
6. You Will Know My Name
7. Bloodstained Cross
8. Dead Eyes See No Future
9. The Eagle Flies Alone
10. Reason to Believe
11. As the Pages Burn
12. Intermezzo Liberté
13. Dead Bury Their Dead
14. We Will Rise
18. Fields of Desolation (outro)