When you have a four-band card, and 3 of those are uber major players in the metal league, then you need an early door time in order to cram in sets of colossal size and nature. That was exactly what we got with the late afternoon time of 17.30 yet the only downfall with an early door time and rain of biblical proportions was that the opening band, Unto Others, had to kick off the tour package to a relatively modest crowd in the infamous Manchester theatre but this didn’t seem to stop the Oregon goth rockers.
Opening with a blistering ‘Heroin’, Unto Others were on a mission to convert some of the unfamiliar souls to their world and they accomplished this by filling their brief set with some of their career heavy hitters. ‘Can You Hear The Rain’ and ‘Nightfall’ both appeared to generate the most enthusiasm and energy of the set from the loyal faithful in the first few rows of the Apollo and with the stage bathed in moody and dim lighting from start to finish, the heavy rockers really did put on an accomplished set which started the ball rolling on the colossal bill which was about to follow them.
As video screens, strategically placed along the back of the stage, started to play scenes of gore and body mutilation, Jeff Walker and the Carcass juggernaut entered the fray. The crowd had now swelled to an impressive collective and Carcass were obviously out to destroy Manchester tonight. Walker stood front and centre, colossal bass in hand, and orchestrated the battering with overflowing ferocity and venom. The set was packed with classics, ‘Buried Dreams’, ‘Heartwork’ and ‘Exhume To Consume’, all of which saw Walker et al turn up the brutality and demand more from the rabid crowd below them. I’ve had the pleasure of catching carcass live numerous times in the live setting and I have to say that tonight, in Manchester, it was hands down their most aggressive, violent and vicious display I’ve ever been carved open to, impressive beyond belief.
As the stage was transformed behind a huge white curtain, emblazoned with the Arch Enemy infamous slogan, the anticipation for the melodic death warriors built to a crescendo which erupted as soon as the curtain dropped and the stage was lit up by the Amott and his crusaders. Launching into new kid on the block, ‘Deceivers, Deceivers’, the band looked hungry and stalked the stage like maniacs possessed. ‘War Eternal’ followed and then the classic, the anthem, the absolute beast that is ‘Ravenous’. Alissa rampaged around her arena, commanding and demanding more and more from the crowd that stood before her, Amott and Loomis intertwined with ease and precision to form guitar melodies and solos so enthralling it was absolutely mesmerising. As the set progressed with beasts such as ‘My Apocalypse’ and ‘The Watcher’, the stage was continuously lit up with pyros and flames which only added to the intensity of the Arch Enemy juggernaut. As ‘Handshake With Hell’ hit us, Alissa was allowed to unleash her cleaner side and treat us to some clean vocals which were so angelic and innocent it was truly beauty personified. I actually cannot explain how perfect and beautiful the vocals generated by White-Gluz were tonight, both the clean vocals and the growling and guttural efforts in equal measures. The set closed out with the absolutely titanic ‘Nemesis’ and was launched upon us, delivered with precision and passion, battering and bludgeoning with pounding desire, appetite and intensity. Take a bow Arch Enemy, that truly was magnificent.
Again, we were treated to a curtain eliminating our view of the stage while it got turned around for the Polish black metal demigods, yet it wasn’t long before the lights went down and we were introduced to a demonic figure stalking behind the curtain, diabolic and hellish in his movements and intentions. The curtain then dropped, and all hell broke loose. Behemoth had been set free and were about to deliver to us a huge slab of infernal black metal, perfect and faultless in its approach and construction. Nergal was a man possessed, spitting out the vocals with venom and toxic malice, each measured action was malevolent, composing satanic hymns with rage and zeal beyond their years. The set was assembled around a good cross section of the Behemoth back catalogue, ‘Ov Fire And The Void’, ‘Bartzabel’, ‘Off To War’ and the huge ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’. As the set closed and the band departed the battleground that was now scorched and scarred, Nergal, Orion, Inferno and Seth had truly put in a shift and delivered a lesson in how to construct and deliver mesmerising and hypnotic rituals of epic proportions. Behemoth lit the stage in every sense of the word and left the Apollo crowd with no doubt that black metal is well and truly alive in this world of so many uncertainties