As I ventured into the Leeds arena, I was met with a monstrous ramp of colossal proportions leading out from the stage into the standing area and back again, creating what was simply named The Parasite Pit and housed the lucky few who had secured themselves yellow wristbands by one method or another.
Tonight’s bill was the epitome of eclectic lineups, each band undoubtedly bringing with them their own fanbase in order to add to the numbers on this cold December evening and first up were the Godfathers of Grind Core, and their forty plus year back catalogue, Napalm Death.
The lights dimmed and the maniacal Barney led the charge in his usual frenetic style, raging from side to side and injecting so much attitude and energy into the whole performance it was tiring just observing it. Embury and Harris really had no choice but to remain in their chosen flanks given the limited confines of the stage that they had been apportioned but they commanded these with ease, managing the fretwork with power and precision, manipulating the strings with ease and confidence and creating a soul on which Herrera was able to add the pure muscle from the kit which sat proudly behind all the mayhem that was happening before our very eyes. Now when your set list is lucky enough to boast absolute classics in the guise of ‘Dead’, ‘You Suffer’ and ‘Scum’ then you really are entitled to sit back and deliver your wares like the demigods that you really are, and deliver them they certainly did tonight. With echoes ringing around the arena from many a person that they had just witnessed a set which many chalked up as the best they had seen Napalm Death in the live setting then you can truly class this brief encounter as a success, take a bow gentleman, that really was insane.
As the Newport Reggae Metal juggernaut was about to hit us it was evident that the crowd had swollen somewhat in anticipation for the arrival of Benji and the Newport Helicopter inducing crew. Skindred launched onto the Leeds stage and absolutely battered us from start to finish, the ‘Imperial March’ initially carved us open and was jazzed up with a heavy dose of Reggae and Funk, too jazzy ??, most definitely not. Benji and his wingmen then continued the set with vigour and drive, utilising the ramps to full effect, giving them chance to get up close and personal with the standing segment of the arena. The set was punctuated with the likes of ‘Stand For Something’, ‘Gimme That Boom’ and the colossal ‘Kill The Power’. The crowd were one of the loudest and enthusiastic I had seen for a while, the whole floor and sides were moving in unison to Benji’s commands and the pure rhythm of the tracks being belted out from the speaker stacks, it was impressive to stand back and watch the whole arena move like a pulsating ocean, all orchestrated by the enigmatic Benji Webbe. As the set drew to a close, that could mean only one thing, and pockets of the crowd were already anticipating the phenomenon that they were about to be a part of, yep, it had to be the helicopter, and hell it was delivered and constructed with full blown maniacal zest and gusto, a fantastic end to a fantastic visit from this insane Welsh troop.
As the clock ticked by, the house lights faded away and the stage was lit up with all manner of video screens and lighting, the volume on the Volbeat faithful turned up to 11 in anticipation for the arrival of the Danish juggernaut and then boom, Poulson et al emerged to a heroes welcome. From the off the ramps were utilised to full effect, a mike stand had been positioned at the end of the runway, central, so that Poulson could interact with as many souls as possible which only encouraged the Leeds voices to sing every word back at the stage with volume and power. Caggiano struck the ever imposing rock persona with enviable ease which he seemed to be able to exude without even blinking an eye, influencing and working the strings with absolute perfection and constant elaborate flair. Boye Larsen managed stage right with dedication and aptitude, teasing the walkway with increasing presence and residency as the set grew throughout the evening. The band settled into their set with a rousing ‘Pelvis On Fire’ and a punchy ‘Temple Of Ekur’ before launching into a perfect ‘Lola Montez’ which seemed to be a springboard on which to launch the rest of the set into the stratosphere. The crowd were loud, so loud, and this was only testament to the love and devotion that the band seemed to pour out to the gathered Yorkshire masses. Poulsen admitted that he was suffering from a cold tonight, and had been for a couple of days, but they didn’t want to let anyone down so he would just be ducking out of some lyrics, strategically chosen in order to allow his voice to hold out for the entirety of the show, I have to say, if he hadn’t declared it then I personally wouldn’t have been any the wiser, his vocals were strong and potent, dominant and intense throughout. As the set drew to a close, we turned and headed out into the cold December evening, on a massive high from the rock show we had just survived, an absolute behemoth of an event and one that will stick in my mind for a long long time to come.