Back from Whitby for two days – where the sum total of live bands I saw was zero – and off to the first gig of what could be a busy November.
First band up were a band I’d never heard of before: Engel. Having done a little research, their past in various other Gothenburg bands is made plainly clear by their recorded output, but onstage they were a little different. The set opened with a backing track of programming, before the drums and riffs nearly knocked us off our feet when they kicked in. No, really – it was such an unbelievably loud juggernaut of noise that we couldn’t help but stand back and be at least a bit impressed. It wasn’t all like that, though, and at points they strayed into near-NuMetal territory, but broadly they sound like the more melodic end of the sound made popular by In Flames and Soilwork. I was not keen at all on the falsetto vocals that made apparences at points, though – to me they jarred badly with the bruising, chugging metal.
Ghost Of The Sun
Second support Katatonia were frankly the primary reason I was there. And despite a few sound issues, they didn’t disappoint. Aside from openers Ghost Of The Sun and July being lost in a chaotic sound mix (a real shame for Ghost… in particular), once that issue got resolved the band’s majestic darkness was able to catch the crowd’s attention properly. Aside from the last song and just one from the new album, the whole set was concentrated on material from Viva Emptiness and The Great Cold Distance, surprisingly, although that did mean airings for the two unassailable peaks from the former: a gloriously brooding Criminals and a soaring Evidence (which got the best reception of the set, and also made two of my gig-going companions make a point of remembering the album it comes from). The lack of new material was a surprise – ok, they only had a short amount of time, and the album Night Is The New Day only came out this week, but really, it’s awesome, and it would have been nice to hear more than Forsaker, as good as it was. A reminder of just how much Katatonia have changed over the years from their early incarnation was made all the more stark, too, by the closing Murder – where blastbeats and growled vocals made them sound like an entirely different band. Personally, I think their darker, more restrained incarnation nowadays is more effective, and I must remember to make a point to catch a full set sometime, and hopefully that will be somewhere with a more sympathetic sounddesk, too.
The Rise Of Denial
Pity The Sadness
As I Die
Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us
The Last Time
Say Just Words
Talking of change, that’s something Paradise Lost have pretty much made a career out of. If you know the band’s history or have followed it, you know the drill, but if you haven’t, here’s the short version. Start out as gothic/doom metal, steadily move towards cleaner vocals and more actual tunes, make an about turn into synth-rock, manage to alienate almost all of their old fans, they steadily move back to the gothic metal of old, culminating in the new album Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us which seems to have jettisoned the synths entirely. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the emphasis in the set was on what they were and what they are now, missing out entirely the really contentious stuff, with only one song from the three-album period of flirtation with synth-rock in the form of (an admittedly marvellous) Erased – and going on the ecstatic reaction to it, they perhaps could have got away with more of it.
Sadly sound issues took hold once again – how many more times does it have to be noted that simply turning everything up to eleven does not improve the sound – for the early part of the set, not that it detracted from hearing a track as old as Pity The Sadness so early on. What was notable – particularly in light of what I’ve said above – was how well the new songs dovetailed into the set side-by-side with the old stuff, and in fact old favourite As I Die sounded the poor relation compared to new album highlight I Remain that preceded it. Indeed, all of the new songs sounded great, but it was a joy for much of the latter half of the set to have pretty much all the older classics rolled out. One Second in particular provoked a joyous singalong from the whole crowd, and it was clear that by later into the encore that here is a band that are now (perhaps at last) perfectly comfortable with the position that they find themselves in. A band that have never been afraid to experiment, even if it might backfire, but have had a canny knack of coming back from the dead on more than one occasion, and are currently sounding better and more confident than they have in years. All told, a pretty good night.