As I turned the corner on the approach to the Ritz, I was expecting to be greeted with a queue of monstrous proportions, given the talent on show in tonight’s billing, instead, the queue was average to say the least, which must have been down to the arctic winds which seemed to be blasting parallel to the building, keeping all but the hardened fans, assigned to the local watering holes. Once security gave the all clear, I made my way inside, picked up my photo pass, and radiated to stage left in anticipation for the Swedish death metal band Tribulation.

As the band marched onto stage, it was obvious from the outset that theses Swedes were out for blood, and they engraved their intentions clearly to the amassing crowd below. The band opened with ‘Lady Death’ and each subsequent tune which followed was delivered with ferociousness and competency any opening band would be proud of. The band were far from shy marionettes, as they frantically glided across the stage, back and forth, side to side, and constantly interacting and goading the crowd into reciprocating the energy which was flooding from the stage. Tribulation got a healthy 7 tracks to prove their worth, and they set the evening up nicely with their brand of Swedish death metal, accompanied by an androgynous look. The green lighting which bathed them for most of the duration of the show, created the atmosphere and intensity needed to go with the exhaustive stage show, and they certainly warmed the crowd up nicely for the following mobs.

Wintersun were up next, and there appeared to an increasing energetic wall of sound from the crowd, which clearly showed the love and anticipation the crowd had for the Finnish melodic death metal band. The Ritz was packed now, and the noise level had been turned up to 11 by the masses congregating in front of the stage. Wintersun notoriously have lengthy songs, and this added to the band only having a total of 7 songs allocated to them tonight. These were beautifully delivered with the ferocity and power we have all come to love from these Finns. The whole band seemed to be loving it tonight, and none more so than Jari Mäenpää who constantly had a joyful grimace on his face, reminiscent of a kid in a candy shop. The songs were intermittently punctuated with beautiful instrumentals and guitar riffs, which intertwined perfectly to create a flawless exhibition. The whole set was filmed, which, although no announcement was made by the band as to their intentions, this may point towards a future live visual release??

Wintersun had been given an hour, which seems generous for a support act, but this was needed due to the marathonic tunes, I just found myself becoming a little restless towards the end of the set, this may have been due to the massive anticipation for the behemoth juggernaut that is Arch Enemy. The lights dropped and the unmistakable chords of ‘The Ace Of Spades’ belted out over the PA, with the undeniable roars of Lemmy setting this place on fire, with the crowd belting every word back to the empty black stage. No sooner had the closing cords of the classic anthem rung out, than Erlandsson appeared astride his lit up kit, which generated a massive roar and cheer from the swathing masses now filling the venue. The opening chords of ‘Set Flame To The Night’ kicked in and the band strode out to a hero’s welcome, with the mastermind of Michel Amott leading the charge, and the unmistakable White-Gluz entering last, and maybe to the biggest cheer yet.

Alissa was energetic from the outset, striking photogenic metal poses and standing astride the strategically placed fans so that her electric blue locks flailed wildly. Michael Amott stood in the shadows, striding forward confidently to execute his solos with clinical precision, and the whole juggernaut was driven with a precise backdrop of technicality from Erlandsson and D’Angelo. Gluz-White, Ammott et al all seemed to be chucking everything at the gig tonight and they certainly didn’t leave any stone unturned when it came to classics. They pulled out a truly vicious ‘Ravenous’, and the whole place absolutely erupted. Back to back ‘War Eternal’ and ‘My Apocalypse’ generated a massive pit in the middle of the floor, this one only second to the pit which erupted during ‘We Will Rise’. The band seemed to be loving every moment of their time on stage, with the gathered hordes assembled beneath them, singing back every word to the anthems and catchy choruses, and almost everybody in the building was covered in sweat which seemed to be worn as a medal of honour for surviving the absolute beast that is an Arch Enemy show.

When the band stride back on stage for the encore, they are met with another demonic, maniacal roar from the masses, and the band launch into ‘Avalanche’, ‘Snow Bound’, and then ‘Nemesis’, which is the catalyst for pure carnage and the hell which had been simmering for the last 80 minutes.  The band finally call it a day, just before they request one last favour of the crowd, the obligatory picture with their friends in Manchester. Arch Enemy, it truly has been a pleasure, and if I can say one last thing, don’t be strangers

  Review and photos Phil Pountney