When I saw this five band bill I couldn’t believe the brutality yet variation as four of the bands are from Australia (and came on the back of seeing the Aussie duo Parkway Drive and Thy Art Is Murder the week before) and one from Slovenia making this, for me at least, an utterly essential gig to attend and a pleasure to review. The only non-southern hemispherical band on the bill was Within Destruction but kicking the whole night off was Hollow World from Melbourne as I decided to deck myself out in an Aussie metal band shirt (Belligerent Intent in case you’re wondering) to see if the bands playing knew who they were, which they did of course and apparently one of the band members in Hollow World, I think, had actually made the shirt I was wearing, small world eh. However I digress, this was a very early start as HW were due on at 6.40 hence I had to set off very early with my shooter and a friend who was driving at tea time to avoid Manchester’s notorious traffic problems, but we got there and HW hit the stage to a decent crowd that had arrived in spurts as the first words spouted by their amiable vocalist were something along the lines of “you’re all sticking to the back wall like you’re on Velcro, so move forward”. They did of course as I was already stood near the front to the left in my usual place at this venue as the band proceeded to kick the crap out of us with their modernised brand of death metal that incorporated some fine catchy riffs and the occasional slam riff for added brutality. The singer constantly engaged with us, not quite berating us but teasing us to get closer as he stood on a constructed platform that was made because space was minimal on the stage due to the two double bass drum kits. There was some nervousness in the musicians that seemed to dissolve when “Defiling Paradise” was played as the audience was made to move closer still as I felt the drummer was possibly the most miserable looking dude I’ve seen for a long time and I put that down to him being cold, though the venue was rather sultry compared to other times I’ve been in there. Some chat ensued from the vocalist about Manchester crowds which he said he thought was bullshit but he said it’s true and thanked us for turning out early as by now the venue was filling up and the band launched into “Wildfire” with its detonating riff and blasting foray. Closing their set was the excellent ‘Rose Of Rancid Petals’ with its groove bass infestation spliced with lead break splattering. The double kick barrages flooded through the song and I could see why it was the closing song of the set as Hollow World set the bar very high for the other bands and I went over to buy their stuff, but was saddened when I could only get a shirt as they had no CDs with them.

 

I have got to mention the merch now that I have, every band on this bill was selling their stuff at good prices with some shirts at £10 and the most expensive at £20 and that was an all over print I bought from Within Destruction. Even long sleeves were only £15 and most of the prints were full colour, Psycroptic had a half all over print for £15 which was superb and if these bands can do it others can too and still make some money I’m sure. Rant over!

Up next were a very different proposition, Hadal Maw also from Melbourne whose set began with an intro piece before blanketing the audience with a wall of noise. The bands utterly dense sludge like sound was initially missing the kick drum but thankfully it found its way into the mix as the band were the epitome of death metal grotesquery. Their technical expertise was embedded within intense periods of onslaught where the band stood statically not engaging with us much as wave after wave of oppressive sonic malfeasance seemed to just suffocate the whole venue. I’m sure many found it difficult to absorb their reverberating density which when you attuned to their songs was utterly barbaric and similar to another Aussie act Sanzu that I also like a lot. The unerring pulverising power of ‘Simian Plague’ which is the only song title I could garner of their set if I am right, you were taken along a sludge riddled journey as every song blended into the other so it all became one cohesive and gruesome barrage that I personally found extremely cathartic. Their brand of death metal was different offering disparate riffing set against a rampaging rhythm section that for all intent and purpose sounded like an earthquake occurring such was its low end saturation and was enough for me to go and buy their shirt which are designed and drawn by the band.

Sandwiched between the Australian acts were Slovenian slammers Within Destruction who had clearly brought in a contingent of Slamchester fans and just in case you were in any doubts they were a slam band they put two huge white signs on the left and right of the stage stating TRUE SLAM. The band were cataclysmic on stage and proceeded in delivering a textbook slam death metal demolition that was loaded with backing track atmospherics which I’ll forgive as they worked to bolster the sound. Also the drummer had the weirdest kick drum I’ve ever seen, and was probably an electronic pad but was very effective nonetheless as the band made a seismic racket that ricocheted around the venue with colossal bass bombs sending out sound waves that were bone rattling but immense. The singer stated I know you guys like to be called Slamchester as “Plague Of Immortality” exploded with a bass bomb to kick it off. I cannot understate how heavy this band was, the low end guitar riffing complemented the drumming superbly as the pit was now gathering momentum and I could see that the band had attracted a few crowd killers unfortunately. “Extinction” followed and the pit continued to be violent and a dangerous place to be as the bass bombs acted as fuses for the pit to change style for the stupidity that eventually saw one their throng laid out by someone who wasn’t involved in the pit and had tried to do the crowd killing. The guy was out cold and like the cowards they are his one, two or three so called friends pulled up their hoods and quickly left the venue leaving their mate out cold on the pit floor. The band stopped playing while security came in, someone wanted to call an ambulance but that didn’t happen, he was brought round and given some water to drink and taken to the side and was OK. His mates didn’t come back in and gives me call to quote Vernon Wells as Wez in Mad Max 2, “YOU! You can RUN, but you can’t HIDE!” and take that as a lesson you cowardly morons. The band continued with “Human Defect” I believe and normal service pit resumed as “Desecration Of The Elapsed” hurtled their set to its finale with a crushing slam riff and resonating bass bombs which they did rely on a lot but they worked in stoking up the crowd. Closing their set was “Deathwish” or “D E A T H W I S H” as it is spelt on the album cover and again the monstrously heavy song was battering and punishingly destructive and left the crowd with no doubts that Within Destruction were perfectly placed on this bill and I proceeded to empty my bank balance at their merch stand.

I think most people at the gig were expecting Aversions Crown to headline but judging by the number of people that were continually at Psycroptic’s merch stand a decision may have been taken for them to swap round as indeed Aversions Crown played next. This Brisbane based bunch like the other bands were comprehensively different to the other bands and though their brand of music is deathcore based there is a technicality embedded in their music you might not expect as they hit the stage after a short intro with “The Breeding Process” which I missed part of with buying merch and beer. “Hybridization” followed and as the place was smothered in smoke the band forged ahead with a brutal display of expert musicianship that was saturated in atmosphere. I must admit I wasn’t expecting much from the band but they excelled my expectations completely with emotive guitar work on “Prismatic Abyss” multi-layered musicality centralised around a brutalising bombardment from the drums and bass work. There was little pit action and if truth be told it didn’t need it, their music was encapsulated in atmosphere with people absorbing their songs nodding their heads in unison on tracks like “Ophiophagy” and primal onslaught of “The Oracles Of Existence”. Don’t misinterpret my superlatives of atmosphere as dilution of power and violence as the band was pulverising, a sonic decimation equivalent to every band that played especially on “Odium” which was outright pounding and very cool with its guitar inflections embellishing throughout. Closing their magnetic set was “Erebus”, darkening the venue as gun fire ricocheted around the venue before it started. The escalation in speed was awesome culminating in the blast beat and lingering atmospherics and differentiated guitar work that terminated their ferocious yet intelligent deathcore offensive.

I’ve always loved Psycroptic, they’ve offered something different outside the normal death metal genre and whilst there are plenty of other death metal bands substantially more technical than this Aussie bunch they write songs with panache, put albums together that have power that is more than the sum of their parts and their live shows are blistering and tonight was no different as they breezed on stage with no intro and launched into “We Were The Keepers”. Unlike the other bands they used minimal lighting, preferring vertical front lights point up only that were a nightmare I suspect for my shooter, making every band member silhouetted against the stage. The vocalist took a no holds back approach he stalked the stage predatorily as the guitarists synchro headbanged perfectly and was a sight to behold in the minimal light especially when rotating through the colours. “Carriers Of The Plague” followed and the singer demanded the crowd take two steps forward, then two more saying don’t be stingy. Telling us “we’re Psycroptic from Tasmania” they barrelled into the song amid more head banging as a sample acoustic guitar began “Euphorinasia” started. The pit finally kicked off and we finally had a death metal show as the momentum was ratcheted up mainly due to the drumming display which was uncompromising throughout the bands set but I really enjoyed the playing on this song.

“Ob(Servant)” was blasted at the audience retaining the impetus for the crowd and whilst you could tell the band was a well-oiled machine there was an organic feel too, a brutality that threaded into there that I felt was possibly missing the last time I saw them as they slowed down for “Upon These Shores”. The crowd was fully immersed now, as was I, as the song offered a more subtle side and with the band playing the headline slot they chucked in an extra track, “Frozen Gaze” which was tangentially brutal to what preceded it. As the set was coming to its close I expected them to ramp up the power but instead they slapped in a bridging interlude ready for “Echoes To Come”, this is why Psycroptic make themselves different, as the song channelled the energy through a different avenue and left only the title track of their last album, “As The Kingdom Drowns” to finish their flawless set. Capitalising on the continuing momentum the band drove the song at the crowd ferociously but with dexterity and it is fair to say Psycroptic definitely deserved to headline this astounding five band touring package which savagely mauled Manchester.

WORDS: MARTIN HARRIS

PHOTOS: ANDY POUNTNEY