I think the last time I went to a gig in Milton Keynes was in at the Bowl in June 1998, but must say that other than it being a fair distance to get to, The Craufurd Arms did impress me as a live venue.

First up and within 15 minutes of the doors opening was Inhuman Nature. Sadly their sound wasn’t great. Every guitar lead morphed into a feedback loop that drowned out everything anyone else was doing. However, when the lead guitarist wasn’t wailing away, the chromatic riffs were pretty solid, as was the drumming, with death vocals thrown in for good measure.

I’d be lying if I said I picked out any song titles other than “Satan’s Claw” & “Taste of Steel”, but did see they had an album on sale, so hopefully they sound better on that.

Next up were Bloodshot Dawn, who were on the entire tour with the travelling Romans. This was my first introduction to a band that’s been around for 17 years and their technical death metal certainly impressed me. But not nearly as much as the drummer, who appeared to be doing the bare minimum, but was easily the most hard working musician on stage. His unrelenting footwork combined with intricate rolls and clever fill played at a manic pace with no apparent effort was truly a sight to behold. The 2 guitarists shared vocal duties, while the bassist backed them up when required for emphasis. The leads this time were musical and flamboyant, and didn’t detract from the songs but rather added far more to them than just dropping a rhythm guitar while a complex string of notes were being played. As they have a trio of albums to their name, I may give them a listen to see what else they manage to do in a studio setting that they couldn’t manage live. Their set also consisted of songs from all three and included “Smoke And Mirrors”, “The Quantum Apocalypse” & “Shackled” to name a few I managed to hear being introduced.

Once the stage was finally cleared of the backline & the lights dimmed, Fleshgod Apocalypse took to the stage in their finest Victorian attire, which ominously looked like they had been buried in a century ago, to the outro of “The Deceit” as the intro to “The Violation” which they threw themselves into as soon as they took up the positions. Unfortunately for me, the keyboards were set to the side of the stage & behind a speaker stack, so the only time I saw Francesco Ferrini was when he’d step out front to goad the crowd into roars & chants before disappearing back behind the veil to weave his magic & give us the sounds of a full orchestra. While spending most of the set on a raised platform beside Eugene Ryabchenko on the drums, Veronica Bordacchini would also make her way to centre stage when her soprano was the main vocal, like it is on “Sugar” & “The Day We’ll Be Gone”. The majority of vocal duties and interacting with the audience was done by guitarist Francesco Paoli, while bassist Paolo Rossi also did the clean vocals with lead guitarist Fabio Bartoletti adding his vocals on occasion too. They also varied their pace with slower heavier songs like “Healing Through War” and “Monnalisa” to more acoustic in the way of “Epilogue” while keeping manic ones like “Fury” & “The Fool” ready for later in the set when energy levels may have been waning for everyone bar those on stage. Wrapping up the evening with black metal sounding songs “The Egoism” & “The Forsaking”, and by going from insanely fast to more melodramatically moody, it felt like the evening had come to a fitting conclusion. While it was great seeing them in an intimate venue & knowing they could pull it all off without any undue airs & graces, I must admit that all this did was whet my appetite to see them when they return in October with Ex-Deo in tow.

(Marco Gaminara)