This was my fourth gig of 2020 and I doubt that there’ll be many touring packages that will be as brutal as this five band rampage that laid Leeds academia to waste. Transferring from the cold brisk night to the sizzling temperatures inside the Stylus venue meant stripping layers off for fear of melting as Texan bruisers I Am were already on stage. However with only a miniscule portion missed the band’s formidable deathcore thuggery, rife with plenty of slamming and breakdown riffing was warmly received by the already sweltering crowd which was very sizeable considering they came on at 6.30.
With songs announced in guttural tones I couldn’t quite make out except for “Grindstone” which possessed that inherent groove deathcore has as the singer continually berated the crowd for action which they duly obliged with as the deathcore aerobics saw plenty of partakers.
I was particularly keen to see US tech death metallers Rivers Of Nihil again after they opened for Revocation in 2018. I was also curious as to their reception given that this bill was four parts deathcore and one part tech death, but my fears for a lacklustre response were unfounded as they played a superb set laced with technical intricacies that took on a post death like poise on many of the songs.
You really had to stand and just behold the playing ability of the guys as they breezed through a ruthless sonic elegance that was captivating, the pick of which was closer “The Silent Life” though “Death Is Real” was equally astounding. The weaving nadiral qualities in mood were hypnotic and when balanced by the ferocious blasted sections the result was a set of unerring momentum and savage finesse.
With the venue filling with every second the main floor area was a seething mass readying for US brutes Fit For An Autopsy and if truth be told I’ve never really given this band much time but I will rectify that after their guttural assault that had everything deathcore, and to some extent the slam scenes, could ever require as they bulldozed into their set like a sledgehammer.
The copious breakdown riffs catalysed the pit enormously with arms, legs and heads flailing wildly but controllably as “Warfare” and “Hydra” crushed the crowd. Inevitably the crowd surfers started up giving the security plenty to do, and in great spirits I might add. Quite why the singer decided to open one of the songs by just shouting at the audience with no mic was baffling but served to get our attention before the song launched with its devastating blast, leaving only “Black Mammoth” to finalise their deadly and wholly battering set.
I’ve seen US tech deathcore act Carnifex a few times now and have been impressed by their unique take on the genre that incorporates a keyboard backing track, though I’d like to see a live keyboard player, plus a dramatic backdrop amidst their pummelling onslaught. Added to that their frontman is one of the most charismatic within the genre, adorned with black face stripes the band also had blackened eyes set to do sonic battle with the rabid audience that was now at ramming point on the main floor. With a short set to thunder through the band assaulted us with opener “World War X” whose bombarding drum work, complete with some stick twirling despite the speed, annihilated a good portion of the animated crowd.
With crowd surfers aplenty the security really did have their work cut out here as the set crashed into “Slow Death” and “Hatred And Slaughter”. The continual bass bombs sent shock waves through the venue to brilliant effect as the deluging bass on “Drown Me In Blood” was bellowed by the ravenous crowd. Set favourite “Lie To My Face” was equally bellowed as the songs monstrous thrust was immense and riddled with homicidal lunacy before closing with “Hell Chose Me” where a huge circle pit was requested and obviously given to end their set.
Carnifex gave Thy Art Is Murder a mountain to surpass in terms of aggression and outright pulverising but the Aussie Neanderthals completely obliterated everything that had gone before them. The band has gone from strength to strength on the back of a raft of superb albums that has seen them catapulted to the forefront of the deathcore scene, and rightly so. Humble as always and engaged with the crowd frontman CJ is one of the best around and tonight was no different as he was decked out in the leopard print top he always seems to wear. The man is demented on stage and has one of the best voices within this scene, and death metal too, such was his ability to shift tone in the blink of an eye. Backed by the stalwart horde it is easy to forget about them such is the domineering presence of CJ but they are equally essential as the crowd sang “Don’t Stop Me Now” (Queen) in full voice before the band arrived on stage and as that song ended some 90s dance tune started up to big cheers before detonating with “Death Squad Anthem” as the opener. With the song instantly igniting the pit the whole place seemed to erupt in activity as people above me on the stairs spilt their beer over me and my cohort without knowing they had. Utilising only normal stage lights the band had a blackened background where the drum riser was and only came alight after playing “Make America Hate Again” and “The Purest Strain Of Hate” coinciding with the three song limit my shooter had for taking photos, much to his disappointment. With the bass bombs upending the foundations of the building the crowd started a chant of ‘Yorkshire’ during “The Purest Strain Of Hate” as CJ asked for us to put our hands over the persons shoulder next to us which I never do and find it rather cringe worthy to be honest, though he did say if you don’t I’m going to punch every one of you! Some tosser threw a drink on stage which really annoyed the guitarist that side and had to be cleaned up quickly. Get a life people!
As the screens illuminated in front of the drum riser the whole stage was ablaze in red light as a montage of images played for the rest of the set that started with “Holy Target”. The deluging bass bombs seemed to be continual but very effective as drummer Jesse was extremely high up on his riser so much so that you had to look up to see him. Switching to yellow lighting they smashed into “Eternal Suffering” with its cool build up sequence and violent blast beat. Blackening the stage in readiness for “Dear Desolation” the crowd was bristling with energy even after the onslaught of four bands previous. Two red beams focused to the front of the stage were smothered by a blaze of light as the song exploded into life as by now the security was really earning their money with the surfers. “Fur And Claw” and “Holy Target” decimated the crowd as by now the place was ridiculously hot as “New Gods” offered a slight change in mood with its more blackened guitar opening as I just watched the drummers unbelievable skill completely mesmerised. More chants of ‘Yorkshire’ could be heard which CJ said he had to explain to one of the bands backstage as not saying ‘You’re Shit’ much to the bands relief I assume. With hands requested into the air prior to “Puppet Master” the crowd’s energy was relentless as more beer rained down on me from above (I wouldn’t mind but I was driving so not drinking). Penultimate track “Reign Of Darkness” was greeted with a roar as its savagery increased the power even more as the red light created a hellish scene. Encores are pointless for bands like TAIM and even though they went off stage they came back within a minute for CJ to berate his violence ready for “Chemical Christ” to end their sonic annihilation on an evening where every band had something to offer though I think the merch prices were a bit high especially when you had five bands you could easily have bought stuff by.
WORDS: MARTIN HARRIS
PHOTOS: ANDY POUNTNEY