“Tour Of The Year” is a phrase that has been thrown around a lot in the run-up to Trivium’s headline appearance on these 5 UK shows over April. While it’s difficult to not be swept up in the excitement, the bill says it all. Bringing together a few of the very finest modern bands in metal/hardcore (Code Orange, Power Trip and Venom Prison), in collaboration with Metal Hammer, feels like a really bold statement. And it seems Trivium have really given themselves a high bar to jump with these bands opening. Having said that, it’s something we should have come to expect from the band by now. They’re never ones to rest on their laurels and are always keen to bring great bands on tour. The conclusion of this run at Brixton feels really special and having the bands to back it up, this is surely the metal night of the year.
Even with all the buzz around them, the building isn’t nearly as crammed as one would imagine it would be for Venom Prison‘s set. The UK has been lucky enough to have seen this group ample times over the past year and a half since their debut full-length record Animus dropped. There have been tours with Suicide Silence, a headline run last November and shows at Bloodstock and Download. We’ve been very fortunate.
Having seen them at the 150-cap Black Heart in London on the headline run, seeing them now at Brixton is incredible. Like all the bands on the bill tonight, their ability to fill the stage is phenomenal and is down to two things in this instance. Firstly their sound, especially for an opening band, is monstrously huge. I wasn’t a massive fan of the record when it first came out largely due to the angular production but hearing those songs on that stage with that production was great and, in my mind, far better than the record. This, it seems is where Venom Prison are to be best enjoyed. The other factor for their admirable stage-filling is the fronting of Larissa Stupar. Even for a bill as stacked as tonight’s, she still remains one of the best vocalists for her sheer animation (pun not intended) and ripping vocals. They get the least crowd reaction primarily because they’re opening but also because they lack the sing-along value the other bands all have in spades. While that’s something that would be cool to see them dabble with on album number two, more of this will be more than sufficient.
Following them on the best metal night of the year were Texan crossover thrash five-piece Power Trip. Similar to openers Venom Prison, our little island has been spoiled for plenty Power Trip-y goodness, having played shows with Napalm Death this time last year and then Hatebreed and company on the annual Persistence tour a few months back. This, however, is likely the biggest UK show they’ve played to date (don’t quote me on that though) and with the tracks from last year’s omnipresent album of the year contender Nightmare Logic, comes a deep, entrenched-in-reverb, throwback production that the sound-folk at Brixton nailed yet again. Opening with “Soul Sacrifice” and Judas Priest-esque syncopated stage moves is great but to follow up with “Executioner’s Tax (Swing Of The Axe)” as their second song is outrageous. Containing that aforementioned sing-along value that this anthem possesses, Brixton lap it up.
It’s not long before things begin to get out of hand though. Just a few songs in the show grinds to a near 10 minute halt with a mosher down. After being carried off on a stretcher in a seemingly OK condition, the show resumes with a surprising amount of gusto from the crowd. This is less so the case however after a second pitter goes down. Regardless, the band are on absolute fire with frontman extraordinaire Riley Gale whipping up a whirlwind of youthful energy, inciting one of the most fun moshes I’ve had the pleasure in taking part in. The band also, largely indebted to the songs, hit some fantastic mid-paced grooves, particularly on title-track “Nightmare Logic”. Go listen to the intro riff in that song and just imagine that coming out the stacks at Brixton. It was immense. Axe-wielder Blake Ibanez’s screeching guitars is the icing on the cake with songs off the first record too (namely title-track “Manifest Decimation”).
It’s because of all this that the band inch ahead as the best band of the night, injecting a bottomless energy into a slightly throwback sound (think in the vein of Nuclear Assault). The surprising thing is that while they’re not particularly fast songs, the rhythm and drive with which they play them gives the tracks a really propelling nature. And with the band promising to be back sooner than we think, it’s time to board the hype train. That was exceptional.
[A quick mention that it was just announced this week that Power Trip would be gracing the main stage at Bloodstock in August! – Mosh]
By this point, the place seemed almost split down the middle with Code Orange. Some in a fervorous pre-mosh state of near violence, some considerably nonplussed by the hooligans waving their instruments around the stage. Opening with “My World” off their first record under the Code Orange moniker, the first half of the crowd go off. The pure unmitigated fury on the collective band members faces are all too real – a common thread in the industrial-laced hardcore quintet’s set. It’s the 2017 smashing album of the year (for many) that gets the prime time in the set though, and the cuts of Forever are often visceral in the case of “Real”, “Kill The Creator”, “Spy” and later “Forever”, and often distractedly wistful and quietly brooding, such as “The Mud” and “Dream2”.
Naturally however, it’s only a matter of time before the show is stopped abruptly for another injury (the last one of the night). While the punter in question ends up alright, it’s only in their nature for the mainstream metal barnstormers on the stage to looked pissed off. This only adds to their resumption of the show however, as urgent and genuinely aggressive as ever. Vocalist and drummer Jami Morgan spits with a driving ferocity that’s steered the band through the near decade the group have been together for, from Code Orange Kids to Adventures (sort of) to now, recently nabbing a grammy nomination. That’s not to take anything away from the other members however with bassist Joe and second guitarist Dominic (their newest addition) pacing the stage with an unfathomable anger. Reba writhes around the stage in between often splitting, often dreamy, beckoning vocals, handling her guitar with a harsh malice and abusing a multifaceted pedal board concocting all manor of otherworldly noises. Then there’s Shade (or Eric Balderose if you prefer) handling the synth, guitar and guttural vocals. He’s the just the coolest guy that everyone wants to be (myself included), his brutal low vocals adding so much to their sound.
It’s “Bleeding In The Blur” though that coaxes a sing along from everyone in the venue, all of different backgrounds and persuasions. They even get some fist-pumping “HEY”‘s in the verse, truly showing their crossover of appeal into the metal world, in addition to their domination of the hardcore realm. Their set is outstanding with unreal performances from all members. What takes the cake however is just taking in the fact that it is actually Code goddamn Orange up there as main support at Brixton, where half the time they could convincingly be headlining. Watching their gradual climb through the scene has been thoroughly encouraging but escaping the pit and taking in this view has sparked so much hope in me at least for where the collective world of metal and hardcore is headed. A. Mazing.
Now I can’t speak for everyone else, but I was just about ready to bow out and head home before I realised tonight’s headliners Trivium hadn’t played yet. And frankly, most of the front-rowers were already spent from Power Trip and Code Orange’s mighty display. Nevertheless, when long-time set-cue “Run To The Hills” started blaring out all around, people begin to wake up again. It’s like an injection of adrenaline to the attendance at large. Opening the set with new cut “The Sin And The Sentence” is a really well received move, particularly for a newer track. While this was a fairly predictable show opener, the band throw a curveball with follow-up “Throes Of Perdition” from 2008’s widely underappreciated Shogun. Indeed, their set is a smorgasbord of brilliant songs from a really impressive back-catalogue, every facet of which is visited. It’s sing-along city however though with a surprise appearance from “Ascendancy”, the first return to that song in how long?
New tracks are dotted around between older tracks, comprising of at least a third of the set. It’s the stronger tracks that you would expect to see pulled live, such as “Beyond Oblivion”, “Betrayer”, “Sever The Hand”, “Thrown Into The Fire” and “Heart From Your Hate”, the last of which could’ve been subbed for something else, though there’s obviously an audience for it here tonight. There’s a good load from Ascendancy too and they don’t shy away from the stronger cuts off the lukewarm-received Silence In The Snow. Now that the band are out of that period, their performance of those songs really show how much the less hardcore Trivium fans are embracing something like “Until The World Goes Cold” for what it is – a decent track with a hella strong chorus, rather than the future of the band.
A phenomenally heavy rendition of “Becoming The Dragon” is perhaps the only thing they could’ve gotten away with convincingly from The Crusade. Trivium make their case for that period of the band also and it actually turns out to be one of the absolute highlights of the show. Every record is visited throughout the hour and a half bar Ember To Inferno and Vengeance Falls, off which “Strife” would’ve gone down a treat. It really shows the strength of the band and their ability to pull from almost anywhere in their career. Theirs is one of the stronger back-catalogues in the genre.
Dedicating tracks to smaller bands not even on the lineup such as Abhorrent Decimation, Puppy and Creeper among others is a bold move to make but it’s something Matt obviously prides himself on and Brixton loves it. Their collective performance is great too. It’s not in the same league of excitement that Power Trip or Code Orange concoct, though perhaps it reflects their status as the headliner tonight. Their set is reliable, it’s enjoyable, it’s tight and slick but it’s also got the biggest, most irresistible choruses and hooks.
Closing with “Shattering The Skies Above”, “Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr” and “In Waves” is really strong, the latter two of which, everyone loses their collective minds for. All the way through Matt Heafy’s frontman-ship is second to none, leading the band and the audience through a celebration of not only all things Trivium, but also everything that’s great about metal. It’s heavy, it’s fun, it’s bombastic and it’s super proficient. Drummer Alex Bent plays beat-perfect and what’s great is that all the parts add up to create an even greater whole.
While I wish I had been there for their Download 2005 performance, which Matt says they haven’t looked back from and has made the UK the best place to play since, that was the best Trivium show I’ve ever seen and, in general, I would imagine it would be rather high up in the band’s best UK shows. On the strength of The Sin And The Sentence, it’s a great time to be in Trivium right now. Roll on next one!