Gig Review: Behemoth / Arch Enemy / Carcass / Unto Others – O2 Academy, Glasgow (29th September 2022)

With an early doors time (5:30pm), something was going to give and in my case it was making it to the Academy in time to catch Unto Others. By the time I got in from work, changed, fed and caught in the traffic that usually isn’t there when I head out for a 7pm gig I missed their set by scant seconds. I was getting frisked by the friendly security as they were walking off stage. If it helps, our photographer Gary says they were “pretty good”. Which I know sucks as a review, but it’s better than saying “they were shit anyway”.

Carcass (c) Gary Cooper

Carcass, therefore, were my first band of the evening. And what a band to start with. Carcass are nobody’s support act and I’m sure were as big a draw for many as the two co-headliners. Despite being the progenitors of one of the more extreme blends of metal back in the day, Carcass’ style settled somewhat as they aged and the majority of the set is from the latter part of their existence. It was good to hear some older material, but I fear the chances of having my ears assaulted by “Microwaved Uterogestation” and “Burnt to a Crisp” have passed.

Two songs from the album that bridged their older and newer sounds, Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious, fleshed things out with the remaining half dozen being from the classic Heartwork and more recent Torn Arteries. Despite playing some really lovely heavy shit, Carcass were visually more akin to Maiden or Quo. Playing guitars back-to-back, getting the audience to clap along, and Jeff Walker “machine gunning” the crowd with his bass really emphasised how much fun they are despite the grim subject matter and guttural vocals. I’ve also never seen a musician more generous with their picks than Jeff. I think he was barely into the third song before a roadie was replacing the strip on his mic stand.

There were pits and surfers throughout their set, and massive cheers at the climax of each song. The band limited themselves to a minimum of chatter, spending as much of their limited stage time cramming as much music in as possible. Absolutely stripped back, with just some lights and a big backdrop, they were as tight as the most professional of mortician’s stitches. I really hope they head back sometime soon with a longer headline set.

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Prior to Arch Enemy‘s arrival, a huge curtain was dropped proclaiming “Pure Fucking Metal” in rather large red letters. That pretty much sums the band up, a band I’m surprised to admit that I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched live before. The curtain dropped and said metal ensued.

Arch Enemy (c) Gary Cooper

Opening with “Deceiver, Deceiver” was always going to get the crowd going. White-Gluz is also an excellent frontperson, though I know her appearance in the band put a lot of fans off when she replaced Angela Gossow. While I can’t comment on the differences, the now well-entrenched third singer knows all the tricks of the trade for making the audience feel engaged. The hand motions, the Bruce Dickinson poses, even her subtle glances and facial expressions… she doesn’t just sing, she performs. Oh, she’s also got a cracking voice, and dare I say there’s an element of Carcass influence in her growls? Maybe it’s because the Merseyside legends had just been on, but I think there’s a nod to them in her style.

Just over an hour of music I wasn’t too familiar with ensued, and I took the opportunity to wander the venue and see the show from a few vantage points. Their show was a little more glitzy than Carcass’s with some nice lights and smoke adding to the atmosphere and they had a pretty full dancefloor with many more watching from the various tiers. The latter stages of the set, including “As The Pages Burn”, “Snow Bound” and the excellent “Nemesis” really had the place jumping.

I was heartened to see a large number of women crowdsurfing as well. While I know many try to downplay the “female fronted” aspect of bands, I do still think that having a lady up front and centre really emphasises that metal should be open for all whereas it was once such a male-dominated genre. With luck we’re moving beyond that and into the place where it doesn’t matter anymore, the point having been made. Still, one young lady in particular made me laugh during this set and Behemoth’s as she rushed to the side after surfing, and waited for her friend to find her again with her glasses. Again, and again, and again! That’s what friends are for!

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I’ve seen Behemoth a couple of times before but always at festivals, so this was by far the most “intimate” performance I’ve enjoyed from the Polish crew. Like Arch Enemy, I’m not hugely knowledgeable when it comes to Behemoth’s musical output but I’ve always enjoyed the visual feast that accompanies their live show. Obviously toned down (no fire, boo) for the smaller venue, they still packed in a great collection of songs.

Behemoth (c) Gary Cooper

I was really impressed by new album Opvs Contra Natvram, and it featured fairly heavily in the setlist including the atmospheric intro. The set, though, bounced around the band’s catalogue in no real order making every song a surprise. Often a band will rattle off three new songs in a row or something, but not Behemoth – they like to keep you on your toes. It also means that anyone who’s not heard the new stuff doesn’t get bored for fifteen minutes. We’ve all been there…

When Arch Enemy left the stage, the dance floor had half-emptied, but the numbers were at least made up as fans of both band returned and those who were just waiting for Behemoth made their way forward. Again, the pits opened and the crowd threw each other forward to keep the security staff busy. There was little let-up as the band’s music is both complex and ferocious. With some between-song banter, Nergal introduced a couple of the numbers but as was fitting with the slightly lower key gig compared to their recent Bloodstock headliner, it was really the music that was the focus. A few costume changes and some glorious tunes were what we were regaled with, and it was a great way to enjoy 70 minutes or so.

While Arch Enemy came across as a traditional metal band with a growly vocalist, Behemoth were very much a more evil beast and they maintained that demeanour throughout. Yes, it’s a bit of a Halloween show, but the audience lapped it up and it fits perfectly with the music. Orion is the beast he always was, and Inferno really does set that drumkit on fire. Nergal… well, he’s a character regardless of whether he’s dressed up on stage or not. Alongside touring guitarist Seth (why doesn’t he get a cool name as well?), they handle the complex tunes superbly well.

Songs blasted, people crawled on other people, Satan was praised and nobody was struck by lightning. Oh, and the new stuff went down really well. I’d call that a win.

An interesting combination of bands. All heavy, all very different, and great value for money for those with eclectic tastes and/or open minds.

Photos by Gary Cooper

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