Kicking off their co-headline tour with Agonyst in their hometown, for Spires, tonight is a celebration of Mancunian metal with themselves at the forefront.
Bolstered by the presence of fellow Manchester based progressive metallers Awaker, the atmosphere and pride that fills Rebellion like an invisible fog tonight is enshrouding.
Indeed, the warming friendliness and comradery that defines tonight is palpable from the off – exemplified by the fact Agonyst are crashing at Spires’ house after the show – as Awaker, playing only their second gig after a lengthy time out of action due to the untimely passing of their drummer Marcin ‘Colina’ Kolinski, burst into life. Their comeback show, for all those present, was by no means a weak return, but here they have that show cowering in this one’s looming shadow. They look like a well-oiled machine and sound a great degree tighter, the creases ironed out of their set.
Vocalist Kamila Schmidt, always a commanding presence, prowls the stage, making prey of her vocal lines; be they soaring or growling, she executes it all with a deft precision. Luke Michniewski’s riffs sound altogether more inspired, benefitting from a fresh impetus atop Dan Webster’s solid, reverberating drums. The set goes by in no time at all, which is testament to their entertainment value. It is simply a joy to see this band go from strength to strength.
As for Agonyst, what can be said? The Norwich quartet, who aren’t sheepish about making as many Northerner quips as possible, are hell bent on becoming the revised definition of ‘bat crap crazy’ and the show they treat us to here will stand as damning evidence for their case.
Lead guitarist, vocalist and nutcase Louis Coates is the Sergeant Major to his men’s musical madness and, most importantly, they strike the perfect balance between hilarity, hard hitting metal and purebred gaiety. A collage of brutal blast beats, acrobatic guitar playing and tombstone vocals is assembled across their set, the kind of death metal that is at times just an incessant mesh of noise, but one you can’t help be swept away by. Even when technical issues bare their teeth and threaten to shit all over proceedings – with Coates’ guitar decidedly out for the count – nothing can properly stop them. Instead, Coates cracks jokes and winds the time by effortlessly by just talking to the crowd, letting his innate wit and humour shine.
Spires then, have a fair deal to top and justify the hero’s welcome which their opening, bellowing chords are met with. They’ve laid down the gauntlet with last year’s stunning album The Whisperer, which comes across like Still Life era Opeth but with a crisp and clear, modern production. They transfer that to the stage though with a wry smile,Ethereal Organisms’ distressed broken chords, blending with almost operatic vocals, barking, rabies ravaged riffs and some banshee wailing lead lines tremendously. Beginning your set with a 12 minute progressive death metal romp is enough to impressive even the most hardened prog ‘ed who’s seen it all, and there’s not a soul in the place unconvinced by it. They claim the night as their own.
What’s telling is, with lots of people stood at the back of the venue sharing laughs and just generally enjoying things from afar, when they go deadly quiet tonight. At times, be it when the dynamics take a seismic shift or a solo cries out like a widow, even the casual on lookers are left rapt. You feel the atmosphere change when that happens.
It was the perfect three course meal in the end, Awaker’s catchy but ambitious prog metal provided a fantastic starter, with Agonyst offering a main course to saviour if not because of its odd combination of ingredients. Then the dessert, sickly sweet yet bitter and evil all in one mouthful, tops things off perfectly. Compliments to the chef.