Opening the night was the ever-magnificent Hell. Although they didn’t have their full stage setup with them, such as their pyrotechnics and stage set, they still put on a great show all the same. One of the great things about this band is the fact their frontman David doesn’t restrict himself with a microphone, instead using a headset which frees up his arms and adds a lot to the performance visually. The five-piece were utterly relentless with their set and a particular highlight was crowd favourite Something Wicked This Way Comes, with everyone in the band giving it their utmost. After a joke about how they were playing across the road from a Catholic Church but hadn’t managed to pop in, Hell closed their set with The Quest and it was a triumphant finish to a triumphant set. It’s a shame they didn’t get a longer set allocation because they could have given so much more than they did.
Up next were Bleed From Within, who weren’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea and in my personal opinion, it would have been more sensible for them to open the show so that all the babies who didn’t think they were “METUL” or “TR00” enough could have just arrived later. They arrived onstage to a slightly muted reception but worked hard at their performance and by the end of the set a fair amount of the crowd were very receptive towards them which was great to see. Admittedly they weren’t as good as the previous occasions I’ve witnessed them play, especially with their multiple failed attempts at getting the crowd moving, but it was a decent set and there was a nice little cheeky moment at the end with frontman Scott thanking the crowd for “staying to watch us even if you think we’re shit”. Sure, maybe they were the ‘odd band out’ of the bill, but they played a good solid show and hopefully gained a few new fans from it all.
Main support came from Carcass – whose last gig in Manchester had been in 1994 according to vocalist Jeff – and they got off to a strong start with the whole room chanting the band’s name as soon as the lights went out before launching into opener Buried Dreams. The room was filled with an incredible amount of movement, with people crowdsurfing left, right and centre, and everyone else punching the air and headbanging. Unfortunately, as the set progressed it did seem to drag a little and a few songs seemed to sound similar to each other, with it being a little difficult to differentiate between some of them, but aside from that it was a hugely tight set (their drummer Daniel is a MACHINE), even if it was a tad over-hyped.
Of course, it was Amon Amarth that stole the show; who are a consistently good live band who are always extremely ‘together’ and musically tight for each performance they give. This time, they had some seriously impressive smoke machines with them that were programmed to send out humongous blasts of smoke at certain points in the set and it was incredible to watch; it added a lot to the show.
The five-piece made great use of the stage, with members frequently switching positions with one another and venturing up to the higher position of the stage next to the drums, which made for an interesting visual performance because it didn’t feel like they were tied to one particular place and it they just seemed to engage a lot better with the crowd as a result. Particular song highlights were Death In Fire, which is always a treat live, and Runes To My Memory where a huge stage prop of actual glowing runes made itself apparent!
It was an all-round great set, with the band playing a great mix of tunes from both their latest album Deceiver Of The Gods and their extensive back catalogue, and they closed with crowd favourite The Pursuit Of Vikings which got the whole room ‘singing’ along to the chorus with frontman Johan commenting that did didn’t matter if we didn’t know the words and that we should just sing along anyway!
A great night with four great bands. Same time next year?