By Wednesday, I was in the midst of a three gig marathon. I had been in London the night before for the epic power metal project Avantasia, and the next morning I came home to Plymouth for two more metal shows - both at The Hub. The first of which, a co-headline tour between Reading's premier modern metal outfit Sylosis, and Poland's death metal legends Decapitated; promised to be a heavy evening. Since the closure of The White Rabbit a couple of years ago, The Hub has become Plymouth's best small rock venue. Despite seeing far less action than venues in other cities, rock and metal shows in Plymouth, and at The Hub particularly, usually attract a good-sized crowd. This show was no exception and, despite it not being as full as I have seen it previously, attracted a decent crowd for a mid-week evening. It was Sylosis I was mainly going to see. I had seen them four times previously, although three of those were support slots. I had only seen the band headline once before, and that was in 2011 in Nottingham when the band were promoting second album Edge of the Earth. Last year's Dormant Heart release cemented my love of the band more, and seeing them support Megadeth in November was a real treat. I jumped at the chance to see them locally, and got my tickets as soon as I could. I am not really a fan of Decapitated, or death metal in general, but they are very good at what they do. I saw them supporting Lamb of God a couple of years ago, so knew what to expect going in. While the evening was good, the show seemed to suffer from quite a few delays (the doors did not open until about half an hour after they were supposed to) which meant that Sylosis had to cut a few songs from their set - which was a big disappointment for me!
Tour supports The Black Tongue were conspicuous by their absence, so local metal band Moorhaven stepped in to fill the void. I knew nothing about the band, apart from the name, so was interested to see what they were like. Unfortunately, I cannot say that I came away from their set a fan. While the band are obviously very good at what they do, and were extremely tight, what they do just is not for me. They play a sort of metal/hardcore cross over, with lots of breakdowns and downtuned riffing. There was little consideration for melody, which always makes me struggle with a band, so none of the songs really stood out to me. This sort of music seems to be quite popular these days among metal fans, but not with me unfortunately. They seemed to go down well with large sections of the crowd however, and seemed to be selling a good amount of merchandise after their set, which is always great to see!
Decapitated played their full set, which stung after hearing Sylosis' truncated set later (surly both bands should have cut a small portion than have the headliners take all the cuts?), and my general aversion to death metal made it quite a lengthy part of the evening for me. I am not out to bash Decapitated at all, because their legendary status precedes them and they are a leading artist in their field, but I do not think they are ever a band I will be properly able to enjoy listening to. That being said, frontman Rafał Piotrowski gave one of the best live harsh vocal performances I have ever seen. Often harsh vocalists lack the power live that they have in the studio, or get buried in the mix, but Piotrowski was loud and powerful. The guy is a serious presence, and one hell of a vocalist. I find death metal very samey however, and all the songs really blend into one after a while. There is almost no light and shade in Decapitated's music, which will always put me off. They seemed to be the band that most people had come mainly to see however, and they were extremely well received by the crowd.
Sylosis were, obviously, the stars of the show for me. The band, who have supported and learnt from a diverse mix of metal bands of the years (from DragonForce to Megadeth), have really become masters of their craft now, and are a shining light for the future of heavy music. Despite the short set, the band played a mixture of the best material from three of their four albums, and included the Behemoth-esque new single Different Masks on the Same Face for good measure. Josh Middleton (vocals/guitar) is the star of the show. He has improved hugely as a vocalist since taking over from Jamie Graham in 2010, and his guitar playing is out of this world. The opening number Indoctrinated, with it's jagged riff, was a great opener; and the old, thrashy Teras got the crowd moving. Leech was the highlight of the set for me. It is their most melodic song yet, and Alex Bailey's (guitar) leads show that he is more than just a rhythm player. I would like to see him tackle a solo or two on the band's next album! The song's anthemic chorus was excellent live, and the band oozed class and power at this point. The doomy Mercy was another high point, with some more restrained drumming from Ali Richardson, who seems really at home in the band now, that showed that the band can hold back when it is appropriate. The set came to an end with the excellent Empyreal - Part 1, which contains some of Middleton's best ever guitar playing in my opinion, and has been a set staple since 2011. An encore was not planned due to the time constraints, but chants from the band brought them out for a quick run through of the epic Altered States of Consciousness to end the evening on a high. The setlist was:
Different Masks on the Same Face
Empyreal - Part 1
Altered States of Consciousness
Despite Sylosis' shortened set, and my indifference to the other two bands, I still had a good night. Sylosis shows are always worth seeing, as they are head and shoulders above many of their peers. They are technical and progressive, but without forgetting to actually write some memorable songs; and the guitar playing is almost second-to-none. I hope to see them again soon, and I hope that they will also start recorded again in the near future!