WINTERSUN/BLOODSHOT DAWN/SAVAGE MESSIAH
Newcastle 02 Academy 2
When it comes to a heat wave, clearly the most sensible thing a man can do is spend an evening in a room with 500 or so other people, no air conditioning and a lot of stage lights.
So, on the hottest day of the year so far, I ventured on an intrepid quest to see a band that evokes the coldest parts of Scandinavia, the inimitable Wintersun.
Opening the evening, the English/Italian stallions that are Savage Messiah took to the stage, to the strains of the theme from Judge Dreds (geek points awarded for that), unleashing a blistering set upon a slightly over hot and beardy audience.
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The energy that Dave Silver and co put out was fantastic. With a set list covering tracks from their three albums and a smattering of new material from their upcoming Earache release, they had the audience enraptured from the first chord.
Savage Messiah bring a fresh bent to the UK thrash scene. They have a tight, fierce sound that carried well in the Academy (this is no mean feat, the O2 Academy 2 has notoriously poor acoustics). A special mention has to be made for drummer Andrea Gorio. He played so hard and fast, in sweltering heat and under an enormous stage light, how he didn't expire from dehydration is beyond me.
Savage Messiah are hands down the best opening act I've ever seen at a Metal gig. I've never been this pumped up for a show from the opening band before. They are the best British thrash band since Evile and they have a bright future ahead of them.
Next up, Portsmouth progressive death Metallers, Bloodshot Dawn. A very different band to either of the other acts they were playing with, nonetheless, they fired on to the stage with a cacophony of low tuned aural destruction.
Fusing the heaviness of early Opeth with the punishing intricacy of Dream Theater, their somewhat unique sound initially took the audience by surprise. No one was really sure how to react until the first monumentally heavy breakdown occurred, at which point the audience went nuts.
Disappointingly enough, their sound was awful. The guitars had a horrible, fizzy distortion applied to them, the bass was too low and the drums were mixed far too high. While all of the band were on top form, the sound became a massive barrier for a lot of those in the audience and marred what was otherwise a solid performance.
While I was excited to see Wintersun, I came into this gig with an element of trepidation. I last saw Wintersun in 2011 at Bloodstock where, alongside technical problems, they were universally terrible. I put this down to their particular brand of symphonic metal not working outside in the day light.
Turns out, I was right. The band came on, kicking off with the intro music from recently (and finally released) second album 'Time I' and straight into the first song proper, 'Sons Of Winter and Stars'.
The audience went nuts. The sound was great, the band were surgically precise, everything was coming together like a well oiled machine.
Considering that in nine years Wintersun have released two albums with a combined length of thirteen songs, it was pretty easy to guess that most of their back catalogue was going to get an airing tonight. In fact, the only song missing was 'Sadness And Hate'.
This in itself was an exciting prospect, however, one thing I did notice was that during some of the longer songs (such as 'Time' which clocks in at 11:44) require extraordinary feats of concentration from the audience. In the middle of the longer tracks, you could visibly see the audience's energy dip down, especially during some of the extended guitar solos.
However, the energy changed during the classic songs from the first album. 'Battle Against Time' caused an almighty vortex of a mosh pit to open, 'Death And The Healing' instigated a 3/4 waltzing singalong and for me, the highlight of the evening, 'Beyond The Dark Sun' had every single person in attendance swallowed up into two and a half minutes of pure, visceral energy. It was spectacular.
What impressed me most about the show though, was that Jari Maenpaa and his merry bunch were clearly having the time of their lives. Given the nine year wait between 'Wintersun' and 'Time I', Jari was asking for a massive leap of faith from the Wintersun fanbase. That faith was clearly placed correctly as the audience were held on his every word, focused on his every riff and solo and Jari was loving every minute of it.
Wintersun are back, with a vengeance and an intensity that most bands lack these days. This is one of the best shows I've seen at the Academy 2 in years. Don't miss this tour, if you do, you're missing out on one of the best metal shows you're likely to ever see at this level.