||BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE IGNITE BRIXTON ACADEMY
Bullet For My Valentine/Killswitch Engage/Cane Hill
O2 Academy Brixton , London
Words: Luke 'Loki' Milne
Fans of Welsh Heavy Metal act Bullet For My Valentine prepared to 'Scream, Aim, Fire' as the band took to the stage of Brixton's O2 Academy in early December as part of their UK winter tour. Performing two full-length sets for a big London crowd (including a full play through of their 2005 debut album 'The Poison' on the Saturday), BFMV shared the stage with two supporting acts; American Metalcore giants Killswitch Engage and relative youngsters to the scene, Cane Hill.
As the venue began to fill with a swarm of excited fans, New Orleans Metallers Cane Hill are tasked with warming up the stage from the icy grip of the winter evening. Formed in 2011 and currently signed with Rise Records, Cane Hill seem to take a large chunk of inspiration from Korn, opting for some hauntingly familiar stylistic choices that fans of the Californian nu Metallers will surely pick up on. There's a little Clawfinger thrown in there, with a dash of Slipknot and even perhaps a pinch of Marilyn Manson... just for good measure. Truth be told, it all works rather well when mashed together into a big, crunchy Heavy Metal paste.
Unfortunately, as is the case with many opening support acts, the (intentionally) lesser quality in sound engineering detracted slightly from the experience of their performance at the Brixton Academy. It wasn't until long after the gig that I was able to truly appreciate Cane Hill to their fullest, listening to their 2016 debut album 'Smile' from the comfort of my own home. It's a shame really, as their first studio release has a really hard bite to it.
Even so, the crowd at Brixton rides on the anticipation of things to come, responding well to Cane Hill as they work their way through their set. A quick changeover allows time for fans to grab a beer and some merch from the stands to the rear of the venue before Killswitch Engage explode onto the stage. Guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz brings his typically humorous stage presence to life in seconds, cracking smiles out on the crowd's faces as he roars out ridiculously aggressive requests to see their private parts.
Enjoying the success of their early 2016 release, 'Incarnate', Killswitch Engage have been busy touring their new material with a main stage performance at Download Festival, performances in Australia in March 2017 and a North American tour with Anthrax announced, due for arrival in November.
Their performance at the O2 Academy features a blistering set taking a broad range of tracks from their seven album back catalogue, from more recent fan favourites 'Hate By Design' and 'Alone I Stand' to the classic crowd-pleasers 'My Last Serenade' and 'My Curse'. Song by song, every moment is well-executed and fuelled with grinding aggression and power.
The crowd is positively electrified, to the point where it feels as though the entirety of the 5,000 capacity venue could take control from the hands of vocalist Jesse Leach, singing the lyrics to every song right back at the stage with fists raised high. Leach, clearly humbled by the sheer power of the fans response, takes a moment between songs to thank the crowd for their support throughout the years. In truth, despite the fact that BFMV are the headline act of the tour, it feels as though many of the night's crowd are in attendance purely out of love for the Massachusetts Metalcore quintet.
Killswitch may have turned the heat up just a little too much. A small fire breaks out high up in the stage rafters during the wait for the Welsh headline act, and the smell of burning plastic pours across the venue. The crowd seems largely indifferent to the tiny, flaming inferno; opting instead to point, cheer and film the outburst of flames until they are extinguished by the crew. It puts a small delay on the arrival of Bullet For My Valentine, but the crowd keeps themselves entertained with various chants and chatter.
The lights dim, and the crowd roars with excitement as vocalist Matt Tuck arrives onstage, stood in front of a huge lighting rig with banners spelling out the band's abbreviated name. The band are in the process of shooting a tour DVD, and as a result of this the crowd are treated to an impressive display of stabbing, bright and aggressive stage lighting, searing pyrotechnics and a forceful set list of some of the best and brightest of BFMV's lengthy history. Many fans in attendance on the Friday will be back in 24 hours' time for their second performance at Brixton Academy, a full-length play through of 'The Poison'.
Riding on the buzz whipped up by Killswitch Engage, the crowd continues to sing, mosh and raise their horns in appreciation of the band's thunderous performance. In truth, BFMV's choice to shoot their tour video during the performance brings an equal measure of positives and negatives. On the positive side, their performance at the Brixton Academy is energetic, high-flying and nigh on flawless – a music junkie's wet dream.
On the more negative side, there seemed to be a little less character coming from Matt Tuck and the band. I've echoed time and time again the opinion that a live performance is a band's opportunity to lower the barrier between them and their fans, share in some laughter and step down from the 'rockstar pedestal' for a moment. With filming of the DVD taking place, this element seems of secondary importance.
The night burns on at full swing as the band continue their onslaught of highly charged, highly polished modern Metal. You have to admire a band with ten plus years of activity and such an energetic fanbase that spreads across a broad and healthy age range. Despite nearly burning down the venue, Bullet For My Valentine pulled off a great show to round off the year, amplified by the presence of Killswitch Engage, with Cane Hill undoubtedly drawing more attention to their debut release.