Vreid play a blend of black metal and black ‘n’ roll. The first band on, they initially have to try hard with the crowd not displaying any great enthusiasm when it comes to raising their fists aloft but then it all clicks into place and some three songs in the audience are firmly with vried. Part Dimmu Borgir, part Darkthrone the band have a commanding stage presence and when they unleash the unholy black ‘n’ roll of ‘raped by light’ the response is nothing short of ecstatic and only one clear conclusion can be drawn : Vreid rule! All too soon the band reach their final song, the furious ‘pitch black’ which has the audience swarming towards the merch stand ready to dedicate themselves to the darkness.
Completely at odds with their laid back persona backstage, Insomnium take to the stage like a slow moving hurricane, their kaleidoscopic sound a dense wall that sounds utterly immense the intricate melodies still intact seemingly in spite of the vicious barrage of double kick drums and searing guitar work. Melodic death it might be, but there’s a progressive feel to the band’s output that is both hauntingly evocative and blisteringly intense. Having set the scene second track ‘The only one who waits’ is a brutal sleigh ride through hell, part mid tempo grind, part slash and burn devastation all wrapped up with brilliantly precise sound. Next up is a killer ‘down with the sun’ which sees the venue ensnared in darkness and then the band push the audience to the next level – “last night we were in Sheffield… are you better than them?” Are we better than Sheffield? ‘The Killjoy’ sees us answer that question with huge cheers and raised horns and then, suddenly, we’ve reached the final track ‘one for sorrow’ which fills the venue with a beautiful, icy melancholy making it the perfect set closer from a special band.
Opening with the mighty first single ‘Honesty in death’, Paradise Lost, black clad and serious of demeanour, take to the stage with the kind of set list that other bands would kill for. Somewhat cramped on the Slade Room’s less-than-generous stage (“we’ll not be doing back flips on here!” Nick Holmes drily notes) the band pile into ‘widow’ with the crowd sending waves of love in the direction of the stage despite an initially weak guitar sound and quiet vocals. With the sound issues slowly resolving themselves it’s time for a mighty rendition of ‘erased’ with its throbbing bass sound destroying the venue and we love them for it… but even more so for the evergreen ‘forever failure’ which still sounds perfect even after all these years. With the band and crowd now as one it’s all the classics tonight as Paradise Lost hardly draw breath before unleashing ‘soul courageous’, one of the many highlights of ‘One second’.
By this point the crowd have been whipped into a feverish state and the heat in the cramped venue is intense. With sweat pouring, we are treated to another cut from latest album ‘tragic idol’ in the form of ‘in this we dwell’ which is incredibly well received considering it only came out on Monday and then a truly monstrous ‘praise lamented shade’ leads us towards what Nick describes as some old songs “for the over forties” which duly appear in the form of ‘pity the sadness’ and ‘as I die’ complete with full-throated crowd sing-along. Offering a chance for respite after the furious metallic roar of the previous few songs ‘symbol of life’ comes complete with tribal drums and the guitars building to a seething crescendo and then, with Nick noting “it’s fucking hot in here!” we get the title track off the new album which is greeted with at elast as much love as everything else played tonight – a testament to the band’s strengths as songwriters and the loyal nature of their fan base. A vicious blast through ‘the enemy’ sees Nick’s voice getting ever stronger and there’s a community atmosphere in the crowd thanks to a shared love of both the songs and the band on stage. No compromise, no bullshit just great music.
With an encore break eliciting huge cheers and chants of “Paradise Lost” the band return for typical closing number ‘one second’, another newbie ‘fear of impending hell’ which is both a highlight of the new album and of the live set, a rousing ‘faith divides us, death unites us’ and the long-established finale of ‘say just words’ which, no matter how many times you hear it, just never gets old.
There are some reservations – the backing track of Nick’s vocals on ‘faith divides us…’ feels unnecessary and, anyway, is so low in the mix that it’s almost buried; and the live sound took a while to crystallise; but overall Wolverhampton was treated to three excellent bands all of whom shone and all of whom offered a different take on metal. Insomnium and Vried were both greeted enthusiastically and Paradise Lost played a set that was so full of classics that it was almost as if we were listening to a back-to-back selection of their encores from the last ten years. So immense is the band’s back catalogue, so beloved by the fans are the band themselves that Paradise Lost can do little wrong, and with Nick more talkative than usual, not to mention the devastating strength of the new material, the night proved to be a huge success. A blisteringly hot, intense and exciting evening of top-class metal, if only all nights out could be this good.
All photos – Jola Stiles for SonicAbuse