It’s hard to credit. There seems to be so much moaning that Leicester doesn’t have a good metal scene and then, when a night of top-class entertainment rolls into town, people are too damned apathetic to turn up to the show. Featuring one of Leicester’s finest bands in Internal Conflict; arguably one of the best British metal bands currently treading the boards in Malefice, and the mighty American metalcore institution Unearth, it’s hard to understand why Lock 42 isn’t heaving with bodies… but it isn’t. Instead it remains resolutely half-full, although with the performance the bands put in you could easily believe they were playing Wembley. Nonetheless, whilst the evening is amazing, it says a lot for the state of live music in general that Lock 42 doesn’t have a queue round the block and it’s hard not to feel a burning frustration at the lack of interest that greets so stellar a line up.
The first band of the night to hit the stage is Leicester’s own heavy metal institution Internal conflict. Veterans of Bloodstock and countless other festivals, they sound like a riot transcribed into musical form, but with an ever present sense of melody which makes the music memorable as well as feeling like a brick to the cranium. Best of all the band put in a convincing and impassioned performance which transcends the boundaries of lock 42 and it is clear from the moment they erupt on stage right through to the dying notes that Internal Conflict deserve bigger venues and crowds. The only disappointment is entirely my own at not knowing the names of the songs they unleash, suffice it to say that the second song aired was insanely cool and built to a huge sweaty climax whilst the third song (dedicated to Leicester, although not in the most positive of manners) was even better. Doomy, heavy as god’s own thunder and possessed of percussive brutality internal conflict own the stage completely with not a weak song or moment in the set. Well worth checking out.
Long one of Britain’s finest metal bands, Malefice have a sound that could stun a bull but, like internal conflict, they have that crucial melodic edge that keeps the music firmly in the head. They are on devastating form – the venue’s temperature soaring as they lay waste to the stage. By the second song the sound is crystal clear, the band are on a raging form that utterly eclipses their performance on the United Kingdom of Heavy Metal tour (which saw the band take to the stage with Arch Enemy, Grand Magus and Cthonic, thus at least making sure that there was a band form the UK actually on the bill) and the audience have closed in on the stage. Towards the end of Malefice’s all-too-brief but utterly blinding performance, a pit even breaks out – demonstrating how truly awesome the band are tonight. By the time the final track, Omega, breaks out it’s clear Unearth are going to have to pull out something special indeed if they wish to make an impact after a performance of this stature.
And so to Unearth who take to the stage amidst the buzz of heavily distorted guitars and proceed to unleash hell. Clearly fired by the terrifying proficiency of malefice (and who wouldn’t be after that performance?) Unearth set out to demonstrate once and for all why they are the leaders of the pack when it comes to metalcore, no matter how demonised that genre may have become of late. Harmonised solid leads and devastating breakdowns keep the adrenalin flowing and the band feed off the crowd, their performance that of an act playing to a stadium. It’s exciting, inspiring and a timely reminder that whilst the metalcore brand might be watered down with piss poor imitators, the original intent was as brutal as it was original. Third track ‘eyes of black’ follows a dedication to the small but fiercely loyal crowd and it’s clear that unearth are not going to let anyone go home disappointed tonight, although given the quality of both Malefice and Internal Conflict that never seemed likely. Next up the awesome ‘this lying world’ simply crushes the resistance of anyone yet unswayed by the band’s untamed ferocity. A quick pause for a search for the set list leads to unintentional hilarity then the band come back harder, faster and even more melodic. It takes some skill, but then skill is something unearth certainly aren’t short of and it’s clear that everyone in the venue is having an awesome time. Malefice get a huge cheer when generously referenced by the headliners and then another two blistering tracks not only keep the pit going but actually increase its fury.
Back in time for a track from ‘the oncoming storm’ and the place goes ape as the band wipe the sweat from their eyes and instruments. The heat is intense, the energy incredible and the only slight disappointment is that the venue isn’t packed tighter than a sardine can. The final track of the night ‘My will be done’ ends the show in a whirling pit of sweat and hair and the audience leave having had a great, great night.
Overall the Leicester show was a blinding achievement from all involved. Whilst the crowd may have been comparatively small, the levels of energy on stage could have powered the town for a month. Unearth were, predictably, amazing, but the real surprise was twofold – firstly, just how good Malefice have become in the last year or so (and they were pretty damn great to start with) and secondly just how good Internal Conflict were – if ever there was a band in need of signing, it is this lot. By the end of the night, pretty much everyone in the crowd had finally let down their defences and banged their heads and for those who attended the show it will surely stay in the mind as one of the best nights to have hit Leicester since Evile swung into town last year.