Thanks to road works apparently encircling the whole of Birmingham and designed to either keep the inhabitants in or visitors out, we arrive late at the tiny O2 Academy 3 to find it utterly packed and Cerebral bore already tearing the place apart. The band sound immense thanks to a crushing but well balanced mix that allows the band’s to detonate with maximum impact, the vocals carrying well over the searing wall of guitar and cavernous bass. Receiving big cheers for all bands on the bill, Cerebral Bore should have taken a moment to realise just how much they had won the crowd over in their own right, particularly vocalist Simone Pluijmers who has perfected a terrifying, stage commanding presence to go along with her helium-fuelled and hellish shrieks and growls. With songs such as ‘the bald cadaver’ the band receive an enthusiastic response, although no circle pit breaks out much to their disappointment, which is a shame because final song ’24 year party dungeon’ is a gloriously unhinged slice of searing death metal and Cerbral Bore, already popular, left the stage having won over anybody not already convinced.
Revocation are on next and the tiny room that is the Academy 3 is getting considerably full and, as a consequence, considerably warm. The band play insanely technical death metal that combines throat shredding vocals with gleaming solos which shred across the mix on opening song ‘ReaniManiac’ and they never sound anything less than awesome. The crowd, as the bassist is heard to admit later, are tough as hell, and calling the assembled throng pussies during the first song possibly wasn’t the smartest move ever (and repeating it before the second track really wasn’t!) but the simple truth is the crowd needed shaking up and Revocation, who haven’t been seen on these shores for some two years, were giving it their all. Highlights of their set – well the highlights pretty much were their set, but if forced to choose, the epic instrumental track (apparently about drinking to slain Vikings and penetrating dragons), ‘Across forests and fjords’, is absolutely blinding, whilst ‘dismantled dictator’ sees the band winning the hard-as-nails crowd over with their commitment and stunning musicianship. Smashing out ‘conjuring the cataclysm’, Revocation end their far-too-short set on ‘No funeral’ and, having finally got the crowd eating out of their hands, leave the stage. Hopefully the initially frosty reception won’t stop the band from coming back a lot damn quicker than after two years, but in truth their immense performance deserved a better reaction. Incredibly varied, Revocation’s short set included dense vocals, bright, even classic-metal, solos and instrumental tracks about dragon-sex and they threw down an almighty challenge to anyone having to follow their seismic set.
With Revocation thus having set the bar a mile high, it’s time for the mighty Job For A Cowboy to take the stage. Not always appreciated in the extreme metal community due to early missteps, expectation for the band is running high thanks to the monumental ‘demonocracy’ album demonstrating exactly how good JFAC can be and tonight’s show confirms that. A proper, down ‘n’ dirty tour which sees the band sound checking their own gear on the cramped stage, whatever spatial limitations there might be it doesn’t stop front man Jonny Davy leading the performance as if he were working a stadium and whilst his vocals were far too low in the mix at the start of the performance this is a problem that gets quickly fixed. Up against some stiff competition, the band are on a mission to destroy the opposition tonight, their set an unrelenting assault on the senses that is made all the more vital by Jonny, the human dynamo, who seems incapable of staying still for even a moment on the darkened stage, his irrepressible energy perfectly matched by the crushing display of death metal might delivered by his band. With tracks such as ‘Imperium wolves’, ‘constitutional masturbation’ and ‘Children of deceit’ the band can hardly fail, but it is the visceral fury of ‘knee deep’ that truly demolishes the Academy 3 and leaves the audience in no doubt of the potency of JFAC in full flow.
The Godfathers of the death metal scene, Dying Fetus are burning brighter than ever thanks to the exceptionally good ‘reign supreme’ album. Following a short, atmospheric intro the band take to the stage with a monumental, slow-motion sludge riff. The sound gets the band’s bass heavy, brutal sound just right from the off, but as with JFAC the vocals start off far too low in the mix although this is quickly rectified. Then, suddenly, Dying Fetus kick into gear, the sound solidifies into an awe-inspiring wall and the crowd, largely lethargic over the course of the evening, are shaken out of their reverie as the twin vocals and searing guitars flatten all present. With the band dispatching classic tracks such as ‘Schematics’ along with newer material from the deadly ‘reign supreme’ you just know it’s going to be a top show and so it proves with the largest cheers of the night roaring out in response to the fetus, although even then it is notable that movement is largely down to head-banging; perhaps the floor is sticky from all the beer that’s been spilt?
Dying Fetus, however, are having none of it. They know how to instil life into a crowd and ‘Your treachery will die with you’ finally sees the mosh-pit spring into life. With the band mixing in plenty of old school tunes in order to make sure the set is different from their last trip over fans are treated to a stunning ‘procreate the malformed’, although it is notable that tracks from ‘Reign supreme’ such as ‘invert the idols’ are more than capable of keeping up with the older, more established tracks. ‘Fornication terrorist’ is dizzying in its speed and complexity and then the band unleash a skull-crushing ‘in the trenches’ demanding that the crowd “wake the fuck up!” – we do. Then, just as suddenly as they appeared to destroy our minds, Dying Fetus announce last song ‘homicidal retribution’ leaving the overheated and exhausted room sweaty, charged with adrenalin and in the certainty they’ve witnessed a night of extreme metal history in the making – it was just one of those shows.
Overall it was an amazing night. How often do you get four top quality bands on one bill and in a venue of such intimacy? True the crowd were initially reluctant to get too involved but the result was the bands all put on performances furious enough to flay skin from bone and by the end of the evening pretty much every head was banging to the monstrous Dying Fetus. All four bands were awesome but honours must go to Revocation for their humorous, well-honed and varied performance and to Dying Fetus who demonstrated exactly why they are legends in their own field with their full-on performance. An brutal, awe-inspiring all round, then, night and one that demands you kick yourself hard if you missed it.
Photography: Jola Stiles