With the long, dark days of January behind us, what’s needed to kick February off with a bang is a metal gig of monumental proportions and here, in Birmingham, The Institute Library plays host to the sort of three-for-one deal that had shoppers massacring each other on Black Friday. And so, despite the fact that it is a freezing cold Sunday night, The Library’s surprisingly spacious main room is crammed full of metal fans waiting for the mighty, indomitable Sepultura to take the stage.
First, however, there are two support bands set to warm the crowd up. The opening slot goes to fast-rising London-based metal band Death Remains and it’s clear that, from the moment the theme to T2: Judgement Day comes blaring from the PA, the band are here to give us a show. Far from being overawed by the legendary status of the headliners, Death Remains do everything possible to suggest that they should be headlining the show and, from the ferociously tight rhythm section of Jai Patel (drums) and Gaz Martinez (bass) to the twin guitar assault of Marc Kezia Yacas and Eljay Lambert, the band deliver a punishing assault that gets the whole audience head banging. As ferocious as the music is, however, it is Barry O’Connor, up front and centre, who commands the stage. A fearsome presence, he dominates the venue with his shattered roar and even, on rare occasions, a surprisingly pure clean voice which adds depth and melody to several of the compositions and which is all the better for not being deployed with regular, metalcore-esque monotony. Barry is a born frontman, and his frantic energy combined with his obvious joy at the crowd’s response mark both him, and his band, out as ones to watch. The most memorable track of the band’s painfully short set is ‘proof of life’, which is delivered with the speed and savagery of an incendiary device, but in truth Death Remains do not, on any level, disappoint and they leave the audience in a state of euphoric exhaustion.
With chants of “Sepultura” already spontaneously breaking out across the venue, how can Primitai possibly maintain the momentum? The answer is with devastating ease. A heavy metal band much more in the vein of Iron Maiden and Judas priest, Primitai hail from Sandhurst and march on to the stage as if they own it. The band’s strengths lie in their ability to pen instantly memorable tunes such as ‘scream when you see us’ and ‘the cannibal’, whilst in Guy Miller the band have a frontman of great presence and vocal range. The music is fast and furious and you can see a large section of the audience moving from mild curiosity to intense enjoyment in the space of the first song alone. By the time hit ‘the line of fire’ fists are pumping, hair is flying and the whole place is erupting into mini mosh pits. The band are amazingly tight with guitarists Tom Draper and Srdjan Bilic carving out monstrous solos with ease whilst Jamie Lordcastle and Chris Chilcot (bass and drums respectively) lay down the sort of thunderous backdrop that comes from a lifetime of ingesting Motorhead and Maiden on a daily basis. In short, Primitai are the sort of first class metal band you need in your life and if there’s any justice they’ll be heading out on their own headline tour soon.
With the two support bands proving to be utterly brilliant, it is over to Sepultura to rule the day, and this is something that, with the greatest of respect to both of the preceding bands, they unquestionably do. Perhaps it’s the “Sepultura” chants that begin the second Primitai leave the stage, or possible the fact that every second t shirt in the place is a Sepultura design, but the level of expectation is furiously high as the stage is set up. By the time the band take the stage, to a roar that all but tears the roof off the place, the temperature has risen several notches and as the band unleash ‘the trauma of war’ so the place goes utterly berserk. Next the horror themed intro of ‘the Vatican’ sends the mosh-pit into a frenzy and it highlights just how strong the recent material is that when ‘propaganda’ is dropped like an atom bomb (dedicated, as ever, to the shit-talkers) it sits comfortably amidst the new songs rather than standing out as something exceptional. Indeed, when the mighty ‘Kairos’ comes bursting forth, it is notable that it already sounds like a classic and the band swiftly follow it up with ‘impending doom’ and ‘dusted’ just to make sure that there is no respite at all for the explosive crowd.
Understandably the band play a hefty dose of the unquestionably brilliant new album ‘the mediator between head and hands must be the heart’, the songs of which sound remarkably fresh, belying the fact that Sepultura have now been active for an astonishing 30 years this year. Indeed tracks such as ‘Age of the Atheist’ set the mosh pit alight, almost unseating the more traditional songs that appear in the latter half of the set, with their stunning rhythms and devastating riffs. That said, there is always room for the Sepultura classics, and the band unleash a plethora of brain melting favourites form the mass sing-a-long that is ‘biotech is Godzilla’ to furious renditions of ‘Inner self’ and even (YES!!!!) ‘Ratamahatta’. The band seem stoked to be playing to a heaving crowd in the heart of Birmingham and even take a moment from bludgeoning the audience to unleash a cheeky snippet of Sabbath.
Without doubt Sepultura are one of metal’s most perennially underrated bands, but with two absolutely stunning albums under their collective belts since joining the Nuclear Blast stable there surely can be no denying the band’s stunning strengths now. However much the band may deliver on album, however, it is live where they truly excel and from Andreas’ scintillating guitar work (as brutally heavy and fluid as ever) to Derek’s colossal stage presence the band deliver a set that is as invigorating as a shot of adrenalin straight to the heart. With three amazing bands, Birmingham played host to one hell of a metal show and if you were one of the unfortunates who missed it you should begin kicking yourself now.
Amazing photos courtesy, as ever, of Jola Stiles