@ Electric Ballroom
April 4, 2014
Review by Lee Carter
Photography by Graham Hilling
Camden, by and large, is always alive and bustling with people but it’s testament to a gig’s lineup when a stranger has to ask what the vast, winding queue delivering hundreds more people to the North London town is for! Well sir, DevilDriver have rolled into town alongside Bleed From Within and Sylosis on their “Winter Kills” tour, so we’re about to enjoy an evening of metal.
It falls to Glasgow’s Bleed From Within to open the show and, with such a rabid following amassed outside possessing a penchant for the vicious and lead-heavy stylings of tonight’s headliners, their task would seem daunting to any supporting act.
Any thought of nerves from these guys is immediately dispelled as they launch forth into a blistering and raucous set peppered with cuts from their latest album “Uprising”. Guitarist Craig “Goonzi” Gowans in his earlier interview suggested newcomers could expect “loads of hair, riffs and heavy fucking metal” from their set and it certainly proved the case. He, along with fellow axe-slinger Martyn Evans (former member of Trigger The Bloodshed), bassist Davie Provan and drummer Ali Richardson, were a blur of windmilling locks, flailing limbs and flaying riffs focused by vocalist Scott Kennedy’s caustic scream.
The frenetic stage presence is spurred on by the manic selection of songs – “Uprising” sounding pumping and anthemic, whilst “I Am Oblivion” serves to stir the pit into a swirling frenzy. Cuts off 2010’s “Empire” sit solidly amongst their more recent peers and the crowd’s continued fervent response to Kennedy’s commandments only spur the band on further.
It’s a delight to see, especially considering support acts can be on the end of some rather harsh judgement from the early-birds gathered. Nevertheless, the band rifle through their set with aplomb and set the tone for the evening.
Following on shortly after the Scots’ curtain-raiser, Reading-natives Sylosis take the stage. Where Bleed From Within‘s set was an example of savageness-in-audio, Sylosis‘ set seems more measured and calculated. There is an ebb and flow about proceedings; featuring cuts from all three of their albums. Moving from thrashers like “Conclusion Of An Age” to slow-burners like “All Is Not Well” is smooth and welcome – it offers a greater variety of song and makes the thrashers seem angrier, whilst making the slower songs feel heavier.
Josh Middleton handles vocals and lead guitars as if he was born to do it; effortlessly meandering between growling and shredding, whilst Alex Bailey (rhythm guitar) and Carl Parnell (bass) rip through riff after riff.
Anchoring all of the band together is Bleed From Within‘s Ali Richardson, standing in for Rob Callard. Despite his earlier set, he assumes the throne of Sylosis‘ drum kit and fit seamlessly into the fold – throughout the 40-minute-or-so set, he never missed a beat and delivered a fine performance belying the fact he was called to assume the role a few days prior. The crushing “Empyreal” presents the peak of their set – a majestic and rousing finale to a fine performance.
Given their recent troubles, this is a fine return to London. Welcome back, boys!
If the crowd was impressive outside, and surprisingly plentiful during the support acts, then the throng of baying fans that has developed prior to DevilDriver‘s return for another night in London presents a fine example of these Santa Barbara-natives’ immense popularity on these shores. Even as the road crew ready the stage, the crowd begin chanting the band’s name and are ready to erupt into the famed circle pits at the swing of a drumstick. Their anticipation and patience is duly rewarded once the band hits the stage.
Opening with “Head On To Heartache (Let Them Rot)” from 2007’s “The Last Kind Words”, the band are instantly on-song, closely progressing into a chaotic “Hold Back The Day” that ignites fury in the pits. Axe-slingers Mike Spreitzer and Jeff Kendrick unleash riff after riff as if they were breathing, whilst bassist Chirs Towning locks the two together.
The three are constantly moving, windmilling and coaxing the crowd; engaging and bringing everyone further into the performance. Though the king of this, has to be the band’s frontman and leader: Dez Fafara. The second he assumes the stage, he is like a beast possessed; ripping both passion and venom from his throat, whilst beckoning the crowd to stoke the fires of the pit further. They duly listen. All in the name of entertaining everyone in attendance, as he tells us between songs and he certainly knows his stuff.
The set is mixed, featuring recent classics from last year’s “Winter Kills”, as well as tracks from all the way back to the self-titled debut. It is in these, such as the rabble-rousing “I Could Care Less”, where John Boecklin demonstrates why he is so revered in modern metal’s drumming fraternity.
He adds new patterns, fills and inflections to the older tracks which gives them an extra musical dimension whilst never losing the aggressive and powerful precision delivered on record. This subtlety is welcome, and all contributes to a stellar performance from the Napalm Records new boys.
Relentless, punishing and precise; the night’s show had this in spades and can only be dampened by the early curfew of 9.45. Whilst the crowd expended enough energy creating the furious circle pits in closer “Meet The Wretched”, it seems likely that they would have enjoyed extended performances from tonight’s acts. Nevertheless, an excellent show by all and a welcome return to the capital for all three bands.