Tuesday March 15 saw the return of infamous Italian ensemble FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE to Manchester’s Sound Control. Supported by Britain’s very own ETHEREAL and XERATH, the evening played host to a variety of styles and genres in one of the most puzzling tour combinations to grace the northern venue to date.
Opening the show to an adequate crowd, UK black metal fanatics ETHEREAL set the pace of the night with high tempo, high register tremolo riffs, chaotic structuring, and suitably evil chord progressions. While the crowd took some encouraging, they eventually found their feet, transforming the set from a slightly awkward opening act to a more engaging beginning to the night. While the band rarely broke from a typical black metal mould, ETHEREAL provided a worthy opening salvo for the evening.
Following shortly after were UK groovers XERATH. While they prove to be hit-and-miss with most audiences, here they clashed very directly with the sound and tone of the evening. Performing lazily and rather unenthusiastically to an equally sullen crowd, the band managed to dent the swelling anticipation for the night’s main event without even making it look difficult. Poor vocal performances and overtly repetitive pentatonic licks perforated the set, ultimately leaving a sour and dissatisfying taste in the mouth. XERATH proved an ill-chosen support that failed to step up to the mark.
FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE took to the stage to a crowd subdued with anticipation. A band clearly unused to the set length of a headlining tour, the Italian technical death metal titans luxuriated in the limelight with an extensive collection of the very best of their back-catalogue. Unfortunately, the set seemed more focussed on refreshing the crowd’s collective memories of their past achievements, rather than leaning on their newly released opus, King, sparing the album a mere couple of tracks throughout the performance. This proved one of the few criticisms of the set, given the triumph that is King.
The rest of the material was performed extremely admirably, and with notable technical accuracy on the entire band’s part. The crowd responded well, and was clearly very familiar with the material and list of songs played. While for the most part, this added to the atmosphere, it was also perhaps a detractor, as there were essentially no surprises in terms of song choices.
Also of no surprise here was FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE’s inability to fit on a small stage, both in a literal physical sense, and in the auditory respects. Indeed, Sound Control, for all its consistently brilliant live mixes, failed to articulately capture the complexity and breadth of FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE’s multifaceted sonic character. As powerful and precise as the drum performance was, as convincing as bassist Paolo Rossi’s clean vocals proved, the sound simply was not wide enough to do the band’s material true justice, However, overcoming this limitation, the band still performed a professional and enlightening set, despite singer and rhythm guitarist Tomasso Ricardi’s penchant for monologues.