October seems to be ideal for metal in Manchester. Following the summer’s tour cycle, Europe seems to form a gravity well of blast beats and gutturals, drawing solid line-ups, year in, year out. This autumn season sees the return of Australian heavyweights THY ART IS MURDER, along with, perhaps more interestingly, Twin Cities progressive metal act AFTER THE BURIAL. One would be hard-pressed to claim ignorance of the band’s devastating loss two years previously, and their first tour of Europe since has been met with deep anticipation. OCEANO and JUSTICE FOR THE DAMNED also played support for the run of dates.
Beginning the night, JUSTICE FOR THE DAMNED leapt into a muddy set of plainly monotonous hardcore-esque messes that did little to excite the Friday night crowd at Manchester Academy. Between indistinguishable guitars, vanilla vocals, and a snare tone reminiscent of beating a PVC pipe against a car door, very few redeeming qualities presented themselves over the course of thirty minutes. One could not be honest if they were to claim JUSTICE FOR THE DAMNED were the worst band they have ever seen live, but they were indeed entirely unsuited to the rest of the tour, and added nothing to the evening’s proceedings.
OCEANO are, by all accounts, a one-dimensional band, entirely rooted in the most extreme aspects of deathcore – a genre struggling to scrape its way back from its own death throes – with both the churning pace of the blast beat, and the sluggish chugging of eight string guitars. One-dimensional, yes, but by no means boring, at least on stage. The audience certainly seemed to respond well to the band, kicking the night into motion after a lacklustre first act. Though technical issues left the band cutting a song from their set, it did little to dampen their spirits, and they performed professionally throughout.
It was hard to say which of the two acts to come the crowd was more excited for – AFTER THE BURIAL, or the evening’s headliner. After the tragic loss of guitarist Justin Lowe in July of 2015, many were unsure if the band would continue. With an album already in the works, it seemed fitting that they forge onward, releasing Dig Deep in February of the following year. Now, closer to two years since the record’s release, the band finally revisit UK shores, a land with a deep love for the progressive metal act’s work. Their set was populated with a healthy mixture of fan-favourites, cuts from their most recent release, and some more meaningful numbers penned by their fallen guitarist. Neither their sound nor their performance were affected by their single guitarist set-up, and the band ran through an electrifying set, before closing out with a somewhat lengthier and appropriately heavy A Wolf Amongst Ravens. Several marginal technical glitches persisted, but did not impact the set in any meaningful way. A fitting return to a pillar of the progressive metal genre.
Finally, rounding out the evening, Australian deathcore act THY ART IS MURDER, seemingly never away for long, subjected the audience to a set of surgical precision. With the majority of the setlist featured on the band’s last three albums, it was plain to see the uptake in quality in writing translating incredibly well to the live environment. THY ART IS MURDER are a remarkably reliable band, if not in overall writing quality, then certainly in their stage performances, a well-oiled machine by this stage in their career. Of particular note this time around, guitarist Andy Marsh played a blistering set of note-by-note perfection, continuing his ever upward trajectory within his field. While their performance lacked the sentimental value of that prior, the band most decisively delivered on what they do best.
Check out our photo gallery from the night’s action in Manchester from Occult Photography here: