Last month, Distorted Sound had the privilege of attending a very special performance from some of progressive metal’s most renowned names. In a line-up seemingly from an absurd fever dream where everything is a little too perfect, Australian guitar virtuoso PLINI, Polish progressive titans DISPERSE, and rising Serbian solo artist DAVID MAXIM MICIC all descended upon Manchester for a night of shred, groove, and musical brilliance.
Opening the evening, DAVID MAXIM MICIC greeted an ecstatic crowd. The venue, Manchester’s Satans Hollow, seems the ideal setting for the night’s entertainment. It’s central, ground-level stage area brought the crowd closer to the performance than usual, and MICIC benefited greatly from this, launching into an emotionally charged and largely instrumental set, drawing the crowd in with immense crescendos and thunderous grooves. The first of many pleasant surprises through the night, DISPERSE guitarist and musical master Jakub Zytecki took up the duty of filling in on rhythm guitar for MICIC‘s set, adding to the thunderous atmosphere, and throwing in a couple of his own brilliant solos. The musicians’ evident enjoyment and eagerness to play together sewed together a deeply involving set.
Following MICIC’s intensive opening, DISPERSE, a frontrunner of a new, more accessible wave of progressive metal, had a tough act to follow. While DAVID himself returned the favour and added his talents to DISPERSE’s rhythm section, picking up bass for the duration of the set. While Zytecki performed in his usual brilliant manner, after the huge sounds that trembled the venue in the preceding performance, DISPERSE felt flat, and distinctly weaker in sound to MICIC. Even the stellar performance of Zytecki could not save this set from being somewhat lacklustre.
There are few names that have exploded onto the progressive metal scene faster than PLINI. The Australian extraordinaire dazzled last year at Tech Fest, and his return has sparked much interest at this sold out show. However, few expected his performance to be completely overshadowed by – not another guitarist, as one might expect – his drummer. Troy Wright began the set behind the kit in a simple manner. At least, simple for progressive metal. As the set progressed, his playing began to slowly but surely become more flamboyant, throwing in fills where none were before, throwing the odd bar into a back beat. Soon, every eye was upon him. His playing style was playful, yet with a hint of aggression. Transitions became extravagant tom rolls, calmer bars called for a flurry of cymbals. Because of the circular nature of the venue, it was plain to see his skill without the kit obstructing it.
The final, and perhaps most incredible surprise of the night was not apparent at first. The furious guitar solos ceased, and Wright fell to a calm plodding beat, while the rest of the band re-tuned. And all of a sudden, Wright had a third hand on the kit, an odd interruption from DISPERSE drummer and progressive heavyweight Mike Malyan. The two comically swapped the duty of keeping time without any audible interruption, while PLINI and the rest of the band were joined on stage by Jakub Zytecki, David Maxim Micic, and the rest of the night’s musicians. The next fifteen minutes were dominated a building crescendo of guitar solos traded between the four talented shredders present, incredible drumming at the hands of Wright and Malyan, and an intensely intimate and honest performance. An unforgettable experience for and any progressive metal fan.
This was not a good show in the conventional sense. By all means, it filled every requirement for a good show, but it was more than that. The layout of the venue added greatly to this aspect. The circular forum allowed for the musicians to interact and get to know the crowd. When the night’s music is particularly instrumentally focused, this is crucial too holding an audience’s attention, which these acts certainly achieved with distinction. But no, this was more than simply an act and an audience. This was a night of musicians performing music they clearly enjoyed crafting to a crowd that clearly appreciated its finer points. This was a deeply honest collection of moments, and one that is unlikely to return.