with Gojira and Sonic Syndicate
The Astoria, London
1st October 2008
All live pics and review by HannTu
I think In Flames last toured the UK with the Unholy Alliance ’06. Since then they have released an album, A SENSE OF PURPOSE, which carried on in pretty much the same vein as their last three albums since REROUTE TO REMAIN. Although I firmly believe that their earlier stuff (THE JESTER RACE and WHORACLE especially) was better, the Astoria was still packed out with young In Flames fans.
Sonic Syndicate are a metalcore band from Sweden that pretty much takes its direct influence from the band they were opening for tonight. I guess you know what’s coming: riffs from the Swedish melodeath bands like In Flames and Dark Tranquillity, emo singing and lots of screaming. To be very frank, I can’t abide emo singing, which sort of negates half of Sonic Syndicate’s vocal output.
I have to say that they did put on an enjoyable show; in spite of myself, I did enjoy myself – which is more than I can say for the meagre crowd. Groups of sullen youths in brand new In Flames hoodies standing around, wondering whether their headliner was Finnish or Swedish (I kid you not, overhearing someone behind ask that question made me want to stab someone) – I rocked out more than these people, and I personally loathe metalcore. I have no doubt that most of my enjoyment stemmed from the female bassist, Karin Axelsson. Dark eyeshadow, short hair and pouty lips, headbanging wildly is a fatal combination, and it does my journalistic integrity no good at all by admitting a slight softening of heart towards Sonic Syndicate…
The band was entertaining for what it was worth, although they were restricted by the clutter onstage, ie Gojira’s drumkit. The songs and riffs and vocal lines started sounding samey by the third song, but there will be plenty there to please the average metalcore fan. Just don’t let me hear you ask “Is In Flames from Finland”, or else I disclaim all responsibility for my corresponding (violent) reactions.
Jack of Diamonds
Blue Eyed Fiend
Holy shit, now this was an experience! Gojira are a...I suppose you could call them a primarily death metal band from France. The music seemed mind-blowingly complex to my ears, especially Mario Duplantier’s drumming. He seems to eschew the strict 1-2-3-4 in favour of some looser drumming styles. During his drum solo, there was a distinct tribal flavour to it. But make no mistake about it, he has groove, but mixed in with that groove is a tight and no-frills death metal drummer.
The riffs too were complex, rhythmically at least, to make me want to compare them to Meshuggah. Those stop-starts blew my mind, every single time. Guitarist/vocalist Joe Duplantier coaxed some weird pinch harmonic screeches/arpeggio runs out of his guitar, while bassist Jean-Michel Labadie bounced around stage non-stop. The energy and vibe that they gave off was a welcome change from the attitude that Sonic Syndicate exuded previously. With their album THE WAY OF ALL FLESH out now, I’m going to check them out with some justifiably high expectations.
As the floor rapidly filled up during the changeover, there were some complicated manoeuvres happening onstage. A massive translucent drape hung over the front of the stage, partially obscuring the shenanigans going on. With the crowd getting more and more restive, the lights dimmed.
The band didn’t exactly burst on to stage, so much as dissipate wetly over it. They started off with ‘The Chosen Pessimist’, an ‘interesting’ song, for want of a better word. I suppose it looks all mystical and stuff with the hazy shades and the silhouettes from the backlit band members. But seriously, to hear 6 or 7 minutes of Anders keening and moaning and wailing is a bit much. This was one song from the new album that I LEAST wanted to see live, much less hear. It didn’t help of course that Anders’ mic sounded a bit weak. When you’re overpowered by acoustic guitars, that’s just poor levelling.
‘I’m The Highway’ improved things considerably, the drape falling down dramatically as they kicked into the intro. The band isn’t too active onstage, with only Anders doing any major moving of any note. ‘Vanishing Light’ from COME CLARITY (2006) continues the rocking out, although ‘The Mirror’s Truth’, the single from A SENSE OF PURPOSE received a rather bemused response.
Finally something that was released pre-new-millennium: ‘Insipid 2000’. This was a pretty awesome song from 1999’s COLONY, with Jesper Stromblad and Bjorn Gelotte linking up well. But you should have heard the noise when Anders introduced the next song with “We haven’t played this in a while, a couple of times in Japan, in Birmingham. This is from the CLAYMAN album *roar*, this is ‘Satellites & Astronauts’!” *roar*
‘System’ got the heads whipping, but again it was a CLAYMAN song that got another huge roar, the uber-popular ‘Pinball Map’ that had the entire Astoria crowd singing along. It’s a terribly catchy number and absolutely a live favourite of the band and the crowd. Two new tracks from A SENSE OF PURPOSE followed to relative silence, I’m pretty sure the crowd hadn’t had the chance to let the new album sink it fully yet. ‘Colony’ got a massive reaction just for the mention of the COLONY album, as did ‘Cloud Connected’ – another crazed response with ear shattering singalongs. Anders didn’t really have to do much with the guys and gals!
It was the ‘Jester Race medley’ that left a sour taste in my mouth. I love THE JESTER RACE album as much as anyone else – it’s probably my favourite In Flames album – but the way Anders was going on about it, you’d think it was some seminal groundbreaking absolutely fucking essential metal album. Here was his condescending diatribe: “Does anyone here honestly have a copy of THE JESTER RACE album? Raise your hands if you do! I’m here to educate you about true heavy metal, and I say if you don’t have that album, you need to get it now!” Hmmm…Anyway it was bits of ‘The Jester Race’, ‘Wayfaerer’ and about 10 seconds of ‘Behind Space’ from LUNAR STRAIN. Highly unsatisfying. Then it was a string of the newer stuff: ‘My Sweet Shadow’, ‘Come Clarity’, ‘The Quiet Place’, ‘Move Through Me’, ‘Alias’ and closing with ‘Trigger’ and ‘Take This Life’.
No faux encore for this band, which I heartily approve of. No ‘Bullet Ride’ or ‘Only For The Weak’, which surprised me – I thought ‘Only For The Weak’ at least would be an automatic choice from the ultra-popular CLAYMAN. Nothing from WHORACLE, a medley of two THE JESTER RACE songs and a 10 second burst of LUNAR STRAIN. That this band is very clearly aware of a divide in their fans: pre-2000 and post-2000, and they appear to cater to fans of their newer stuff. This is reflected in their setlist, a total neglect of their first 3 albums – the first 3 albums which were in for a shout for being ‘seminal’ or at least ‘influential’ in the melodic death metal genre. It’s a pity that a band chooses to pass over arguably their best work, but I guess one should give them kudos for “keeping themselves fresh and modern”. Bottom line: if you’re a fan of their newer stuff, don’t miss them. Brilliant renditions of the post-2000 songs will keep you incredibly happy, as the crowd at the Astoria were. They are a good live band as well. But if you’re a pre-2000 person, you’re going to be severely disappointed.
The Chosen Pessimist
I’m The Highway
The Mirror’s Truth
Satellites & Astronauts
Delight & Angers
Jester Race Medley
My Sweet Shadow
Move Through Me
Take This Life
Thanks to Deborah Lombardo at Nuclear Blast for the photo pass!