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Album Review: TBA

Monday, November 30, 2009

Gig Review: Five Finger Death Punch + Shadows Fall – Waterfront, Norwich 30/11/09

On a chilly night the crowd are pleased to get in from the glacial conditions and into the prospect of witnessing two hefty acts with big-selling albums to promote. Originally, billed as a Shadows Fall headlining tour, the rise and rise of Five Finger Death Punch has meant a joint lead slot and plenty of rockers have turned up to pay homage.

First on, Dutch metalheads Magnacult do a fine job of warming up the audience and although the reaction to them is somewhat muted, the throat-scouring vocal of Sebastiaan Lefèvre, complementing the bass-ridden groove and sonorous shredding that lurks behind it, is enough to send a promising buzz circulating the venue. The focal point is the bassist, Spit, sporting Hellraiser-esque corn plugs all over his scalp, who constantly ogles the crowd for signs of life. “I wanna see chaos” cries Lefèvre before Line Of Attack and a solitary arm is raised above a pool of nodding heads. They deserve more than they receive tonight.

Rise To Remain, however, don’t do nearly enough to impress. With baby-faced, diminutive vocalist, Austin Dickinson, they don’t have the same impact as the bands that surround them. With outstanding tracks such as the abrasive Salvation they do have the songs to impress (there’s also a crowd-friendly stomper and a track, possibly titled Undiminished, that dips in and out of gut-wrenching breakdowns), but the delivery tonight is way too impersonal – almost as if the crowd are voyeurs at one of RTR’s band practices. Sure, there’s plenty of chest-beating, but with Dickinson’s impulsion to pointlessly ask us how we’re doing tonight, over and over, it only highlights the band’s inability to gauge their audience.

With the other band members motionless, the nerve centre for Shadows Fall’s set is lead vocalist Brian Fair. Usually, this would make for a dull show, but tonight the frontman with the 4-foot dreads is on fire. They chuck their new melodic ball-breaker, Still I Rise, in early and Fair is immediately whipping the crowd into a frenzy with plenty of finger-pointing and windmilling. He follows that up by reaching up to the mesh of pipework that forms the ceiling of the venue, and swings his way out over the gawping faces who reach up instinctively to cushion his fall. The further he ventures, the more tired he becomes until finally the inevitable happens; a slip and a crowdsurf back to terra firma. “Hell, this place is dirty” he exclaims as he looks down at the layers of muck that now coat his palms. Imploring us to “fuck it up”, the crowd respond with a bout of pitting for A Public Execution. Sure, there’s an eventual loss of momentum despite Fair’s fervent devil-horning and manic exhortations (“death to false metal!”), but that early burst of hits and athletics will live long in the memory.

We’re taken by surprise as, seemingly from out of nowhere, Five Finger Death Punch frontman Ivan Moody is suddenly leering maniacally at us from atop his flightcase. The band fire up Burn It Down and he sets off into a routine of fist-pumping and head-slapping – it won’t be long before we’re seeing an ‘Action Man: Rock Edition’ of the somewhat unhinged vocalist. Veins a-popping, he throws himself into their notorious Bad Company cover, whilst at his side the whipcrack dreads of guitarist Zoltan Bathory lash the front row. For Hard To See, the pit steps it up a gear and suddenly the lasses who’ve been propping up the bar are in with the lads, singing along with every note. A young boy, who can’t be more than 10 years old, gets tossed into the air, over and across the pit, and immediately Moody’s on-stage persona is dropped to berate those before him for being so insensitive. He asks for the youngster to be gently allowed through to the front and, reaching down, he hauls him out and finds him a desirable spot at the back of the stage, away from the mayhem out front.

The connection between audience and band is one of the most important aspects of any gig and here we have a group of showman that understand how to nurture and feed that link. Bathory is constantly smiling and pulling faces at individuals within the seething mass. Across stage, bassist Matt Snell thrashes his monstrous combed beard and Mohawk combo for the fans to gawp at. At the back, drummer Jeremy Spencer stands in between songs to cup his ears and nod his head approvingly at the response. But, no-one outdoes the man with the knuckleduster microphone – Moody is quite the showman; running to one side to roar at the VIPs, standing stock still to morph a ‘little boy lost’ frown into a ‘serial killer’ smirk, and mucking in to meet and greet those that crowdsurf to the stage. Time simply flies in this band’s presence and it’s, therefore, something of a shock when the time comes to brave the frigid, fresh air once again. As least our ears and our hearts are still burning.

Photo by Tim Reynolds

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