Judgement Night
Mayhem, Anathema, Hatesphere and Bronco Busters
at the Rock World, Manchester, England
September 26th, 2000

by: Pedro Azevedo
In England, people have a saying, something like: "It never rains... it only pours." This was probably the first time I realized this could also be seen from a point of view other than the negative one, as after having lived in England for nearly six months without witnessing a single concert, I got to see two in a couple of weeks -- and nearly a third one. Ironically, however, although Mayhem were headlining this show and playing their last concert of the tour, my trip to Manchester was entirely due to the inclusion of Anathema as a special guest band -- they doubtlessly are one of my favourite bands and I had already seen Mayhem a couple of weeks earlier in London (supported by Aeternus and Red Harvest) with good friend and CoC writer Paul Schwarz [see his own article in this issue for more details on that concert].

Norwegian female trio Bronco Busters were the first band on stage, presenting their fast-paced, relatively heavy rocking style. You're probably wondering why such a band was supporting Mayhem; well, this concert was part of a bigger, week-long event of Scandinavian music that took place in Manchester, so they weren't exactly part of a Mayhem tour package or anything. Of course now you may be wondering what is Anathema's connection to Scandinavia, since they were also playing. Well, none that I know of, but there was a Scandinavian band that -was- supposed to play and didn't, and a few weeks before the show Anathema were asked to replace them. Anyway, despite having tried hard, Bronco Busters received little attention from an audience that was there to see either Mayhem or Anathema (or both). Their rather shrill sound just made me wish they would go away, especially because the show was already running quite late due to bass amp problems.

So far, most people (myself included) had only guest "metal DJ" Fenriz (of Darkthrone fame) and his obscure vinyl oddities as something musically interesting to pay attention to. Hatesphere from Denmark, however, changed that situation. Playing some aggressive Swedish-like metal that reminded me of bands such as The Haunted and Soilwork, their half hour on stage was certainly intense as far as the band's performance was concerned. Soilwork they were not, but Hatesphere still managed to entertain and make themselves noticed -- I cannot recall ever having heard of them before, but I was tempted to find out some more about them after the show.

With their set cut down to half an hour due to the belatedness of the whole schedule, Anathema finally appeared on stage. As the stage was pretty low and one could get quite close to it, the whole thing didn't feel far from watching a rehearsal -- except Anathema's performance that night was too -intense- for that. Still, with a woman on the front row unrequestedly revealing everything beneath her shirt to the band, things were starting off on a weird tone. This was not a Manowar or Metallica-like act, though, and vocalist Vincent Cavanagh's amused reaction was just that "People do the strangest things..." Starting quietly with "2000 & Gone", with Vincent reciting something (or simply making it up as he went along) instead of actually singing, they then surprised everyone by linking that onto a completely devastating, approximately ten second long piece of grindcore-like destruction (brutal enough for Vinny to need a new guitar afterwards, though the drums sure proved to be resistant). After Vinny politely but unsuccessfully tried to get someone to lower the stage lights that made it impossible for him to see the audience, the band played "Deep" from _Judgement_ and followed it up with a very aggressive (especially vocal-wise) rendition of "Empty" from _Alternative 4_. Good sound, plenty of emotion coming from the stage and a very warm welcome from the significant part of the audience that seemed to enjoy every minute of Anathema's performance.

"Forgotten Hopes" from _Judgement_ was next, and then the band played one of the new songs they've been working on recently -- a psychedelic and doomy one. They were supposed to play some more new material, but there was no time for that; and thus the first few notes of "A Dying Wish" from _The Silent Enigma_ received a massive cheer from the crowd, myself included. It's a shame they couldn't play the title track from that album, but given the amount of time they had available, I'm more than glad they actually even played "A Dying Wish" at all -- and they did so excellently, generating truly remarkable intensity. They then finished their set with a surprising Iron Maiden cover that most of the audience seemed to enjoy a lot more than I did.

Thanks to concert organizer/promoter Alex Nordgaren (from the band Fleurety), who proved to be an excellent host from the moment I arrived with my girlfriend at the Rock World, we had the chance to talk to Anathema vocalist Vincent Cavanagh for a few minutes after the show. As I didn't have any chance of recording the conversation, it turned out to be a totally informal chat during which Vinny talked briefly about the preparations for the recording of the new album and made some remarks about the concert (the set list having been decided five minutes before they started playing, and Danny having picked up the microphone and announcing the Maiden cover that nobody else in the band actually wanted to play, for example). During the rest of that brief chat, which had Fenriz's musical selection as a soundtrack, Vinny was actually quite inquisitive; a good example of that was the concern he showed at my beloved's apparent tiredness and lack of participation in the conversation. He carefully asked how she was feeling -- to which she just shrugged -- and whether she had liked the concert. The reason why I mention this is that her answer illustrates a lot of what I felt as well: after all the effort we had expended in travelling to Manchester and staying there overnight to see a band that is her favourite and one of my own favourites as well, a half hour performance was less than satisfying. But still, Anathema's live excellence and a good choice of songs given the limited amount of time certainly helped ease that feeling.

As Mayhem tore into the second half of their set (a shortened one in comparison to what I had seen in London -- see Paul Schwarz's article), we were greeted by the cold rain outside, a reminder that the live Anathema experience was over. Memories, however, will always remain.

(article submitted 20/11/2000)

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