The Snow in Their Hearts
My Dying Bride, Katatonia, Soundisciples, Beyond Dawn and Thine
at Rio's, Bradford, England, March 2nd 2001

by: Vicky Anderson
To go, or not to go -- that had been the question for some weeks regarding the PeaceFest, which featured all five bands currently on Peaceville's roster. Would it be worth it? Would Thine sound like they did in the good old days? Are Beyond Dawn and Soundisciples at all interesting? Would Katatonia do a good live show, and would My Dying Bride be as "boring" as some reckoned at their recent London appearance? Peaceville would have to woo us old fans, somewhat perturbed by the recent cheap and bonus-tracked re-issues (swines), with something pretty damn good.

I'll go anyway, I decided, truly not knowing what to expect and fearing the worst from a bunch of bands I was secretly suspicious of having seen better days. I made detailed and intricate plans to keep my journey running smoothly, plotted to meet pals, found accommodation addresses... and promptly fell foul of the evils of consumerism when I got to Liverpool and found all my cards had expired and I couldn't access any money. To go, or not to go, I pondered miserably, even at the eleventh hour. But thanks to a last minute loan I boarded a bus for Bradford, surely the coldest and most perplexing city on earth. Due to the monetary hold-up I had missed the friend I was supposed to meet, was freezing cold and couldn't find my way around the city. Once again I felt like packing it all in and turning around and going home, adamant My Dying Bride weren't going to be worth all the misery and hassle.

Upon arrival, though, it became a different story and I was cheered up greatly by finally meeting whom I was supposed to meet earlier, and finding more old friends besides. Add beer and free gift and I was chilled. This ain't so bad, I thought, glad the hard work was over and ready to be entertained for all my troubles.

The first band came on, and my hopes faded fast that we would see any of Thine's old material. Despite their debut _A Town Like This_ [CoC #32] being sold at the back of Rio's for a fiver, it was like watching an entirely different band. Sure, any band is going to sound different after four years between releases, but, I kid ye not -- something has gone horribly wrong with Thine. What had once been the most promising act in Bradford’s doom hotbed has suddenly turned into a Therapy?-type pop-rock band, and a bland and forced one at that. Out are the classy, meandering songs about love and death, and in is an altogether more mainstream outfit. It is unfortunate that their output has been so sparse, so that those of us who were impressed with _A Town Like This_ could have seen this disaster as it evolved, and not been so damn shocked at the transformation. Alan Gaunt's unique vocal work is still impressive, but alas wasted now on a band I can't see any old fans willing to embrace. May they go far with this sell-out ruse, but frankly, they were an utter disappointment.

Beyond Dawn and Soundisciples were the two bands on the Peaceville roster I knew little about, and, like Thine, they suffered from the sort of low profile that doesn't interest people who just want to see My Dying Bride. Amiable Norwegians Beyond Dawn were playing to the same passive crowd as Thine had just suffered, while the few people in attendance stayed at the bar. Their decidedly lo-fi ditties roused little interest and suffered from atrocious sound, which admittedly wasn't their fault. This, unfortunately, was the kind of music I'd put on to relax, and as a result Beyond Dawn, professional shoe-gazers, faded into the background. The Scandinavian components of the Peacefest seemed very shy this evening, as verified by Katatonia's later performance.

Soundiciples intrigued those who fancied a bit of a mosh, as they were the first band of the evening to actually have the attitude to draw attention to themselves. They got off to a confident start, using a funky sample of the theme from "Where Eagles Dare" to rouse some anticipation. Although hardly original, they were a breath of fresh air to the crowd, who finally felt like something was going to happen. Myself, I know when I've had enough of that rap-metal stuff and headed for the bar, anxious that the time was coming for what I'd been waiting for for weeks... the next legendary band.

Katatonia, now a five-piece, emerged to a truly ravenous crowd looking terrified. Starting out quiet and self-conscious, Jonas Renske's beanie hat pulled so far down it's doubtful he even let himself see the crowd in front of him, the band got off to a shaky start with "No Good Can Come of This". My main apprehension about seeing this lot live was that a band that the listener makes such a powerful connection with at home alone wouldn't be able to share this gift with the masses. But the choruses of songs like "Strained" ("I'd like to try to live my life again / I'd like to see where I was going wrong") and "For My Demons" ("You would never sleep at night / If you knew what I'd been through"), that seemed so heart-wrenchingly personal on CD, actually worked very well live. It was a rather cathartic experience to know such emotional lyrics weren't wasted, and were truly appreciated. I'm paranoid, but I keep expecting those loons in red baseball caps and nu-metal shirts to turn up and ruin everything as usual. Happily, some things are still sacred.

The band soon felt at ease, although they remained quiet between songs. Fans shouted out for older material, requesting mostly "Brave" and "12" from _Brave Murder Day_, but unsurprisingly there was nothing from that era or before _Discouraged Ones_ [CoC #31], from which they showcased "Nerve" and "Deadhouse". Once comfortable, Katatonia went from strength to strength. They previewed new single _Teargas_, and received rapturous applause for "I Am Nothing" and "For My Demons" from _Tonight's Decision_ [CoC #42] in particular. And when finished they tootled off into the night, no doubt for a stiff drink, leaving a delighted crowd. They gave a formidable and moving performance, so modestly that I doubt they even knew what they'd done.

Up until then the gig had been a sometimes strange, yet reflective showcase of the state of European metal in the year 2001 (like it or not). Peaceville is now a very varied label. Gone is the corpsepaint, the hair, the death vocals, even the standard uniform of black. The bands on previously had dumped all that to look as indistinguishable as possible. Image is no big deal (I myself have hit the "gotta get a job" stage and know all about that), but seeing My Dying Bride amble on stage, clad in black with plenty of hair, was a satisfying sight. Well and truly forgiven for the _34.788%_ debacle [CoC #35], the band swaggered on and showed everybody just how these things are done.

With an enthusiasm I repeatedly miss by not attending enough small-scale gigs, MDB got down to business. A mixture of the intimacy of the venue, and the band being back home at Rio's for the first time in five years gave an electric atmosphere -- to be honest so enthralling I can't even remember the run of the setlist. All I know is that each song chosen was an unexpected delight, because with nothing to promote but a "greatest hits" of sorts [CoC #51] (which no-one in the crowd ever need buy), the band were free to play a mixture of every release to date. They even previewed a new song, "The Cruel Taste of Winter".

The newest additions to the band brought two necessary elements. A female keyboard player reproduced Martin Powell's greatly-missed violin sound, and new guitarist Hamish Glencross (ex-Solstice) was a joy to watch. In fact, the whole band seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, and that made for a highly exciting gig, with a setlist including "The Cry of Mankind", "Turn Loose the Swans", "Your River", "A Kiss to Remember" and even "Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium". Only two songs from the last album, _The Light at the End of the World_ [CoC #44], made the gig: "Edenbeast", the powerful opener, and "Fever Sea".

There was much moshing and even stagediving to be had, adding to a real air of celebration. Early on, singer Aaron Stainthorpe slashed open his finger, which left his hand bloody for the rest of the set, but so immersed in the performance was he that he didn't even seem to notice. This gig was a joy because not only did the band sound as powerful as they do when you're at home, but they managed to share this intimacy and not compromise, still creating the atmosphere of a true spectacle. Quite unexpectedly, the set had a vibrancy and energy even during the longer tracks that left me properly gobsmacked. Yet it still moved me, with poignant lyrics and those wonderful riffs, for example with one of my favourites, "The Snow in My Hand".

As for all the deliberating, all the "should I, shouldn't I" pre-gig pondering -- more fool me for underestimating in the first place. I reckon calling it PeaceFest wasn't such a misnomer at all. I found myself feeling actually peaceful afterwards, like I'd been starving and just been given a bloody good feed. An extremely rewarding night, and a true credit to My Dying Bride -- they've certainly still got it. Although I doubted it would be a worthwhile endeavour, there's nothing like that feeling when you know something has all been worth it -- and then some.

(article submitted 13/3/2001)


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