I'm Dreaming of a Neon Black Earth...
Arch Enemy and Nevermore play the London Scala, 29th September 2003
by: Paul Schwarz
The tour headliners, Nevermore, are ousted from the top-slot for their London show by "special guests" Arch Enemy, the latter having shifted more units in the UK... thus far, at least. Judging on tonight's performance, that may be set to change. At the least, Nevermore should be back for their own headliner in the near future (hint hint). The anticipation pre-set is almost tangible; every time a song from the stereo finishes, tensions are released in hopeful, expectant bursts of shouting and whooping.

Arriving to raucous reaction, Nevermore deliver a sterling set comprised primarily of songs from 2001's _Dead Heart in a Dead World_ and their latest, _Enemies of Reality_; there is nothing from _Dreaming Neon Black_, but splendid renditions of "The Seven Tongues of God" and "Who Am I?" from 1996's _The Politics of Ecstasy_ more than make up for missing staples like "Ophidian". Sound and performances are stellar: the band's distinctive technical twists and talent for writing sophisticated-yet-anthemic songs are both discernible and effectively delivered. While thrashing and hammering out their moving and infectious 21st century metal, Nevermore engage -- in their work and with their audience -- very naturally; but Warrel Dane struggles throughout to judge the crowd's mood correctly -- or at least fails to reconcile it satisfactorily with his. Apart from proclaiming metal to be sleeping rather than dead (on two separate occasions), Dane says little that gains anything like resounding assent from his crowd. His flat refusal to play Sanctuary material on the grounds that "...that was fifteen years ago, man, no-one remembers that shit!" is greeted with near-hostile disagreement; his requests for a pit fall upon deaf ears: if those near me are anything to judge by, I'd say it's because they'd rather headbang, sing-along and air-guitar in their own space -- as I did, unsurprisingly.

People in the UK really care about Nevermore; some, it seems, even to the exclusion of Arch Enemy: as tonight's headliners take the stage the floor is no more, and possibly even -less- full than when Nevermore had just left it. Nonetheless, to a near-full house, Arch Enemy stride out with a triumphant swagger, and to a warm welcome. The Swedes (plus one German, of course) clearly know they're potentially on the verge of "doing a Sepultura": hitting the big-time after giving hard / extreme metal some of its coolest albums whilst they were "only" a growing underground favourites. Powerful and anthemic, Arch Enemy do justice to just about everything they air; it's telling that the set is heavy on mid-paced numbers (and correspondingly contains quite a bit from their latest, but not greatest, _Anthems of Rebellion_); but as far as gaining friends goes, it becomes evident as their set progresses that this is the way to do it. Though the reactions to "Bury Me An Angel", "The Immortal" and even "Enemy Within" are far from muted, they are considerably less unanimous than those which attend the slower-paced material. Not quite as clear as Nevermore (perhaps from trying a little too hard to push the POWER angle) the mix for Arch Enemy did unfortunately necessitate the use of a little imagination to "hear" all the solos. But though sound, and even perhaps performance are still -better- than when I last saw Arch Enemy (at Glasgow's King Tuts, late last year), the overall experience felt more in the realm of entertainment this time out: colder and somehow almost contrived. "Objectively" Arch Enemy put on a great show; but I could have left halfway through and been happy to get home earlier. Something's not right about that, and I know it's not my overall priorities that are at fault...

(article submitted 13/10/2003)


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