Sad Eyes Question Future.
Arch Enemy and Akercocke at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow, December 16th 2003
by: Adam Lineker
It has been very satisfying watching Arch Enemy win over the mainstream metal press with their last two records, especially because they are now touring accessibly in Great Britain. This billing with Akercocke was the third time I have seen the band live, and after witnessing a storming performance at Donington Park (May 31st 2003), I had very high expectations. However, on a night full of the unexpected, it was hard to ignore the sense of something amiss in the Arch Enemy camp.

The gig started in suitably explosive fashion. As the venue was packed to the rafters it didn't need much to create atmosphere, but Akercocke made an inspired effort, with all their eerie red lights and possessed facial contortions. As the chants of their intro tape grew louder, the band worked themselves up into a frenzy, only to be immediately thwarted by the guitar amp conking out after the very first note, and leaving a jocular Jason Mendonca to save face in front of a crowd who were almost on the floor with mirth, as the frontman's London accent quickly transformed him into a more sharply dressed Nigel Tufnell.

However, proceedings were quickly back on track and Akercocke restarted their set, assaulting the crowd with a relentless half hour of undefined, passionate bludgeon. Maybe their sound man was having a bad one, but I barely recognised anything in their set, and it seemed that most of my favourite songs were left out; the fact that the band segued many songs into each other didn't help. I probably should have acquired their current _Choronzon_ opus before the show. However, I took great pleasure in watching the band's physical performance, and David Gray's effortless drumming was among the finest musical displays I've witnessed.

Having milled around individually during Akercocke's brief but violent set, Arch Enemy made a confident collective appearance onstage, kicking into "The First Deadly Sin" with conviction. Having overdosed on their recent _Anthems of Rebellion_ opus, I was expecting the show to be a visceral and triumphant display of musical prowess from a metal band whose time has arrived. I was brought down to earth with an uncomfortable bump by what was actually delivered. The band played their metal as solidly as expected, with the virtuoso Chris Amott and bass-monster Sharlee D'Angelo giving inspired performances. The band took the atmosphere up to a satisfying level, working the crowd with newer songs such as "We Will Rise" and "Instinct". Yet despite these achievements, there were evident problems that became more so as the set progressed. Aside from the rather short and patchy set, the sound often seemed hopelessly over-distorted, marring the melodic intricacies of the music. Although this may seem like a rather bizarre criticism from a dedicated metal lover, everything was simply too loud to preserve any form of clarity and the vocals were often buried. Angela Gossow, despite performing with her usual fire and passion, vexed me with Slipknot impressions whenever the music stopped. Gone was the cool and professional frontwoman who told the soundman here to get his shit together on the last tour; this incarnation addressed the audience entirely in growled tones and said Fuckin MuthaFuckas. A lot. However, this might have been good, wholesome, metal fun, were it not for the killjoy demeanour of Mike Amott. Staring moodily at his feet and seeming to go through the motions, the flame-haired guit-artiste was an introverted and disconcerting presence over stage left. I wasn't the only one to notice this. As the show progressed, I noticed more and more people looking at each other and shrugging their shoulders, debating the possible cause of this apparent attack of disinterest.

It is quite possible that the band were having an off night, which is an understandable occurrence for any group of working musicians on tour, but nobody wants to pay money to go and see a band that look like they've other things to be doing from the moment they get onstage. I'm not interested in starting up the rumour mill about Amott and Gossow's relationship here on CoC, so I'll express my confidence that this distracted vibe was caused by knowledge of forthcoming cancellations that affected the rest of the UK tour. Still, despite my love for Arch Enemy, I left King Tut's underwhelmed and crestfallen. The band that totally ruled at Donington 2003 just knocked about some of my favourite metalworks of the recent years without any real heart.

As the era of the old Metal Gods draws to a close, we look to champion new ones. On this performance Arch Enemy seemed touchable, not much more than a decent band doing the rounds.

(article submitted 16/2/2004)


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