Architects

support Beartooth + Polaris
author AP date 08/01/19 venue Store VEGA, Copenhagen, DEN

For Architects to headline a venue of VEGA’s magnitude in Denmark has been inevitable for some time now. With each new record since 2011’s “The Here and Now”, the Brighton-based quartet has raised the bar and played an important role in defining the future direction of metalcore, and their latest and greatest, 2018’s “Holy Hell”, continues that trend unabated. Over the past eight years especially, Architects have attracted an enormous following by virtue of both the quality of their four most recent albums and the intensity of their live performances, and as such, it is no wonder that the 1,500-capacity main hall of Copenhagen’s most iconic venue is chock full of people and buzzing with anticipation long before the opening act has even walked onto the stage. The best vantage points, I realise, are all already taken.

All photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen

Polaris

Polaris have traveled from afar to be a part of this tour — they hail from Sydney, Australia — but if there ever was any jetlag collecting its due from the five musicians, it has either already been paid for or offset by an excess of caffeine. The band is fired up and hellbent on making an impression on this Danish live début of theirs, with vocalist Jamie Hails stomping the floor hard and headbanging with a vengeance, and lead guitarist Ryan Siew gunning us down with his instrument as the opening track, “The Remedy” off 2017’s “Mortal Coil”, kicks things off. The band’s take on metalcore is quite standard, albeit with a rawer riff tone and more acerbic growls than I tend to expect from music like this, but what the quintet lacks in original ideas, they compensate for with an explosiveness that is rare even in this genre. And the crowd is totally sold. Having acquired whiplash during the opener, a large chunk of the audience readily obeys the command of Hails’ twirling index finger as “Casualty” gets going, organising into a circle pit, and when the calmer and more atmospheric “Dusk to Day” is aired afterward, the same people also do his bidding and light up the flashes on their smartphones for a collective sway of the arms. Later on, “Consume” elicits a long wall of death as it slows down and explodes into a breakdown to provide contrast to Siew’s oriental, technical death metal-style guitar solo and a noodly, Ken Susi-esque leads. Siew really shows off his talent in this track and lifts it up to one of the standout moments of the set from a songwriting perspective, but even so, the true pulling power of Polaris right now seems to be the high entertainment value of their live shows. While it remains to be seen whether Hails & co. have enough tricks up their sleeve to sustain this kind of energy for longer than the six songs to which we are treated tonight, this brief introduction is nonetheless a positive surprise, as it is not often one comes across such a young band exercising so much control over their audience, let alone having the ability to directly translate the musicians’ own intensity into an equally intense reaction on the crowd side.

8

Beartooth

The last time Beartooth played at VEGA, it was in support of Bring Me the Horizon in 2015 — and now they are here in the capacity of warming up for the other heavyweight of British metalcore. But judging by the welcome they receive tonight, the Columbus, OH-born outfit could probably have shouldered the weight of headlining this package on their own, if needed. Already during the first track, “Bad Listener” off last 2018’s “Disease”, nearly everyone on the floor is off their feet, jumping and moshing to the tune of its simple, yet intoxicatingly groovy chug riff, and filling in the vocals when frontman Caleb Shomo points his microphone at us during the choruses. His demeanour on stage mostly consists of racing from side to side and imposing himself on us from atop the glory boxes that extend across the entire length of the stage, but like Jamie Hails, he has the audience in the palm of his hand. “Where’s the moshpit? WHERE’S THE FUCKING MOSHPIT?”, he roars as the next song, “Aggressive” off its namesake album from 2016, reaches its breakdown — and the crowd answers with a moshpit. “On the word ‘go’ you fucking jump!”, he screams as “The Lines” (a track taken from 2014’s “Disgusting”) is aired — and the crowd goes bouncing. “Sing these words back at me, Copenhagen!”, he beckons before the easycore-style fan favourite “In Between” is let loose — and the crowd chimes in during the infectious chorus.

Indeed, Shomo’s control over the audience is an impressive sight to behold and the primary reason for why even a grump such as myself, who finds Beartooth’s music to be too simplistic and riddled with too many clichés and cheap tricks instead of artistry to leave a lasting impression, can derive plenty of enjoyment from the band’s qualities as a live act. Still, with so much of the showmanship centered on Shomo alone — the rest of the musicians only really come to life during the explosive “Body Bag” near the end of the set — it is also easy to notice how his voice breaks after many of the transitions from screaming to clean singing, and how he must rely on the willingness of the audience to back him up when needed. I am thus left with mixed feelings after this 40-minute introduction to Beartooth, having been thoroughly entertained, yet also amused in all the wrong ways about the dudebro attitude that seems to be the gist of their music.

7

Architects

The tone immediately turns more serious when Architects emerge from backstage helped along by the dramatic orchestral intro to “Death Is Not Defeat” off their latest album, and you can also tell that the audience adopts a completely different mindset for appreciating the darker nature of this band. Guided by the moody, yet also urgent lighting (blue hues and white flickers), the atmosphere changes from festive to furious to accommodate the likes of “Modern Misery” and “Nihilist” (one of most brutal tracks off 2016’s “All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us”), and while people are still keen on some moshpit savagery during the breakdowns, one can also sense that there is some reflection happening as well. Architects have been producing music of such a high standard in recent years that honestly, the band has to do very little for their concerts to be rewarding experiences. But they do need to ensure that all the knobs and sliders on the mixer are properly set in order to be able to accommodate both the devastating F#-tuning that Josh Middleton and Adam Christianson use for their guitars, the lead melodies glistening in the choruses, and the characteristic growls and fragile clean vocals that frontman Sam Carter switches between. We are in luck then, as songs like “Broken Cross” (taken from 2014’s “Lost Forever // Lost Together”) showcase the mix in perfect balance, with especially Carter’s voice sounding on point throughout the 17 tracks that comprise the setlist.

Another aspect of the concert that is on point and must be honoured with a special mention, is the lightshow. It is one of the most intense and spectacular I have seen in some time, with virtually every passing song adding a new dimension to it and leaving me lost for words. At the risk of sounding derisive, in the midst of songs like “Royal Beggars”, it looks like Architects are performing in a high-end nightclub, with strobes flickering, lasers cutting through the air and plumes of smoke erupting like clouds of powdered paint behind the five musicians. Whereas lighting is often used haphazardly, here it seems to lift the band’s showmanship to another level by highlighting the atmospheres and signalling when the transitions between the crushing and the more contemplative passages in the likes of “Gravedigger” and the standout “Mortal After All” are about to happen. So with a perfect sound mix, perfect lighting, and metalcore of the highest order emanating from the speakers, do the five musicians then rest on their laurels, satisfied with the capacity of all these technical aspects to woo their audience? Absolutely not.

Previous occasions have taught me that Architects are not ferocious in the live setting as some of their most vitriolic material might have you believe, but they have always given everything they have on stage, and this concert is no exception. If anything, the tragedy of founding guitarist Tom Searle’s passing has made their stage presence even more vivid. There are times especially in more personal songs like “Gone with the Wind” when Carter looks and sounds so afflicted you’re worried he might burst into tears, clearly taken aback by the respectful demeanour of the audience, many of whom draw the shape of a heart with their hands in memory of Tom. And if that by itself is not enough to convince you of the genuine emotions involved in this concert, then at the very least Carter’s speech after that song should. In it, he uses the last strains of his voice to express gratitude for the undying support of the band’s fans, delivers a personal introduction to each musician and then pays heartfelt tribute to his fallen comrade, interjecting more than five minutes of break before “Doomsday”, which feels just as cathartic and climactic as it does on record, finally brings the show to a conclusion. And what a show it has been! — the perfect start to another year of concerts.

9

Setlist:

  • 01. Death Is Not Defeat
  • 02. Modern Misery
  • 03. Nihilist
  • 04. Broken Cross
  • 05. Holy Hell
  • 06. Royal Beggars
  • 07. Gravedigger
  • 08. Mortal After All
  • 09. Downfall
  • 10. Naysayer
  • 11. These Colours Don’t Run
  • 12. A Match Made in Heaven
  • 13. Hereafter
  • 14. A Wasted Hymn
  • 15. Memento Mori

— Encore —

  • 16. Gone with the Wind
  • 17. Doomsday

Comments
comments powered by Disqus

Legal

© Copyright MMXIX Rockfreaks.net.