(Andy Synn turns in this review of the live performances by Obscura, Revocation, Beyond Creation, and Rivers of Nihil in Sheffield, England, on October 24, 2016 — along with videos of the performances.)
Our readers in the UK who play guitar or bass will probably have noticed something rather peculiar over the last couple of days. Riffs that they used to be able to play turning into a mangled, lumpen soup of glitches and errors… Fluid solos that they used to rip out with ease skittering away from stumbling fingers… even, in the most extreme cases, a complete inability to even lift their instrument anymore, as if they were no longer “worthy” to wield its power.
And I know why.
You see on Monday night I was there when Obscura, Revocation, Beyond Creation, and Rivers of Nihil selfishly used-up the entire country’s supply of notes and riffs, leading to a crisis of near biblical proportions amongst the string-slinging section of the UK metal community.
Thankfully, however, I’ve been informed that a fresh shipment is being piped in from the mainland, and so normal proceedings should be resumed by the weekend or thereabouts.
All kidding aside though, I had been looking forward to this show ever since it was announced, so you’d better believe that I was there nice and early to ensure I caught Rivers of Nihil opening the night’s stacked (and, apparently, hand-picked) bill, as the chance to catch the Pennsylvania Death Metallers live was actually one of this tour’s biggest draws for me.
With a set weighted heavily towards material from last year’s phenomenal Monarchy (though both “Rain Eater” and “Soil and Seed” from their first album also got an airing), the quintet put on a powerful-yet-nuanced display, making the most of their allotted time-slot with a plethora of pneumatic riffs and massive, metallic hooks, interspersed with moments of soothing atmospherics and poignant progressive touches.
Most impressively of all, for what was only their second-ever show in the UK the band certainly didn’t appear to be suffering from any nervousness, and by the time the last distorted waves of “Soil & Seed” began to fade it was evident that the pounding heaviness and rivetingly tight delivery of their set had been everything I was hoping it would be.
Not far behind Rivers of Nihil as the second of the evening’s big draws, Canadian quartet Beyond Creation pretty much threatened to steal the entire show from the moment they set foot onstage, blasting and weaving their way through killer cuts like “Coexistence” (which you can check out below) and “Theatrical Delirium” with the effortless nature of a band to whom superior musical ability comes as easily as breathing.
One thing that quickly became clear of course, and is even more so in hindsight, was how fluid and natural the dynamic between the four members of Beyond Creation is in the live setting. Not only were they probably the tightest band of the entire evening, they were also by some measure the most confident and relaxed of all the night’s performers, despite the mind-bending nature of their multi-dimensional Tech Death tapestry, with both Simon Girard (who resembles the illegitimate son of Luc Lemay and Mikael Akerfeldt) and Kévin Chartré seemingly totally at ease with every fretboard-dancing, jazz-tinged riff and extensive, fluctuating solo, while the flawless rhythm section of drummer Philippe Boucher and lithe uber-bassist Hugo Doyon-Karout didn’t miss a single beat or note over the course of the band’s set, which concluded with a truly awe-inspiring rendition of “Fundamental Process”.
Having seen Revocation several times before I pretty much knew what to expect from David Davidson and his crew of Tech-Thrash reprobates… a veritable riot of riffs and a raucous good time!
But, it has to be said, Monday’s performance wasn’t one of the band’s best.
Oh, they were definitely as tight as ever, make no mistake, but something seemed to be missing, some sort of spark or x-factor, which meant that it took a lot longer than you might think for their set to truly catch fire.
That being said, although it took a few numbers for the band themselves to get into the proper swing of things, a certain segment of the audience had clearly come primarily to see Davidson and his scurvy crew deliver the goods, and the triptych of “Madness Opus”, “Scorched Earth Policy”, and “Witch Trials” certainly did that (although the abrupt ending to the latter – and to the band’s set – contributed to the feeling that something was a little “off” about the whole performance).
Either way, this was still a solid enough set (if not, in all honesty, one of the evening’s best) from a band eminently capable of kicking ass even at half-steam.
For all the controversy and “he said, she said” drama that’s been going on behind the scenes in the Obscura camp this year, you wouldn’t know about it from watching the band perform.
Right from the start both Steffen Kummerer and bass maestro Linus Klausenitzer were all smiles and ear-to-ear grins, with Kummerer proudly informing us that not only was this tour easily the band’s most successful to date, but the Sheffield stop was also the first show to totally sell-out, so they had more than enough reason to be happy (though apparently no-one told the stoic Rafael Trujillo, who spent most of the set tucked away in a corner, eyes fixed firmly on his fretboard).
With smoke jets, flashing lights, and a full six songs pulled from their new album, it was clear, however, that most of Obscura were in a celebratory mood, ploughing through prog-touched and devilishly dynamic numbers like “Ten Sepiroth”, “Perpetual Infinity”, and “Sermon of the Seven Suns” (a personal favourite of mine) with all the energy and vigour of a band with nothing to prove… but who are more than happy to do so anyway.
Granted, Kummerer’s banter and demeanour occasionally dipped into cheesy, borderline Hasselhoff territory, but when tracks like the crushing depth-charge of “Ocean Gateways” and the lightning-in-a-bottle of “Anticosmic Overload” are zapping your neurons into stunned insensibility it’s hard to care about such trivial things.
Finishing with (what else?) a titanic run-through of “Centric Flow” (capped off with one of the worst, and most embarrassing, attempts at stage-diving I’ve ever seen from one member of the audience), the German quartet made sure to let us know that they’d be back again soon, bigger and better than before. And, on the strength of that performance, only a foolish man would bet against it.