(Andy Synn wants you to know that he took in another show. This time, Obscura, Fallujah, Allegaeon, and First Fragment drew him to the environs of London on February 8th, yielding this report plus video of the event.)
For whatever reason, possibly known only to the gods themselves, tonight’s show was one of three big package-tours plying their metallic wares in the capital all on the same evening, with Behemoth/At The Gates/Wolves In The Throne Room on at Kentish Town Forum and Psycroptic/Aversion’s Crown/Within Destruction/Hadal Maw/Hollow World making The Dome in Tufnell Park their home for the evening.
Thankfully, as I’d caught the latter tour a few days earlier in Manchester, my choice between the remaining two options was an easy one to make, as while I’m a fan of practically all the bands on both bills (to a greater or lesser extent), I wasn’t hugely taken with either of the most recent Behemoth and At The Gates albums, whereas I was very high on the most recent Obscura album (and, spoiler alert, the upcoming new Fallujah too).
So it was off to the O2 in Islington for me!
Stumbling into the venue part-way through First Fragment’s set, my companion and I were quickly treated to an array of impressively technical shreddery and hellishly over-triggered/over-boosted drums… and not really a whole lot else.
There’s no denying that the band can really play their instruments, but the overall lack of charisma or dynamic meant the band’s set was a surprisingly one-note performance despite how many actual notes they kept throwing at the audience.
With a much more measured, and much more song-focussed, approach, Allegaeon made a much stronger impression on the assembled crowd, delivering a solid (though not spectacular) set of tracks drawn from across their discography (including the as-yet-unreleased Apoptosis) that served to remind the audience (and this writer) just how many good songs, killer riffs, and headbanging hooks these guys have produced over the years.
That being said, as much as I enjoyed their impressively tight combination of chunky rhythmic riffage and spiralling lead refrains (which, at times, continue to remind me of Nevermore in their prime), the band’s live show still feels more like a bunch of guys playing together “in” a band, rather than “as” a band, and doesn’t yet add up to much more than the sum of its (admittedly potent) parts.
It’s a fine distinction, to be sure, but one which keeps nagging at me all the same.
Still, with songs like “Grey Matter Mechanics”, “1.618”, and the climactic “Behold, God I Am”, under their belt, you can’t deny how energetic and effective their material is (even if most of their songs do go on about 10% too long).
Despite performing with a brand-new singer (Antonio Palermo, also of underrated Post-Black belligerents Underling) and a stand-in guitarist (Danny Tunker of Alkaloid), tonight’s Fallujah set somehow still felt much more organic and much more natural than either of the two preceding bands.
Just as surprisingly, although there’s already been a small backlash regarding Palermo’s higher-pitched, more Hardcore-styled delivery, the new frontman proved himself just as comfortable when powering his way through older cuts like “Carved from Stone” and “Sapphire” – delivering these songs in a much lower and more guttural fashion more faithful to their original style – as he was laying down the law on brand-new numbers like “Ultraviolet” and “Last Light” (which you can watch/listen to below).
And while Tunker appeared to be dealing with a few technical difficulties early on in their set (something which he’d confirm to me later on), his performance – in fact the whole band’s performance, especially the underappreciated bass work of Rob Morey – was so tightly wound and taut with electricity that you honestly would have believed he’d been playing with the band for years, making this evening’s set probably the best I’ve ever seen Fallujah live.
Of course there was only one true headliner for this evening, and from the moment Obscura marched out onto the stage and burst into a spectacular run-through of “Emergent Evolution”,from their latest album, Diluvium (the title track to which they’d perform not long after, as you can see/hear below), it was clear who the rightful kings were.
As a matter of fact, both Steffan Kummerer and Linus Klausenitzer have clearly developed some suitably Rock-Star-sized balls over the last few years, spending a significant amount of time showing off their talents while perched confidently atop one of the stage’s many elevated posing positions.
True, guitarist Rafael Trujillo still seems nowhere near as comfortable playing in front of such a large crowd as his bandmates (even uber-drummer Sebastian Lanser manages more audience interaction), but his fretboard antics are still as effortlessly impressive as ever.
And while this wasn’t my favourite setlist – there was no “Ocean Gateways”, no “Sermon of the Seven Suns”, and no frikkin’ “Centric Flow” – it was nice to be reminded, as if I even needed it, that Obscura’s rise through the ranks has been built upon a bevy of material that puts just as much emphasis on hooks and songcraft as it does on superior shredding.
And yes, they did play “The Anticosmic Overload”.