(Andy Synn turned in this review of the performances by Conjurer, Earth Moves, and Armed for Apocalypse on October 24, 2019, in Nottingham, UK.)
Despite all evidence (or lack thereof) to the contrary, I’ve actually been to quite a few gigs this year (including three different festivals), even though I haven’t necessarily been writing about them all.
As a matter of fact, I even saw tonight’s openers headline a different venue here in Nottingham a few months back, and although I didn’t end up reviewing that particular show it definitely made me keen to get down this evening in time for the early start (with doors opening just after 18:30) so I could catch them again!
Despite being only a three-piece, Armed for Apocalypse are the sort of band who always punch well above their weight, and tonight was no different, with the band’s short-but-sweet set delivering the same percussive power and outsize energy that they previously showcased at The Chameleon, only with the added benefit of a much bigger stage and a much bigger crowd.
It’s an absolute no-brainer for these guys to be on tour with Conjurer, as they’ve clearly been a major (and freely acknowledged) influence on tonight’s headliners, and hopefully tonight’s performance (and this tour as a whole) will go a long way towards getting more people onboard the AfA train.
I’m not entirely sure how the line-up/running order for this tour was selected, but I assume the vagaries of the various bands’ relative popularity, current exposure, and “home-field advantage”, must have played a part in it, as otherwise I can’t really explain why Earth Moves were picked as main support over the much more energetic, and much more exciting, Armed for Apocalypse.
Not that there’s anything wrong with EM’s specific brand of wistful, emotive Post-Rock, of course, and the quartet are clearly talented, but nothing about their music, or their performance, this evening felt particularly “special”.
The one exception to this, however, was the band’s drummer, whose display of rhythmic acrobatics and subtle dynamics managed to (unintentionally) outshine the rest of his band-mates combined.
To my mind there are three things that any band needs if they’re going to “make it big” – hype, integrity, and talent (not necessarily in that order).
When I say “hype” however, I don’t mean it in a negative way (for once). All I mean is that, if you have any hope of “making it”, you need to somehow catch the ear, and garner the support of, the right people, the right websites, the right magazines, who can help build your profile and get people coming out to your shows and buying your records.
How to do this, of course, isn’t entirely clear (although there’s definitely a fair bit of luck involved).
But hard work obviously plays a big part too. And while this has its costs (the band themselves freely admit that, in order to focus on touring, they’ve basically foregone any hope of having a steady job/income or place to live when they come home), it’s gratifying to see all of Conjurer’s hard work paying off in the form of international tour slots and sold-out (or near sell-out) shows like this one here in the UK.
All this touring has also clearly paid off in terms of the band’s live show, as while the quartet are still just as unassuming as ever (night after night of people chanting their name, as the crowd does frequently tonight, doesn’t seem to have gone to their heads), they’re also clearly tighter, heavier, and (perhaps most importantly) more confident than ever, all of which allows the bold dynamics of their music – the sonic light and shade, the emotional highs and lows – to manifest even more powerfully.
And while there’s been some rumours that the band are considering switching to a more melodic/atmospheric sound on their next album, I hope that they still retain the same sense of raw energy they demonstrate tonight (such as during personal favourite “Of Flesh Weaker Than Ash”, which you can check out below) because it’s the balance between these elements which, ultimately, is what really makes their music work, both live and on record.