Venom Prison, Power Trip, Code Orange and Trivium. When that bill was announced in November 2017, it automatically became many a metal fans most anticipated gig of the year. Now it is here – and all the bands are on top form – it is set to be the gig of the year. The short UK run had its penultimate show in Manchester last night with fantastic performances all round.
First up came Venom Prison. The band’s first test was their early stage time (6:30) but their already larger than life reputation and vicious blend of brutal death metal, hardcore with hints of prog led to a fairly sizeable crowd. The tracks were almost all taken from their debut full length Animus, which is now two years old. Whilst it doesn’t sound dated at all, it does mean that new music should soon be on the way from the South Wales five piece. All we can do is hope, because despite being by far and away the heaviest band on this bill, they took to the big stage of Manchester Academy amazingly well. Their hulking stage presence is emotive, and you know that everyone in the band, especially vocalist Larissa Stupar whose stomping attitude puts itself at the forefront – genuinely believes in the music of Venom Prison.
Next on stage was a very different type of heaviness, in the form of Power Trip from Texas. The neo-thrash band have no pretension in what they do; it’s fantastic throwback thrash with whirling guitar riffs, industrial strength drumming and howling vocals. Their stage presence – plenty of fist pumps, jumps and yelps – makes the band imminently watchable. There’s not a note misplaced in the set, but particular highlights come in the form of “Executioner’s Tax” and “Firing Squad.”
After two phenomenal opening bands and a near-full venue, you could easily be forgiven for mistaking Code Orange as the headline act. Their intense wringing together of hardcore, metal, grunge and industrial is a sight to behold live and makes them one of the most exciting prospects in metal. The setlist draws heavily from their latest record Forever, but highlights from previous records like the title track from “I Am King” get storming responses. The strongest moment of the set is at the close, as the audience belt “Code Orange is forever,” back at the band as they depart the stage and the electronic crackles of “dream2” finish off the set.
Whilst Trivium’s continual support for young and upcoming metal bands is certainly something to be admired, it does make topping off this bill much harder task. The Americans take to it admirably, playing a set that takes from almost all of their back catalogue, but focuses (somewhat disappointedly) on latest album, with six tracks from The Sin and the Sentence – whilst these tracks go down well with the die-hards, they leave something to be desired when it comes to capturing the whole crowd.
Frontman Matt Heafy engages the audience with banter throughout, comparing the crowd to Glasgow (boo!) and London (boo!) and calls the UK his “adopted home,” it seems slightly disingenuous in the way that most mid-gig patter does, but the fans lap it all the same.
The best part of the set is the excellent encore, with a run of three of the greatest tracks in Trivium’s back catalogue – “Shattering the Skies Above,” “Pull Harder on the String of Your Martyr,” and finally an epic sing-a-long with “In Waves,” which crashes over the audience powerfully.
Trivium’s set isn’t bad at all, it just seems slightly pedestrian when compared to the phenomenal support they bring with them. That’s certainly not to say they should stop this tactic – between the band and Metal Hammer, they’ve put together one of the year’s event packages – it’s good practice for one of the most experienced modern metal bands to stay on their toes.