York has been treated to yet another night of heavy metal. In the first two months of 2016 York has already warmly received Faroese folk metal group Týr, American thrash metal legends Exodus, and Finnish thrashers Lost Society, and on March 29th American metal veterans Trivium brought the steel to York’s Barbican. The band are on a UK tour with London heavy metal/thrash group Savage Messiah and the fresh-faced metalcore group, As Lions (featuring Austin Dickinson, the son of Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, on vocals). The band’s locations were chosen with the intention of performing off the beaten track, and York’s metal fans turned out in a powerful show of support for the band.
The opening band for the night were As Lions, a band it must be noted are at the very start of their career with only have one song currently available to listen to and an EP due out later this year. It is important to frame things that way because I came away with mixed feelings about this band – on the one hand, the style of metal they play (metalcore) is simply not one which appeals to me. I made a note that their first two tracks had identical song structures, which are highly predictable if you know anything about metalcore. It goes something like ‘Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Breakdown, Chorus, End’. The verses often feature harsh vocals while the choruses are sung in a more melodic tone for maximum accessibility. All that said, there were some good moments scattered throughout their performance, such as the technical guitarwork on the song ‘One by One’ and a particularly heavy breakdown which got the crowd’s heads nodding. And it must be said that As Lions put on an energetic and tight performance – they’re clearly very competent musicians and performers, and frontman Austin Dickinson was giving it his all throughout their set. Shifting confidently between singing and screaming his lungs out, the energy he brought to the performance was admirable considering the surprisingly lethargic crowd, with a strong performance of their anthemic single ‘The Fall‘ which some in the crowd were clearly familiar with. Though I personally remain uninterested in their music, it was a tight and energetic performance for such a young band.
London-based thrash/heavy metal group Savage Messiah were a band I was already somewhat familiar with them going into this show, but after this performance, I think a proper exploration of their discography is in order. Combining high-energy thrashy riffs, explosive guitar solos, and power metal-influenced singing, Savage Messiah tore through their set at a relentless pace. The energy and enthusiasm of the band was infectious: guitarist and singer Dave Silver was on peak form, nailing the technically-complex guitar solos of ‘In Thought Alone’ with visible ease and putting power and conviction into his singing, while second guitarist Joff Bailey and bassist Mira Slama brought further energy to the stage, encouraging and motivating the crowd on all corners of the room. I was also impressed by drummer Andrea Gorio, whose visible enjoyment of just being on-stage and blasting away to some good thrash metal was a joy to behold. Performances of the astonishingly adrenaline-filled ‘Hellblazer‘ and brutal ‘The Fatal Dark’ were ferociously heavy experiences to behold, and it was clear after a few tracks that many audience members were really getting into the music, with a small moshpit starting close to the end of their set. The melodic riffs, thunderous pedalwork, and powerful vocals of closing track ‘Minority of One’ propelled Savage Messiah across the finishing line in style, leaving a lasting impression on many in the audience.
The headlining act, and the band that most of the audience were clearly here for – Trivium. Not six months out from the release of their latest LP ‘Silence in the Snow‘, Trivium have lost none of the energy and enthusiasm. Ploughing their way through a 90-minute set of fan favourites from all of their albums, there was something for everyone here. Opening with the title track from their latest LP, the crowd went absolutely wild for the band, especially considering their relatively anemic response to the opening bands. Chants throughout the night of ‘Yorkshire! Yorkshire! Yorkshire!’ filled the air, and the energy and atmosphere were electric. Cuts from their earlier material went down a storm, particularly ‘Dying in Your Arms’ (the crowd sang along at such a volume that at times Heafy’s singing was drowned out!), as well as ‘Rain’, ‘Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr’, and ‘Like Light to the Flies’ from fan-favourite album Ascendency, as well as ‘Requiem’ from the band’s very first album, a song that vocalist/guitarist Matt Heafy noted was written when he was just 15 years old.
Frontman Matt Heafy’s love of what he does was evident, hurtling around the stage and making full use of the microphones placed along its front to make all corners of the room feel involved, including those seated at the back of the room, getting them involved in the chants and songs. The entire performance throughout the night was incredibly tight – one would expect nothing less from a veteran band that tours the world and headlines festivals as big as Wacken. The brutal, complex fretwork of ‘Throes of Perdition’ leading to the most frenzied moshpit I’ve witnessed in York, with guitarists Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu nailing the solos and riffs on ‘Down from the Sky’, one of the band’s heavier and darker pieces. Their performance of a personal favourite of mine, ‘Built to Fall’, elicited a massive crowd response with its huge, shout-along chorus, as did the newer tunes ‘The Ghost That’s Haunting You’ and ‘Until the World Goes Cold.’ Frenzied thrash hit ‘Anthem (We Are the Fire)’ stirred up a huge circlepit, and Trivium closed the set with the anthemic and iconic ‘In Waves’, received with yet greater enthusiasm from the crowd. Ending on a high note, Trivium left an exhausted but satisfied audience in their wake.
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