Manimal + Firewind + Scar Of The Sun

Sunday 19th February 2017

The Underworld, Camden, London

Camden, in North West London, is probably the premier place for live gig venues in the South of England. An eclectic mix of markets, cuisines and live music venues like Koko, The Electric Ballroom, The Jazz Café and The Roundhouse, my favourite by far is The Underworld. Nestled under a fantastic pub, the World’s End - a great place to stop in for a pre gig beer – The Underworld is a subterranean dark and dingy world of live music heaven. With a capacity of around 300, it is a really intimate venue where you can stand at the edge of the stage just feet away from the bands and share in their perspiration. No photo pit and no small chance of getting electrocuted or trodden on by the band. Idyllic.



The Underworld has an impressive CV of bands who have played there through the years – including Anthrax, Soundgarden, Queens of the Stone Age and the Foo Fighters - and tonight’s addition the list of the poor and famous are Sweden’s Power Metal band Manimal, sandwiched between two Greek colossus. All three bands have that drama about their performance that is typically European. Or is it that European bands are less inhibited than us Brits? It was to be a night of Power Metal riffary with a machine gun volley beat.



Openers Scar Of The Sun are a modern Metal band, influenced by bands like Killswitch Engage. Although of Greek origin, they formed in London in 2005, but still call the Peloponnese their home. Sporting twin Schecter 7 strings and utilising Axa FX amplification, they are a classic chugging Power Metal band. Their grand opening to a growing enthusiastic crowd saw frontman Terry Nikas appear sporting an unusual set of eye furniture that reminded me of the aquatic Abe Sapien from Hellboy. Not very Metal I will grant you but he has the presence to set the tone for the evening with their opening track 'Among Waters And Giants'. This is their first tour in the UK although you wouldn’t know it. No nerves, just out and out enjoyment. There is some great twin guitar work from Alexi Charalampous and Greg Eleftheriou throughout the set, especially good on 'An Ill Fated Wonder', with lots of chugging down strokes at Spandau pace. And that includes Panagiotis Gatsopoulos on bass. His fingers will need some TLC in the morning. Tough bunch these Greeks. It was a good set, although the vocals could have been louder, but they left the stage to deserved applause. Just what an opening act should be.



Setlist - Scar Of The Sun



Among Waters And Giants

An Ill Fated Wonder

Versus The World

Ode To Failure

Sand

The Truth About Lies

Gravity



Manimal are a Gothenburg-based band formed in 2001. All sporting face make up that gave them a leering skull like quality, the 4 piece are fronted by the extremely charismatic Samuel Nyman. His high-pitched vocals are very similar to Rob Halford and the heavy, Judas Priest-like riffs clearly show the bands influences. And very good influences they are. But where Priest had the dual guitar joy of Tipton and Downing, axeman Henrik Stenroos is out on his own and there are times when he could do with a rhythm guitarist to add that extra layer. Although bassist Kenny Boufadene does a damn good job of keeping the rhythm at full throttle whilst Stenroos applies his Gibson Flying V to the glorious sounding Engl amp. Completing the line-up, and looking scarier than Alice Cooper, is drummer André Holmqvist providing that 50 calibre tempo that will see my fillings being replaced next Tuesday. But holding centre stage, Manimal are all about Nyman. He really works the crowd well with a scary leering skull like presence that has hints of Gollum, The Walking Dead and every Brooklyn punk with a bad attitude. He’s animated, fist pumping, exhorting the crowd who were having a ball. All of which are eclipsed by his voice. Halford had the pipes and so does Nyman. The set has the same chugging tempo with everything from throbbing djent to the almost funky bass opening of 'Human Nature'. Although that doesn’t last long before the enfilade of machine gun fire opens up again. It’s a war in here. 'Psychopomp' has some almost prog qualities about it with songs like 'The Dark' feeling quite epic. But Manimal are animals at heart. Closing track, and crowd favourite,'Irresistible' sees Nyman take to the stage in the straight jacket that looks so right on him to escape to the final volley from a band that are both entertaining and energising. Add them to your bands to see.



Set list – Manimal



Trapped

Shadows

The Dark

Darkest Room

Psychopomp

Human Nature

Invincible

Irresistible



After a five-year hiatus, Greek Power Metallers Firewind are back with a new album and front man. And their fans are very pleased to see them again. Henning Basse rejoins on lead vocals as the band showcase their new album, 'Immortals', a concept album about the Battle of Thermopylae. How very Greek. Formed in 1998 by iconic lead guitarist Gus G. (also axing for Ozzy Osbourne as well as his own solo projects) the band has seen a number of line-up changes over the years. The current line-up is Henning Basse – lead vocals, Gus G. – lead guitar and backing vocals, Petros Christodoulidis – bass and backing vocals, Bob Katsionis – keyboards, rhythm guitar and backing vocals and Johan Nunez – drums. But the band for me is all about Gus G. An icon of the Jackson guitar brand he plays his own signature Gus G. Star through Blackstar amps. Hi octane, hi output Metal guitar playing is his forte - this is the man who replaced Zak Wylde – and all the shred you would expect. His dual playing with Katsionis was exhilarating - with Katsionis swapping between his ESP and his keyboard with equal dexterity with hints of Iron Maiden about it. Great to see a keyboard/lead harmony or two. Visually the band are as iconic Metal as you can get. The hair, the leather, the studs. But they have a certain maniacal look that befits their passion.



The tracks from 'Immortals' have that epic feel about them that befits an album about the heroic stand of 300 Spartan soldiers against the invading Persian hordes. There is nothing Spartan about the sound though - full fat metal with all the trimmings. Chunky bass, screaming lyrics, blistering solo’s. I would like to use another machine gun analogy to describe the sound but that would seem odd for a band singing about sword wielding heroes of antiquity. But you get the picture. Interspersed were favourites like 'World On Fire' and 'Tyranny' and the encore and set finished with 'Falling To Pieces'. But the night for Firewind is about the new album - and rightly so. It’s excellent. So this was the story of 300 (ish) denim and leather clad fans trying to hold back the unstoppable wave of Firewind sound. Desperately they tried, with fists in the air, and heads banging, but ultimately they were overwhelmed, like the ancient Spartans. Glad to see the resurgence of the Helenic hurricane that is Firewind, the truly brave fans succumbed with joy. This was no Greek Tragedy. The Gods must be smiling.



Set list: Firewind



Ode To Leonidas

We Defy

Head Up High

Few Against Many

Between Heaven And Hell

Back On The Throne

Hands Of Time

Wars Of Ages

Lady Of 2000 Sorrows

World On Fire

Fire And Fury

Mercenary Man

Tyranny



Encore:

Live And Die By The Sword

Falling To Pieces



Mother