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If you don’t like Death Metal, go home now, because tonight the audience was exposed to four Death Metal and Melodic Death Metal bands hailing from Scandinavia, Greece and Canada.

Swedish Death Metal merchants HYPOCRISY were touring Europe with several other bands in tow and tonight the metal militia had reached Birmingham.

Fist on stage was Finnish exponents, Horizon Ignited, a six-piece band fronted by the only hairless one amongst them, Okko Solanterã. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not the biggest fan of any of the more extreme Metal genres so while I won’t be gushing over tonight’s performances I will give credit where it’s due while at the same time apologising to the hardcore fans of any of the bands who played tonight.

The band have recently released their second album, Towards the Dying Lands, which provided all but one of the songs played tonight. As you might expect there were growls and screams aplenty beneath the hard hitting guitars and double-kick drums. Okko put everything into his performance, grimacing menacingly as he belted out what lyrics I could understand as my head took a battering from the relentless output of the band. They open up with Beyond Your Reach which, musically, is superb and this gives way within seconds to the dark, throaty growling lyrics. The rest of the set came from the new album and included Carry Me which is only available on the vinyl release. The band took a single track from their 2019 album, After the Storm, that track being the excellent Leviathan which started off with some lighter, post-rock, riffs before giving way (as I expected) to the darker, heavier death metal riffs and growls. Thankfully the growls to give way to some more understandable, almost power metal style, lyrics. Quite a mix!

Second on the menu was the only band I’d seen before, Canadian metallists The Agonist. It’s been quite a few years since I’d seen these at a Dames of Darkness day in Bilston and, I have to say, their style has edged more towards the darker side of Death Metal than I recall. Fronted by the effervescent Vicky Psarakis, the band kept their fans up to date on their music with most of the eight songs played coming from the 2021 EP, Days Before the World Wept and 2019’s album, Orphans. They open with In Vertigo and Blood as my Guide, both from Orphans and the band extend the listening from pure Death Metal to a more symphonic style but the ever-present growls, albeit with a female slant, come to the fore.

Miss Psarakis engages with the audience, drawing them in to the band’s dark world before engulfing them in hard, heavy metal riffs, some quite musical it has to be said. Her smiles hide a rather demonic side! The songs seem to take no time at all and the set ends with the title track from the 2021 EP. The brain has started to go just a little bit numb.

Third up tonight we have Septicflesh from Greece, although you would never know that since the music, and lyrics, sound very much like that which has gone before – at least to me. Clearly, the audience think differently as the first attempt at a moshpit gets underway. All the songs can be found on the band’s two latest releases; Infernus Sinfonica MMXIX, a live album from 2020, and Modern Primitive, a studio album, released earlier this year. This was another set of heavy, heavy riffs scattered with the growls that had persisted through the evening, not that any of the fans seemed to be complaining. The main complaint I had was the amount of smoke being thrown around. Looking down from the balcony all you could see was a collection of black shapes bobbing about in a sea of white mist, yes, even at the back of the cosy little venue.

Portrait of a Headless Man opened the set and this was originally released on Communion in 2008. Played at 100mph this had an operatic feel to it.

Pyramid God was next and while the band have played this with the backing of a full orchestra and choir (on Infernus Sinfonica MMXIX), these elements were missing tonight but it didn’t make the lyrics any more understandable. Having said that there were some great guitar interludes which raised the awareness of the bands skills somewhat. Vampire from Nazareth, Hierophant and Martyr followed. The band finished with Anubis and Dark Art from Communion and Codex Omega respectively.

Headliner time. Hypocrisy came to the stage to a roar of approval (not that any of the previous three bands had met with any disapproval whatsoever). Unlike the previous three bands Hypocrisy took advantage of their extensive discography to pull songs for this set which came from just about every album released including 1992’s Penetralia right through to 2021’s Worship.

Coming on to the stage to AC/DC’s Rock’n’Roll Train the classic rock lasted just a few seconds before the band launch into Worship, the title track from the latest album. From then on it was an onslaught of the heaviest of Death Metal that lasted almost 90 minutes. Rather than run through the set song by song I’ll leave you with the setlist which should give you a good idea of the mayhem that ensued following the rather genteel AC/DC opening.

Setlist:

Worship (Worship 2021)

Fire in the Sky (Into the Abyss 2000)

Mind Corruption (The Fourth Dimension 1994)

Eraser (The Arrival (2004)

Inferior Devoties (Osculum Obscenum 1993)

Chemical Whore (Worship 2021)

Until the End (Hypocrisy 1999)

Don’t Judge Me (Catch 22 2002)

End of Disclosure (End of Disclosure 2013)

Weed Out the Weak (A Taste of Extreme Divinity 2009)

Children of the Gray (Worship 2021)

Warpath (Virus 2005)

The Final Chapter (The Final Chapter 1997)

Encores:

Fractured Millennium (Hypocrisy 1999)

Impotent God (Penetralia 1992)

Adjusting the Sun (The Final Chapter 1997)

Roswell 47 ( Abducted 1996)

What else can I say? The crowd were up for it, the bands were up for it, the bands delivered, the crowd moshed the night away. Fans left happy, if a little eye-strained due to the amount of smoke.

Words & images: Reg Richardson

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