support Bleed From Within + While She Sleeps + Anterior
author NB date 15/02/11 venue Joiners, Southampton, UK

Tonight is the first date on Metal Hammer's Razor tour and I've just escaped from the back of a van, after having had an interesting conversation with Josh Middleton of Sylosis (which you might want to read first). As I re-enter the bar of Joiners, looking through to the tiny cave-like stage area, I can see that a small crowd of people are already nodding their heads to Anterior's set. I'm not sure when, but a minor modification has taken place since I was last at Joiners (still the preferred venue amongst the otherwise miserable selection that this city has to offer). Part of the wall between the stage and the bar has been removed, such that I can now see a tiny bit more of the action whilst standing in the cramped antechamber. This makes little difference to me though; since the other staff members have both bailed on me tonight, I have little reason to linger at the bar, and head straight into the sparse audience.

For the opening band on a four name roster, Anterior don't do badly at all. The genre is classic European melodeath, sporting clear influences from many of the genre leaders. There's In Flames riffs and structure here and there, a heavy dose of Arch Enemy in the plentiful guitar solos and even some cantering Kalmah-style melodies. But, where the band might lack originality, they easily make up in technical competence and general quality; the sound tonight is surprisingly clear.

The stage presence which Anterior provides can best be described as laid back. The front-man does little to communicate with the crowd (a condition common, to varying degrees, in all the bands on tonight's bill), preferring to strut from side to side with occasional windmilling alongside the equally hirsute bassist. I don't think it's a problem in this context; the small audience assembled front-centre is more than interested enough and enthusiastic headbanging abounds. Anterior is a welcome, if gentle, introduction to tonight's proceedings.


I have to admit to beginning to care less and less for the style of music that While She Sleeps is playing. Don't get me wrong, it sounds great, and I'm eager to come to these shows, but I might no longer be as tempted as I once was to pick it out for a playlist. Being in Southampton with the likes of BL and AP, the low, chugging riffs, with their occasional staccato visits to the higher reaches of the scale, have been rammed forcefully into my ears on many an occasion, backed by that certain type of live performance which is epitomised by the likes of Attack Attack!. I am gradually convinced that the music exists merely as a carrier for this karate-pit inducing performance: low-calorie cola to the neat vodka that is the high-energy, high-violence, high-jumping stage show.

Oh and the karate kids are out in force... not the Jaden Smith kind either: if that guy had flailed his arms like a lunatic and ineffectually stomped the ground then Jackie Chan would have told him to piss off. An eight-foot giant of a man enters the pit, flinging his Lilliputian co-moshers directly at the rest of us; I rather like him.

This scene of comical mayhem distracts me for the next few songs, but, when I refocus my attention on the band, I notice that they're playing pretty well and I'm starting to hear some of the originality in the music. In, what I assume to be, "My Conscience, Your Freedom" there are some particularly good melodic sections: a kind of arpeggio which jumps all over the scale, reminiscent of the staple melodic leads played by Between the Buried and Me. So, even if I'm a bit bored of this band's overall style, I can't really complain.

It goes on. Bleed From Within enter to the sound of Samuel L. Jackson's Ezekiel 25:17 soliloquy from Pulp Fiction. "...when I lay my vengeance upon thee. Bang bang bang..." and the band leaps into the slow heavy intro of "The Awakening". Already BFW's performance is that of the seasoned veteran of live metal. The band looks more comfortable on stage than last time I saw them, only nine months ago. The guitarists windmill in unison but for the most part stand still, apparently engaged in their relatively technical guitar-work. In combination with some supremely tight drumming, this forms an unwavering death metal wall upon which vocalist Scott Kennedy plasters his growled lyrics. He kangaroos around the stage, leaning forward to deliver his vocals directly into the, now strengthened, audience. A handful of the mosh-warriors return to the pit to do battle with Gulliver and the carnage continues. A solid performance, well received by the crowd.

Now for the main event: Sylosis have opted for Hanz Zimmer's "Mind Heist" theme - from the, deservedly popular, Inception soundtrack - as their walk-on music (it's becoming a, borderline clichéd, trend of late). As the unassuming Josh Middleton takes centre stage, the climax of this theme gives way to the slow, determined and ballsy intro of "Empyreal". The track has only recently been released on the band's MySpace profile but it seems everyone in the room has been paying attention; the audience responds in the same way they would to a classic. The technical arpeggios at the end of that track trail off and Josh introduces the band. Now, considering he has just told me he's not yet accustomed to his new audience-interaction responsibilities, it surprises me to see Middleton already conjuring up a full-scale (at least as full-scale as Joiners' cramped confines will permit) wall-of-death on the second song of the set: more audience-interaction than the other bands have engaged in all evening.

Indeed, this dude has told me many things which are somewhat inconsistent with tonight's performance. Weren't always the vocalist, you say? You could have fooled me; the vocals delivered tonight are forceful and textured, and easily live up to the recorded versions. You also claim you had some difficulty getting used to playing guitar and screaming? You sure make it look easy to me; Josh rattles out even relatively complex licks with face contorted mid-growl. You guys want more of a live sound on your next record? What's the difference? To my ears, tonight's live performance sounds as poised and refined as the hundredth take in a studio. At least one thing he told me was correct: playing tight makes for a great show, and, I'll say it again, these guys are tight as fuck.

As you might expect, the band doesn't move around all that much in the midst of all this. The three axe wielders stand, legs apart, in a line for most of the set. The lights are similarly static, bathing the band in a blue glow, but the show isn't any less spectacular as a result. Sylosis' thrash is fast-paced, energetic and, above all, varied and detailed enough to sustain the listener's interest throughout. As the initial guitar strains of "The Blackest Skyline" reverberate around the venue the crowd bursts into a chant and is whipped into a circle pit; it only expands during "Altered States of Consciousness". This arena stands in noticeable contrast to the pits which formed for the previous bands: firstly the atmosphere is friendly as opposed to violent and angry, and secondly the number of moshers participating in the same area here is around one-in-three rather than... well... three. Anyway, much to AP's dismay, I will have to conclude that going mental, leaping around and generally trashing the place is not the only ingredient to a great show; good music kinda' helps.

I know I haven't mentioned the other members of the band much, that's because, despite their already high standard of technical ability (especially Rob Callard on drums), their front-man still manages to leave them in the dust. In my opinion, the fact that he was never the sort who wanted to be the centre of attention gives Sylosis' performance an appealing modesty and allows the music to speak for itself.

Setlist (not 100% sure):

  • Empyreal
  • Stained Humanity
  • Sands of Time
  • Reflections through Fire
  • The Blackest Skyline
  • Altered States of Consciousness
  • Withered
  • Teras
  • --- Encore ---
  • Conclusion of an Age

Photos by Benji Walker @ Live and Loud

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