Review: Killswitch Engage O2 Bristol

My long weekend of music ended with another trip up to Bristol and the O2. This time it was to catch Killswitch Engage on the second date of their tour in support of new album “Atonement”. Definitely a contrast in style to the previous gigs I had attended!

Tenside, Killswitch EngageOpening the show, and charged with warming up a quickly filling venue were German metal quartet Tenside. A sign of how well they performed that roll was clear when I went to the bar once our three songs in the pit were over and found the barman head banging away. He saw my cameras and told me to make sure I said how good they were! Led by Daniel Kuhlemann on guitar, as well as vocals, their short set was powerful but melodic. By the time they introduced their last song a decent pit of flailing limbs and flying sweat had formed.

Revocation, Killswitch EngageFollowing them were Revocation from Boston (across the pond, not Lincolnshire!). Musically they were extremely impressive. Their sound, a blend of death and thrash metal, had intriguing layers of dissonant and atonal Eastern scales linking together the ear assaulting riffs. Couple that with a lighting rig that wasn’t allowed to stay on any setting for more than a millisecond and the crowd were treated to a visual and aural pummelling. They played a very long set for a support band and towards the end I found myself losing focus. The now extremely active crowd however seemed more appreciative.

Finally to the headliner. You could feel the anticipation in the air as the lights went down and “The Final Countdown” rang out. The band walked on stage, Jesse Leach stood on the top step of the set surrounding the drum riser, and they ripped into the new album opener “Unleashed”. There are few experiences like being this close to a band careering into an audience. Everything is a blur when viewed through the lens. The immense power of the songs almost physically pins you back against the barriers.

Killswitch EngageThe crowd seem to know every word of every song and no matter what the band throw at them they throw it back with interest. Out in the foyer the first aiders are kept busy as a steady stream of broken bodies are helped out through the doors, bandaged and strapped up, then sent back to join the pits that erupt constantly like volcanoes of passion and violent energy. The intensity is a revelation. Most bands after twenty plus years might be going through the motions for a pay cheque, but this is raw and primal. Jesse Leach is like a man possessed and his manic and charismatic gaze have the capacity crowd at his beck and call.

The series of songs flowing from “I Am Broken Too”, through “Rose of Sharyn” to “Self Revolution” and “In Due Time” define the set. New and classic material sitting alongside each other and showing nothing has been lost in the intervening years. To send the broken and exhausted fans home there is “Holy Diver” of course, before, ears ringing and bodies aching, fans slowly file out after a truly memorable experience.

Review and pics – Rob Wilkins

Killswitch Engage continue with gigs in Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and London, before heading over to mainland Europe for more dates. All tour dates can be found here.

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