It’s important to remember that 10 years ago Sepultura were headlining venues the size of Portsmouth’s Pyramid Centre. However, since that fateful 1996 UK tour, Sepultura have had a hard time of it. Dividing critics and fans alike with their new direction; seemingly shunning their tribal thrash feel of old for a
more percussive, groove orientated sound. Complimented by the new vocal stylings of Derrick Greene, the band have struggled to convince fans that a post-Max Cavalera Sepultura is still able to produce music of the quality of such seminal thrash classics as ‘Beneath The Remains’ and ‘Arise‘.
Opening with ‘Refuse/Resist’ it immediately becomes apparent that for a guy as physically dominating as he is, Greene simply has no stage presence – and perhaps even less charisma. Nodding his head and shaking his fist to the beat, he almost appears to be intruding upon the energy built up by the rest of the band, who are clearly pleased to be still cranking out classics like ‘Dead Embryonic Cells’ and ‘Troops of Doom’. Stand in drummer Roy Mayorga neatly slots in for an absent Igor Cavalera, pulling out those oh so famous tribal drum fills with the type of aggression that’s great to see on stage when image appears to be everything, and long time Seps guitarist Andreas Kisser gleefully cranks out riff after chunky riff – possibly knowing full well that Greene just isn’t doing the job a frontman should be.
It may seem easy to slag off the ‘new’ guy, but when said individual has been there for nearly 10 years, you have to really take a step back and wonder what the future holds for Sepultura. They can still play – this fact has never been debated – but when a band who have released 5 records since Greene’s arrival decide fill the vast majority of their set with pre-‘Against‘ material; it speaks volumes.
A large white drape covers the entire stage, whilst an eerie blue glow eminates from somewhere in the back. Suddenly, it drops and the audience is blinded by piercing white lights as five men begin an undeniably infectious and simultanous headbanging rodeo.
This introduces the near full capacity crowd to In Flames, who have also been under pressure themselves in recent years. Arguably Sweden’s biggest export since Ulrika Johnson, Gothenburg’s most celebrated sons bring with them a much more coordinated and spectacular stage show to accompany the buzzsaw riffage and twin harmonic melodies that have become synonymous with the melodic thrash scene they helped create. The quintet have become well known for their energetic live shows in recent times, and all you can expect from seeing one is to have a sore neck at the end of it.
Although Anders Friden’s vocals are bang on throughout, which is impressive given the vocal range employed by the man within some newer material, the rest of the band appear to have forgotten what an In Flames show is all about. The sound contrasts sharply with the raw and sludgey sound Sepultura belted our ears with earlier on, sounding sloppy and almost indecipherably vague. The riffs are there, but someone’s forgotten to give them that added injection of machine like precision and power that they usually showcase with ease.
Refreshingly, however, it’s new songs like ‘Leeches‘ that come across exceptionally well tonight, sounding not one bit out of place alongside classics such as set opener ‘Pinball Map’ and ‘Episode 666’ – but herein lays a problem. A good 75% of the set is filled with 21st century In Flames tracks, leaving only two of their 90’s era classics and putting a dampener on the band’s set; perhaps even detracting from what some first time In Flames’ gig goers would deem as their “real” sound.
Coupled with minor technical difficulties, In Flames falter after an otherwise decent effort from Sepultura; which leads you to perhaps wonder who really should have been headlining tonight. A rather poor effort from a band that usually can do no wrong in a live setting.