Arch Enemy live at the Cardiff Coal Exchange
Supported by: Throwdown, Strapping Young Lad
No kind of ’heavy metal’ has ever tried to make itself open to the casual ear, and for most the term conjurs up images of long haired, pot-belly sporting men, proud of their dishevelled long hair and pushing forty. As a result of this popular image one could never expect to find anyone of remotely attractive or female description at a show where blokes run around to lyrics about slughtering dragons and cannibal gnomes; the common scenario tends to involve a plethora of sleeveless leather jackets and crotch grabbing psuedo guitar heroes of the eighties. Arch Enemy, along with other bands of their ilk, are changing this boring, geek-elite image.
Except it doesn’t help with the support of a band like Strapping Young Lad. Having never been a fan i am in no position to criticise their talents, but the singer is seemingly obsessed with penises. Here, for once, we have a crowd made up of all kinds, goths and girls and a whole faction of those silly emocore kids with their black and red-tinged 65 degree fringes and two-hour make up jobs. The crowd was fresh and eager, no longer a stuffy gathering of balding mommies’ boys, that is until SYL took to the stage. This man (i have managed to forget his name, conveniently - he does not deserve the honour of personal reference) finds it hilarious to suggest that the punters have ’tiny maggot balls’, and the set is made up of a phallocentric display of inadequacy. At one point between songs hewhoshallnotbenamed screeches the words ’get some bigger balls fuckers!’, apparently in an attemt to work up the crowd.This fails, but it is a trend which, pathetically, continues throughout the set. Smells like classic small man syndrome. So, flanked by a band of equally stiff and pompous self-obsession, he wails his way through the songs with utter disregard for the jeers and enthusiastic ’fuck yous’ of the crowd.
Lets not go too far here, the music itself is good enough, it’s just that it’s anyone’s guess whether these chaps are here to play or to constantly reassert that they are behemoths in the pork-sword department. From what i’ve seen whenever someone relentlessy repeats any self-indulgent gobbledygook, the experience is akin to being spat in the face with denial-infected mucous. It doesn’t help that these guys are as serious as cancer. Alas, not even tongue-in-cheek commentary could save these hersute brutes this late in the evening. Rather buy an Iron Maiden cd; yes they are referenced by almost anyone in this discourse but it’s for a reason.
Thank fuck for Throwdown. Their set before SYL fired up the crowd at the start of the evening and injected some form of union into the cosmopolitan mix of smooth-headed hardcore kids and Magic the Gathering-type acid-heads. Their brilliant mix of traditional eighties-hardcore and guitar driven metal is refreshing in this watered down musical wasteland of screamo-boys and bands that practice looking depressed for self-harming groupies. The singer is a man posessed by enthusiasm and his eagerness is met by the Megadeth-meets-Black Flag at Capdown’s birthday-party riffery of the guitarists. They thrash wildly at his sides before he jumps into the welcoming masses with their sing-along chants of ’unite, unite’. With Throwdown’s opening - which is incandescent enough to make the paralysed pogo, it’s a wonder why SYL are here at all.
Ironically, Strapping Young Lad’s audacious posterings only open the doors for Arch Enemy to show us why they are revolutionising the scene. They blast on stage, singer Angela Gossow is an archetype of female beauty, as well as a violent force, a valkyrie for extreme-metal fans the world over. All around me the boys are staring, entranced by her charisma, displaying looks wanton for genuflection at the feet of this woman. There are more young ladies in the crowd now, jumping and pushing with their male counterparts. We are treated to solos by the drummer as well as the two guitarists, Michael and Christopher Amott, whose riffs and melodies wind in an and around each other on all of the songs. This band has kept it’s faithful fans and instantly recruited new ones, their sound is one true to the hair-metallers as well as the new metal-head, all too used to the blatant recooperation of our more recent subcultures and boyband hardcore.
AngelaAngela screams for the women in this dark chamber of a venue to stop standing on the sidelines and jump in the fire. It is an appeal met with a wonderful ambience of keeness, all around girls are betraying their mothers’ best wishes, meeting and exceeding the air-guitaring and epileptic movements of the male fans. It’s about bloody time.
We are treated to songs from the latest album ’Doomsday Machine’, as well as the brutally beautiful ’Ravenous’ from the the band’s first release with Angela, ’Wages of Sin’ - 200 hundred people shouting ’carniverous Jesus i need your flesh’ has never sounded better. Along with the usual death-obssesed lyrics one would expect to find in metal, Arch Enemy display and almost punk(for lack of a better word) attitude towards non-conformity and teenage boredom. The song ’We Will Rise’ ends and amazing set, reassuring the disillusioned amongst us that it’s better to be a spectacular failure than to sign up with all too dominating powers of the status quo. In no uncertain terms, if you don’t like this band, you’re either too far down the spiral of complacency or just another Tv addicted sheep with nothing more than a reptilian brain stem.