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Cardiff Coal Exchange, 12 December 2005
Having missed last year’s 'Swedish Apocalypse' I for one was delighted to find that Arch Enemy were finally able to play a gig in Wales. The excitement had been growing even before people were being let in to the Coal Exchange and slowly but steadily reached fever pitch. But before the Swedes could blow us away (almost literally!) with their performance, we were treated to support by Throwdown and then Strapping Young Lad.
I had never heard either of these two bands before but they were both very impressive. Throwdown pleased the crowd with their cover of Pantera’s 'A New Level' and SYL’s Devin Townsend was amazing, growling one minute, then screeching, then even wailing melodically throughout his set. It almost made up for his constantly insulting the crowd and singing his own praises…
The mood seemed to change pending Arch Enemy’s arrival onstage, with everyone becoming somewhat restless and eager for something to happen. The room was bathed in bright blue spotlights accompanied by some beautiful, melodic gothic music. This I felt didn’t fit in with the atmosphere because we were waiting to see an aggressive band and push each other roughly around in the mosh pit. But nevertheless it was a perfect entrance.
The band kicked off with 'Nemesis', one of their new songs, and from the word go there was a massive surge of sweaty bodies, people being pushed forward one minute before being hurled halfway across the relatively small room. And Arch Enemy were simply brilliant.
Twin guitar assaults from Michael Amott and new guitarist Fredrik Akesson, along with Sharlee D’Angelo’s pounding bass and Daniel Erlandsson’s vicious attack on the drum skins were all almost completely drowned out at times by frontwoman Angela Gossow’s truly savage growls and piercing guttural screams.
When I have seen female-fronted bands play live before, I have always found myself surrounded by narrow-minded men screaming 'Get your tits out, love!' But tonight, at least to my knowledge, there was none of that and that was good – guys like that should be concentrating more on the women’s vocal or musical attributes, not on seeing a bit of flesh.
The next song that followed was the classic 'Dead Eyes See No Future' which had everyone screaming along with the words and throwing devil horns, a pattern which would be repeated constantly throughout their set.
They put together a good mix of old and new songs, new stuff like 'Taking Back My Soul' and 'Out For Blood' blending well with older songs like 'We Will Rise', 'Ravenous' and my personal favourite 'Burning Angel'.
They even performed an instrumental or two (notably the great 'Hybrids Of Steel') and songs from back when they were fronted by male vocalist Johan Liiva. I have only heard a couple of songs performed by him and I didn’t really like them much, so I wasn’t sure whether Angela would be able to breathe new life into such songs as 'Diva Satanica' (kindly dedicated to us girls!). But yes, she could, and the change to these songs was simply astounding.
After an amazing performance of 'Ravenous' the set came to an end, but thankfully we were treated to an encore of several songs. The one complaint I would make about their choice of songs is that they were concentrating a lot on songs that not many people either knew or liked, time which might have been better taken up with songs like 'Silent Wars' and the amazing 'Leader Of The Rats'. That’s just my personal taste, but there are a few really great songs that unfortunately never got a look in.
Final set closer 'We Will Rise' brought an end to over an hour of amazing action onstage. By this point most people were hurting too much to walk or even speak, but for a band like this it was well worth it.
And the one thing I was happy about was that Angela didn’t use a voice effects machine for every song as I had been half expecting – while it sounds good on record it would have spoilt her performance onstage as she has a really good growling voice. A lot of people thought that in a band playing this kind of music, replacing a male vocalist with a woman was going to be a terrible mistake. But anyone who thought that will definitely have been proved wrong by now.
Review: Katy Rees