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Astoria, London 31 October 2003

Sometimes when a band plays the UK for the first time, they receive a hero's welcome, like Nightwish did at the Mean Fiddler in August and then on other occasions, they are faced with a wall of indifference. Sadly for little known German Goth-Metal act Flowing Tears, the latter was the case on this occasion. While their music isn't a million miles away in style from that of their far more popular label mates at Century Media, Lacuna Coil, it is not nearly as well known amongst the London Metal audience.

The 4-piece outfit, composed of drummer Stefan Gemballa, bassist Frederic Lesny, guitarist Benjamin Buss and new vocalist Helen Vogt appeared to be delighted at being afforded the opportunity to come to London for the first time and treated the audience to a set which consisted of the cream of their last two albums 'Jade' and 'Serpentine'. Helen has only joined the band this year and has a hard task living up the reputation of the excellent but sadly departed Stephanie Dachene, who is now pursuing a career as a nurse.

The band opened confidently with the opening two tracks from Serpentine before continuing with 'Swallow' from 'Jade'. There was some applause, but straight away I could see that the audience did not seem very open to the band's charm. A small technical hitch delayed the beginning of 'Justine', but from then on everything ran smoothly with the heavy orchestral samples boosting the band's sound considerably. Helen moved quite freely around the stage in comparison to her fairly static band mates and her voice proved up to the task of delivering material that had been written for Stephanie's voice. There were one or two moments, such as during 'The Marching Sane' and 'Merlin' where I did genuinely miss Stephanie's phrasing, but on the whole, Helen did a good job.

Top marks too, to guitarist Benjamin who executed his solos very well and the set ended very strongly indeed with the brilliant 'Serpentine' and 'Merlin', despite the odd projectile flying on to the stage. If only the audience had shown a slightly more open attitude, the quality might have risen a notch, but kudos to the band for carrying on regardless.

Setlist: Intro / Starfish Ride / Swallow / Justine / The Marching Sane / Jade / Sister Sun / Serpentine / Merlin

After a short break the band who, more than any other (even Paradise Lost) are the epitome of 'Miserable Northern bastards', namely My Dying Bride came on stage to a huge, warm welcome from their fans. The band do not play live all that often and even less frequently in the UK, but this concert clearly demonstrated that the band had prepared thoroughly for this performance and that there's still life in the old band yet.

Andrew Craighan kicked things off with a mournful guitar intro, while dry ice filled the stage and his band mates took their places. I'm not a huge fan of My Dying Bride nor of the whole Doom genre to be honest, but the powerful, super-heavy, melancholic riffs which underpinned their sound was so entrancing I stuck around for almost all of the set.

A huge backdrop filled the back of the stage, dry ice engulfed several of the group and the reception that Aaron Stainthorpe received when he finally made his way on stage was confirmation that the venue was full of the band's hardcore fans. In contrast with his black-clothed band mates, Aaron wore a strange white suit, which had the appearance (at distance) of being a straightjacket, seeing as how it has so many pockets and straps - very strange indeed.

The lights were fantastic throughout the show but the first couple of songs were hugely impressive, both visually and sonically. The band really now how to write some awesomely heavy riffs, but after a while I did crave a little more variety. Eventually it came along in the shape of 'Cry for Mankind', the first tune I ever heard from the band and still my favourite song by them. Catherine Blake's delightful synth and piano motifs contrast the crushing heaviness of the guitars totally eclipsing the version that I saw them play at the Mean Fiddler a few years back. Truly the evening's highpoint.

As My Dying Bride is not the sort of band who composes a trivial, 3 or 4-minute tune, the set continued with one lengthy number after another and I have to admit that my attention started to wander. Eventually I decided to check out the view from the upper section of the venue, where I remained for the rest of the set. Then with the clock edging towards the 10PM curfew, Aaron declared that with time running short they'd go straight into the encore of 'The Wreckage Of My Flesh'. I took the opportunity to beat the rush and left at that point. Not a bad show at all, but there's only so much misery I can put up with in one evening.

Flowing Tears: My Dying Bride:

Review: Charlie Farrell

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