Live Report : First Fragment & Obscura @ London, UK by PureGrainAudio.com
Updated: Jun 18, 2020
Via PureGrainAudio.com : "Tech-death royalty Obscura released their superb fifth full-length, Diluvium, last year (our review for which you can find here), and in early 2019 embarked on a Europe-wide tour in support there of. Bringing along Americans Fallujah and Allegaeon, plus Canada’s First Fragment, the line-up this evening is a showcase of four bands at the forefront of the genre; a treat for any fan who likes their music fast, technical and heavy, yet with a progressive and dynamic edge. London’s O2 Islington Academy grows slowly busier early on a Friday night (doors were 6:00PM) for the promise of a spectacular evening.
Opening the show tonight are First Fragment; the five-piece are the most junior on tour, with only one full-length under their belt to date. Despite this, the band rip through a lightning fast and technical set with proficiency, the centrepiece of which is Dominic Lapointe’s bass shredding, flanked by the equally capable guitars of Phil Tougas and Nick Miller. Due to the delicious rhythms laid down by drummer Nicholas Wells and Lapointe, with twin harmonic guitar solos over the top, there is a hint of a tech-death Gojira to First Fragment. Their set is a perfect opening for the evening, and as the room fills, the arriving punters inevitably flock to witness this dazzling display rather than heading straight to the bar. It’s a shame they’re so remote to the UK as they’re definitely an artist to see again.
Following are Allegaeon, who are a surprisingly large band to find playing at 7:00PM. Despite the early start, the reception they receive opens the floor up in a pit normally only seen this early in the day at music festivals. Commencing with “All Hail Science,” the band focus primarily on their more recent releases in their brief set, while still finding time to throw in “Biomech,” a track which will have been many’s first exposure to them. Somehow outdoing the energy level of the band who preceded them, bassist Brandon Michael and guitarist Greg Burgess find time to throw themselves around the stage and scream into the audience in particular; their performance is entirely captivating from start to finish.
Finishing with another older track in “Behold (God I Am)”, Allegaeon depart from the stage to a cheer befitting such an accomplished performance – and a marked improvement from when seeing them around this time last year in another support slot (with Ne Obliviscaris, our review of which you can find here).
Californian extreme metallers Fallujah showed on latest release Dreamless that they could adeptly blend the ethereal and the crushing, and tonight their show brings that to life in front of the now rammed room. Though new vocalist Antonio Palermo has only “officially” been with the band for around 2 weeks, you would not have any idea due to the swagger and confidence he strides around the stage with, handling new track “Ultraviolet” just as ably as he does those from deeper in their back catalogue.
Fallujah’s track, “Ultraviolet,” is a tantalising taste of what’s to come from Undying Light, out March 15 on Nuclear Blast.
If the double bass drums were speedy earlier in the night, during Fallujah’s set they are relentless, with Andrew Baird an absolute machine at points laying down a rhythm felt to your core. Fallujah’s groove is a more challenging listen than that of the bands which preceded them - like when straying from the standard 4/4 time signature more frequently - and as such the response is a little more muted than the one which met Allegaeon in particular. When the rhythm does lock in, though, it’s irresistible, and the entire venue nods their head in time. Fallujah put on a surprisingly layered and deep performance for a group so undeniably heavy, however, it’s a shame that a lot of it is almost unseen, such is the relative darkness they played in.
Entering the stage and immediately throwing themselves into their set, Obscura swiftly demonstrate why they’re headlining tonight by at least equalling the technicality of all those before them, and delivering it with the precision you would expect from a band at the forefront of the tech death genre. The pace of their music is relentless, and guitarists Steffen Kummerer and Rafel Trujillo don’t seem to miss a note all set (along with the whole band). Progressing through their performance, they hit a ‘title track double’ of playing “Diluvium” followed immediately by “Akroasis”, and these two recent and well-known songs kick the crowd up into the next gear.
Obscura’s ‘Death metal ballad’ “Mortification Of The Vulgar Sun” is maybe one for you to roll out for your other half this Valentine’s Day.
As well as hitting upon the tracks a fan would expect to hear, Obscura also find time within their set to showcase Linus Klausenitzer’s incredible ability on bass with one of the more unusual compositions from their back catalogue – the bass solo-driven bonus track “A Last Farewell”. Whilst their supports tended to draw pockets of appreciation within the audience, the reaction to Obscura is as enthusiastic from the front to the back of the room. A highlight of their superb set is ‘death metal ballad’ (Kummerer’s words) “Mortification Of The Vulgar Sun”, with the clean notes at the track’s start cutting crystal clear through the fog onstage to the back of the venue, before laying into the crushing core riff of the song. An excellent song on record, and elevated even further in the live environment.
On an evening that sees both Behemoth and Psycroptic headlining two other venues across the city, the draw that Obscura have is admirable, and extremely well merited based on their excellent performance. All four bands tonight have more than impressed, and should definitely be on the list for lovers of all things heavy to see live as soon as they can. As human beings we love to complicate things – even when we’re trying to make them simpler. Perhaps facility is just too often considered to be the prerogative of mere mortals, whilst the serpentines of intricacy lead up the mountains of the Gods; and that is why mere existence is not enough – for a challenge always awaits acceptance. In Metal, there are plenty of skilled instrumental warriors who can pound their sonic hammers with the might of celestial delinquents, yet once you step into the ranks of Technical Death Metal, the required level of skill can reach into the heavens and beyond, and on that Friday night in Islington, London, I believe that the angels got an earful from some of the finest disciples of the Tech Death gospel this side of paradise.
As I stepped inside the venue, Montréal’s FIRST GRAGMENT were already introducing the gathering crowd to their method of groove.
This had to be one of the most proficient opening acts that I had ever seen, for as the band dug into their licks, the spittle from the mouths of devout Tech Death enthusiasts was all but filling up their emptying beer cups.
Up next, Colorado’s own ALLEGAEON stepped onto the stage to take the grey matter into their own hands.
Flexing their chops as well as the crowd’s cerebral muscles, the group sent the room’s molecules into overdrive with their brand of eloquent chaos and melodic enlightenment. Riley McShane (the band’s vocalist) in particular, spread his charisma across the room like an orator of Homeric times, as the band played classics like “1.618” and introduced their upcoming album “Apoptosis” with their latest single “Stellar Tide Disruption”.
The atmosphere then grew in intensity of divine proportions, and as the ripples within the cosmos created paths between the stars and the earth, FALLUJAH arose from the ashes of the scorched stage to drop a meteoric blast smack down in the middle of this sonic congregation.
The band’s distinct blend of interplanetary melody and savage brutality shook the crowd into multiple dimensions, before yanking them back to reality with codas of hypnotic serenades.
Before the smoke had time to settle, from the shadows of tinted, crepuscular lights, OBSCURA arose like the mighty serpent of the underworld and slithered onto the stage to cries of sheer elation and fanatical commitment; as every soul within the audience coveted this existential moment and etched it into their lives.
As the band destroyed the concepts of time and matter with their mind-bending, musical alchemy, one had to wonder whether the theological had indeed entwined with scientific principles to create a world of pure, unbiased, unadulterated harmony.
That night was more than a showcase of talent and flair, and it went beyond gusts of dry ice and flashes of penetrating lights. The atmosphere was charged with something beyond intangible, beyond the black and white. For as you stood there, amidst the devotees of this expansive genre, you could almost feel the density of your surroundings thicken with calculations and the metaphysics of your being shake, and as the crowd absorbed these otherworldly metamorphoses, I’m sure they too would never be the same again."
Originally written by Chris Andrews for PureGrainAudio.com