Darkness looms and not only because of the end of British Summertime. An impressive snake of bodies wind around the corner of St Thomas Street, Bristol, all patiently waiting for those heavy doors to open and the four bands to begin.
First up tonight, this Welsh three-man outfit carries an impressive amount of hair between them. Windmilling bassist Charlie Rogers and wavy cousin-it-with-a-septum-
Four-piece local band Embodiment is second on the stage, bringing their brand of Technical Metal to the Fleece. Whilst their music is fully charged, vocalist Harry Smithson is quick to notice that the now packed-out venue is less so, more at a gentle nod, which is strange since this music justifies a lot more bounce but the audience is going to make the band work for it. No problem for these guys. Drummer Leslie Preston effortlessly beats out a perpetually fierce tempo, well-matched by long-haired guitarist Finn Maxwell’s forceful riffs and 5-string bassist Kieran Hogarty’s tangible drops, whilst HS now front of the stage, clings to the pole supports and tempts the troops further forward. The crowd bites, the band throws it down and the nodding becomes a full-on synchronized headbang. The band has gained control and retain it. Continuing with their new song ‘Outbreak,’ “I think you all know what to do by now” they demand; cue more communal headbanging. Next, they hype “This is our Generic Death Metal song about zombies, this one definitely needs a pit!” it pays off, a pit is quickly established and it appears to be just the chance the crowd has been waiting for. At a couple of points, the vocals become a little faint and HS has to work really hard to be heard but they soon kick back in, horns are raised and HS is busy organizing a wall of death amidst the ruckus. It’s no wonder he needs to swig that water as he jokes “I’m shilling as hard as they come!” whilst pointing the watchers in the general direction of the merchandise stand. Despite the obvious technical hiccups regarding the microphone, it’s a solid set and a driven atmosphere. Find out more about their most recent album Dragged into hell and buy some merch at https://embodimentofficial.
Do not underestimate this 5-piece Deathcore band from Sunderland. Although there seems to be a hold up between them entering the stage and the sound desk being ready for them when they begin, it’s brutal, full force and without let-up.
Alternating between deep masculine grunts and hellish vampire bat-like screams, vocalist Ricky Lee Roper’s face is contorted into a demon-esque character and his stance is firm and fierce; his dreads pulled into a half-pony and a daunting string of pointed teeth hanging around his neck. The crowd is swaying in rhythmic nods – fully agreeing with those onstage screams. The fast pace of drummer Bradie Nixon is working 20 to the dozen beneath his striking mane to tame this beast of a band. The guitar breakdown is striking and gets the air shivering and the Fleece vibrating with Osiah’s pulse. Momentarily the power is lost to the main mic but RR quickly takes over the bassist’s to continue. Credit to this band they are overcoming technical difficulties without a pause – eager to show the crowd what material they’ve got and what they are made of. A brief check-in with the crowd garners cheers and howls of support. ‘Humanimals’ from their Terra Firma album is a particularly strong song with Andy Mallaby’s skillful bass playing prominent throughout. Stage and crowd simultaneously bow down to the heavy demanding throb of the track. There’s a false end which gives way to plenty of cheering but there are more shrieks and lovely low tuned guitars from Rownan Tennet and Chris Keepin to continue yet. New song ‘Ascension’ from their Kingdom of lies album, somewhat transmutes the band into personified gargoyles, screeching and hammering their message into place and firmly through the heart of Bristol. All too soon they reach the end of their set – RR casting a polite thank you and exiting the stage whilst the rest of the band continues to the end, to big applause, whistles and a whole lot of horns. Find out more at: https://www.osiah.uk/
The Fleece is packed. This gig is close to, if not totally, sold out. American Extreme Metal outfit Cattle Decapitation enter the stage humbly and the show begins. Their music is an aural assault and when playing, they are the masters. Ruthless and fascinating, vocalist Travis Ryan produces screams, growls and every sound in-between to accompany deep lyrics that just spell it all out for you. The crowd are fully captivated, it’s like one en-masse worship. For a huge amount of band (well, five of them) in a small space, they manage to move around the stage a lot. Hidden at the back of the stage, drummer Dave McGraw has an incredibly high kit and commands a fast time. This is eagerly lapped up by guitarist Belisario Dimuzio and bassist Olivier Pinard in front of him and fully supported by Josh Elmore at stage right whilst TR continues to get up close and personal at the front, the occasional fan making the surf to stage and soaking up the bands vibe before respectably exiting- that’s the thing with The Fleece, there may be no specified pit full of bouncers but their ‘no dickhead’ policy is adhered to and self-managed by the crowd. It’s a refreshing change. A girl with blue dreadlocks floats towards the stage – at a guess, she is riding on someone’s shoulders but the venue is so dark it is truly hard to tell – both singer TR and guitarist BD come forward to greet her. During ‘Not suitable for Life’ from The Anthropocene Extinction album, TR spits into the air – catches it in his hand and sucks it right back up. At other times he is very expressive, miming shoving his mic ‘up’ somewhere, sniffing it and faux vomiting.
With plenty of windmill head action on stage to accompany the grooves, the shredding continues and long may it. The whole place is swaying like a pendulum, hypnotized by the welcome drone. Claw-like tremoring hands reaching out from the thick fog of the audience at the front of the stage and there is a collective nod of appreciation for every decibel being delivered. “We’ve a new album coming out around the 29th November (Death Atlas). You wanna hear a pretty song?” teases TR, “We want a ballad!” the audience mocks back. ‘Times cruel curtain’ is a fitting avalanche of heaviness anger, desperation, and exasperation lifted only by the delicate smell of shampoo in the air…so nice…so much…when it could equally be so sweaty!
The band leaves the stage to a sinister backing track and the crowd is engulfed in a smoky haze of red lights. There is chatter but the anticipation of a return and it is granted. The band re-enters calmly and then hell ensues. The crowd may be weary but they’re digging deep and finding the energy to pay back this 2-song encore effort. Then comes the final stage exit, TR leaves, the band finish, the band leave. This time to a backing track of an ocean but the fans want more, “One more song” is repeatedly chanted until the musicians give-in, returning to the stage for a second time to a huge outpour of appreciation. Seeing and listening is believing with this band. Find out more about tour dates and their new album Death Atlas at: http://www.cattledecapitation.
Review: Suzi Boots
Photography // Emma Painter
Cattle Decapitation Set List
Prophets of Loss
One Day Closer
Not Suitable for Life
Bring back the Plague
Mammals in Babylon
Times Cruel Curtain