Signs Of The Swarm // Mental Cruelty // Harbinger // Steel Mage // Live Review // The Corporation // Sheffield

Signs of the Swarm are an American deathcore band originally formed in 2014. Since last year, the band are signed with Century Media Records and, at the time of writing this review, are currently on their third day of their first headlining UK tour in time to promote their latest album ‘Amongst the Low & Empty’ which was released in the summer of 2023.

We had four bands to keep us company today, in the grey cloudy non-existent summer of Sheffield. As I approached the venue, I could tell this would be a busy night with the vast length of queue. The only downside of the day was that I had a cold, so I couldn’t ‘woo’ like I usually do because my throat feels like it’s been dragged through a grater. I could clap though, which no cold can ever take away from me. I also did wear a mask because it’s just being courteous innit if I’m going somewhere full of people and I’m contagious.

The first band of the night was Steel Mage, a melodic deathcore 5-piece from the UK. Upon taking to the stage, the vocalist took no time in encouraging the pit to open. The vocalist was moving all around the stage, making use of the space and making it feel full. His stable harsh vocals filling the entire room and getting everyone’s head bobbing. He wasn’t the only one on stage going for it either, the guitarists were going wild with their head banging, which only encouraged the crowd to get involved on the action.

It seemed the crowd tonight were a bit reluctant to completely let loose, maybe the depression of the bank holiday ending was hitting them? By halfway through the set though, the crowd were finally going, with an entire wall to wall space for the moshers and two-steppers. The entire crowd were jumping by the last song, the recently released ‘Don of Heresy’, which even saw the band standing and chanting the lyrics. The chaos of the pit definitely put the vocalist in a good mood as he stood with a smile and nodded at the mayhem below.

It was interesting thing to see the crowd disperse from the barrier during the band changeover. Many going to the bar or probably the smoking area. After so may gigs I’ve been to where the barrier has been treated like a sacred alter, it put in perspective that the fans here today aren’t here to be acknowledged, just to have fun and experience their favourite tracks being played live and try not die in the pit in the process.

All lights went out…and on came Harbinger. A UK Metal Band, self described ‘underpinning righteous fury with thick, groove-laden riffs, anthemic choruses’. The first song of the set ‘A Letter to Anguish’, I could tell this would be a band I would be listening to after today. The soft vocals that then dissolved into filthy screams had me in a grip instantly. Love me a band that can do both. It goes without saying that I was impressed with the singer’s vocal ability, and so were the crowd. After a good warm-up with the opening band, the crowd were now even more hyped and ready to get down and dirty and with the “come on Sheffield, move your body” encouragement from the vocalist, there was no stopping the spin kicks.

The bassist in this band is probably the most active bassist I’ve ever seen live. It’s great to see other members get involved with the crowd and bring more presence to the stage, the bassist throwing up devil horns and moshing his head with the crowd during the climax of the songs. The chaos of all the members moving at one point had the vocalist bending his back to let the guitarist switch sides, but that couldn’t stop the fry screams the vocalist could reach whilst he contorted his body.

I have one line in my review notes, I take when I’m reviewing a band, saying “those low growls hittin’” I think it goes without saying I was a big fan of the harsh vocals. The band then played “Guile” dedicating it the two-steppers in the crowd. As soon as the song began, the pit was no end of an amalgamation of two-steppers of all abilities getting their moves on. After finishing their set, the band gave their thanks and the crowd were even treated to a hand signed heart from the vocalist.

Mental Cruelty, a deathcore band from Germany founded in 2016, was the third band to take to the stage tonight. This band are also signed to Century Media Records, and have a really cool music video called ‘Zwielicht/Symphony of a Dying Star’ which was released 6 months ago. The band have an impressive 84k monthly listeners on Spotify and it’s not hard to see why.

Boasting some impressive high screams and atmospheric stems, it was hard for the crowd to go as hard as they had with the previous bands because the atmosphere of these tracks was much more melancholy than the others, but that didn’t stop the heavy head banging and two-stepping from happening in the pit. A circle pit did finally form during the band’s black metal songs, leaving people panting for breath afterwards.

The vocalist had great interactions with the crowd; fist bumping people, who had their fists stretched out from the barrier, whilst hitting the vilest of screams. The vocalist then asking the crowd to help him summon satan (no one tell the church) where he had the crowd chanting “Satan” back to him. It made me laugh how the vocalist would introduce each song with the harsh deep growls he can do so well, to then have the song start with the most mellow atmospheric melody.

Towards the end of the set, the vocalist pointed to the most active moshers in the crowd and exclaimed “you guys are awesome” leaving the friends jumping and smiling at the recognition. Before vacating the stage completely, the vocalist made sure to fist bump every audience member reaching out their fist, a very cute sight that always warms my cold heart when I see band members interact like this with the crowd.

After what felt like a long turnover time, Signs of the Swarm were ready to end the night with a bang. It didn’t take too long to get the hype back into the crowd and the pit once again formed wall to wall. After the first song, the vocalist then asked who had seen “Signs of the Swarm in this venue before?” It turns out the band had previously performed at this same venue only just last year in March. Who knew? About half the crowd who cheered after the question.

Around the fifth song of the set, the pit was now getting even fuller with circle pits and people too intoxicated to care about broken glasses or a missing tooth. The vocalist had the entire crowd throwing up the devil horns and jumping to the beat. The moshing not only just taking place in the pit, I could see beads of sweat falling with every in-unison-mosh the guitarists would pull off so effortlessly.

The vocalist thanked the fans for coming out to make history with the band as they do their FIRST headline UK tour. As the set was coming to an end, the crowd got the command they’d be waiting for the entire night “I want to see a wall of death” for the next song, ‘Dreamkiller’. I could see security rushing to get a better view of the pit, ready to hop into action if needed. The band clearly enjoying the energy of the crowd, thanking the crowd once again as their set wrapped with the encore ‘Death Whistle’, which even had the guitarist joining the crowd at the barrier.

It’s mind blowing to think the band have only just done their first UK headline tour, but I hope it only encourages more overseas bands to come to the UK now COVID is somewhat behind us. Signs of the Swarm are clearly well versed in the craft of performing live and give a great show, the attention to detail with the lighting design was the cherry on top. The band currently (as I’m writing this) have 5 more dates within the UK before heading back home with a big American tour taking place later this year.


Review + Photography: Jayne Slater