The performance of Fear Factory in Bristol was stoked by the three sets before them. Butcher Babies battled power outages and, along with Ignea and Ghosts Of Atlantis, delivered rousing sets.
Butcher Babies – Ignea – Ghosts Of Atlantis
SWX Bristol – 4 November 2023
Words And Photography: Paul Hutchings
Like Fear Factory’s show in 2012, a previous encounter with the LA-based Butcher Babies wasn’t particularly memorable. Their support on a show in Cardiff with Anthrax in 2012 wasn’t to my taste. So, I’ll admit I wasn’t particularly excited about the main support tonight.
Forty minutes after they start, Butcher Babies leave the stage to a huge round of applause. It’s well deserved, for they’ve encountered two power outages during the latter part of their set and come through with aplomb.
Led by Heidi Shepherd, who is flying solo due to co-vocalist Carla Harvey recovering from eye surgery, Butcher Babies are here to make the place move. It’s a huge entrance, as Shepherd races onto the stage to a hero’s welcome from the massed crowd.
The band lock down into Backstreets Of Tennessee. From here, it’s strap in for a blistering set bulging with more edges than Santa’s sack on Christmas Eve.
Shepherd is a blur, racing back and forth and leaping from the specially placed boxes on the front of the stage. Their sound is a mix of Nu and Modern Metal, with a reliance on huge bass beats that throb around the venue. Plenty of samples enhance the sound, although the trio of Henry Flury, Ricky Bonazza and Chase Brickenden ensure that it’s their pile-driving combination that propels songs to their desired destination.
Shepherd carries the solo role well, comfortably switching between soaring cleans and gruff roars. The high intensity of tracks like Monsters Ball, Wrong End Of The Knife and Beaver Cage may not be to my liking, but the crowd are whipping themselves into a frenzy. Surges towards the front come early, as Shepherd surprises the togs by jumping into the photo pit to climb the barriers.
After audience engagement with Its Killin’ Time Baby! things unravel as the power dies during Beaver Cage. Initially, it’s sorted quickly, and the band start again, but another outage during Spittin’ Teeth sees the audience losing interest.
As Sheperd navigates through Last December, which she introduces with a story about her mental health challenges, the chatter is sadly quite high. Having to drop their final song sees the atmosphere cool a little, but the band ensure that there is a vibrant ending, picking it up to power home.
Badged as Melodic Metal, it’s something of a surprise to those uninitiated amongst the crowd when diminutive signer Helle Bohdanova rips the very bowels of the venue a new one with her opening roars.
Hell, this girl can rage, and as we quickly find out, she can sing cleanly just as well. Making their first tour of the UK, the Ukrainian quintet isn’t short of confidence. They produce a fine six-song set that impresses more as it progresses.
Their music is a combination of styles, with melody a key tenant of their sound. The switch from crushingly heavy to melodic Folk-tinged Progressive is done with ease. They draw from their latest album, Dreams Of A Land Unseen, the concept album which reflects the life of Ukrainian photographer and documentarian Sofia Yablonska.
Bohdanova may occupy the central ground, but except for drummer Ivan Kholmohorov, the band is fluid from the off, switching positions and using every inch of the space available.
Ignea quickly warms the growing crowd. With Bohdanova delivering a heartfelt speech about the continuing situation in their homeland, winning applause, it’s clear many will have the band firmly in their sights after such a strong showing.
Ghosts Of Atlantis
Symphonic Metal wasn’t going to be the most comfortable fit on this bill, but it’s to their credit that Ipswich’s Ghosts Of Atlantis make a decent fist of their opening set.
Their image is somewhat challenging, a cross between Mad Max and Game Of Thrones, and their sound is similar in many respects. The band switch cleans and growls between guitarist Colin Parks and main vocalist Phil Primmer, who casts the biggest impression with flowing coat and exaggerated poses.
They work to emphasise the band’s dramatic delivery, and, bathed in red light, they work hard to win over the crowd. Two tracks from their latest album, Riddles Of The Sycophants, earn applause, whilst older tracks are also well received.
The tempo is fast, the drama high, and despite a slightly muddy sound, the band’s heady mix of classic Symphonic Metal wins the day. It’s an inspiring start to the evening.