Esoterica And Skarlett Riot, Two Breakthrough Performances In Islington

The chance to see two bands on the verge of breaking through into the seriously big leagues touring together was a mouthwatering prospect too good to miss for the sell-out crowds that packed every venue. Different in approach but sharing the desire to make a big noise, both headliners Esoterica and openers Skarlett Riot have been threatening to be major forces to be reckoned with for quite a while now, the arrival of a global pandemic the only thing to put a temporary brake on their wheels.

Esoterica – Skarlett Riot

O2 Academy Islington – 20 April 2024

Photography: Aggie Anthimidou

Words: Paul Monkhouse

Fortunately, now it seems like the time is coming for both Esoterica and Skarlett Riot, and the reception both bands are given at O2 Academy Islington for the last night of the tour was nothing short of euphoric.

Skarlett Riot

Kicking off proceedings, Scunthorpe’s finest in the shape of Skarlett Riot were a whirlwind of colour and sound, their big modern Metal anthems given a liberal dusting of sparkle in the form of singer Chloe ‘Skarlett’ Drinkwater. 

Skarlett Riot - O2 Academy Islington - 20 April 2024
Skarlett Riot – O2 Academy Islington – 20 April 2024. Photo: Aggie Anthimidou/MetalTalk

A visual focus as she runs around the stage, climbing on monitors and leading the troops, the vocalist looks like she was born to be on stage and couldn’t be happier being there, her clear and powerful vocals the steel fist in the velvet glove. 

Whilst she leads from the front, guitarist Danny Oglesby throws shapes in equally determined manner as brother Luke pounds away at his drumkit to the rear and bass player Tim Chambers brings the bottom end punch and shares the growled, guttural vocals with the six stringer to his right.

Skarlett Riot - O2 Academy Islington - 20 April 2024
Skarlett Riot – O2 Academy Islington – 20 April 2024. Photo: Aggie Anthimidou/MetalTalk

Packing a lot in their time onstage, the ten song set gives them a chance to really stretch their musical muscles and opener Chemicals is a rush of energy, big riffs and Drinkwater’s sweet but strong stylings. 

Breaking the Habit and Gravity are two full-throttle punches in the face, the brutality leavened by the big hooks and singalong choruses that show there’s so much more here than just blunt force, both showing why the band has been making so many waves. 

Skarlett Riot - O2 Academy Islington - 20 April 2024
Skarlett Riot – O2 Academy Islington – 20 April 2024. Photo: Aggie Anthimidou/MetalTalk

Highlights are many and the joyful, connecting blast of Human and epic closing triumph of Warrior seal the deal on the performance, victory and that long desired breakthrough assured if there’s justice in the world.

Esoterica

Already with one eye on the arenas of the world, Esoterica are a dazzling explosion of sound and fury, their skyscraping sonic architecture a force to tilt the world on its axis. 

Esoterica - O2 Academy Islington - 20 April 2024
Esoterica – O2 Academy Islington – 20 April 2024. Photo: Aggie Anthimidou/MetalTalk

With the human dynamo of vocalist Tobias Keast never stopping for a moment, the frontman spends his time either at the front of the stage, pouring heart and soul into every unfeasibly grand moment or dancing with sheer joy with various band members. 

Smartly and thoughtfully accompanied by a British Sign Language interpreter throughout, the six-piece outfit do not hold back as the set builds and builds to its satisfying climax. 

Esoterica - O2 Academy Islington - 20 April 2024
Esoterica – O2 Academy Islington – 20 April 2024. Photo: Aggie Anthimidou/MetalTalk

An effective use of lights adds to the whole drama of it and makes you wonder what the band will be able to do with a really big budget, their stripped-back yet hugely striking approach adding the perfect visual stimulation to the pulsating beat and roar of the music.

Certainly, the band have all the musical chops to take on bands like Muse and Depeche Mode at their own game but with a much more human touch, songs like Gone and Scream typifying their ability to sound apocalyptic but whispering to the soul at the same time. 

Esoterica - O2 Academy Islington - 20 April 2024
Esoterica – O2 Academy Islington – 20 April 2024. Photo: Aggie Anthimidou/MetalTalk

By the time that fifth song Dysutopia comes along, it’s already certain that Esoterica are a major force who are just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with the fact. The trippy start and big punch is made for wowing the crowds at Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds. 

As well as these grand gestures, Esoterica can do atmospheric too, It Rains sprinkled with keys before it shakes its hips and slithers through the room, the massive Birds in a Hurricane suitably juxtaposing lighter moments and stratospheric, ballsy rock work-outs.

Esoterica - O2 Academy Islington - 20 April 2024
Esoterica – O2 Academy Islington – 20 April 2024. Photo: Aggie Anthimidou/MetalTalk

The audience lap up every minute, entranced and yet sucked into the whole of the warm, arms outstretched atmosphere, the singalong to Don’t Rely On Anyone suitably hearty and the huge groove of Silence making it impossible not to dance to their tune. 

The band are far from aloof, the communion between artist and crowd complete, the awe of a venue lit up with mobile phone lights for Humanity a touchstone moment as the lights shine in everyone’s eyes, a moment that truly touches deeply. 

With the latest single, Firefly, closing the main set, the sight of Keast wrapped up in wires like a broken marionette is strikingly backlit, this vision of martyrdom to the world and its struggles brought to almost painful life. 

Esoterica - O2 Academy Islington - 20 April 2024
Esoterica – O2 Academy Islington – 20 April 2024. Photo: Aggie Anthimidou/MetalTalk

It’s just down to an encore of The Still, a song so powerful that you can feel the heavens peel back and angels look down as angels weep with the beauty of it all before their take on New Order’s True Faith finishes things in triumph. 

With both bands heading straight to the foyer to meet friends, family and fans straight after, this sense of community was sealed as selfies are taken, CDs are signed and hugs given out. 

In the not too distant future many will have claimed to have been there but only those with that special glow will have proof that they actually were present. 

A special night, the next chapter in both bands stories and a promise that will soon be fulfilled. Here there be giants. 

Esoterica - O2 Academy Islington - 20 April 2024
Esoterica – O2 Academy Islington – 20 April 2024. Photo: Aggie Anthimidou/MetalTalk

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