Another night at the iconic London Kentish Town Forum and another sold out show that will go down in history as a moment of utter epicness.
Words: Dany Jones
Pictures: Aggie Anthimidou
Astronoid are a four-piece, blackgaze, post Metal commune of musical rebels from Massachussets, fronted by Brett Boland, a long haired troubadour with the voice of a cherub.
Probably as portrayed by the name itself, Astronoid are taking us on a journey into outer space, through cosmos and constellations, while maintaining a solid performance throughout and never losing momentum. A special mention has to go to guitarist Casey Aylward, whose bouncy long locks have not stopped jumping around all the way through their set.
What contradistincts this band is the deliberate juxtaposition of the heavy barrage supplied by the melodic and rhythmic sections in utter contrast with the fluidity of the ethereal vocal lines. With Astronoid the intention of creating a distinctive genre is clear, however, that is exactly what has left me ambivalent about this outfit.
The band simply cannot be faulted; the musicians show a great degree of proficiency, however the antithetic contrast between the excessive barrage provided by the drums versus the sparsity of the melodies, in places becomes even unnerving. A good concept overall, but I am afraid to admit that at times it felt disjointed and did not always flow.
Curiosity reaches its heights as the prog/fusion act Plini enter the stage. Embodied by Australian guitarist and songwriter Plini Roessler-Holgate and whose reputation precedes him as being admired by masters of the calibre of his majesty Steve Vai, I wondered how he would translate the complex layering of the recordings into a live situation.
Plini indeed has called in the cavalry; there are four very talented musicians on stage, including Polish star guitarist Jakub Zytecki as special guest, and the result is simply sublime. It doesn’t come as a shock that an act like Plini is part of this tour and he/they certainly have Misha, the Periphery mastermind, eating out of the palm of their hands while he watches from the side of the stage.
The Plini commune are the perfect example of a great display of technical ability. By creating beautifully congenial harmonies, fresh melody lines and plenty of cheeky phrases charged with sudden pauses, the experience is indeed very pleasurable.
Both bands have done a great job at warming the stage for the headliners, however the time has come and, needless to say, Periphery totally steal the show.
The anticipation is unprecedented and the reception is explosive to say the least. Following the long cinematic intro, the first notes of the epic near fifteen minutes odyssey, ‘Reptile’, the first song from their latest album, ‘Periphery IV: Hail Stan’, kick in and the house is literally brought down.
The boys are on top form, despite being one short, due to Mark Holcomb having to leave mid-tour following a family emergency. ‘Reptile’ is the perfect song to showcase Spencer Sotelo’s incredible versatility and vastity of vocal range, taking on all techniques with the utmost exquisite command.
The boys are visibly excited, understandably so, seeing that this is the closing show of the tour and Misha Mansoor is literally smiling like a Cheshire cat all the way through. They do not spare the surprises either and soon SikTh lead vocalist Mikee Goodman takes to the stage in the role of the deep voice from the beyond, since he is the one that recorded it on the album.
Spencer finally greets the audience with a “What’s up London?” mid-song, while he is making sure to work the entire perimeter of the stage at the height of his energy and the audience simply roar.
Having previously interviewed Jake Bowen, I had already learnt that despite missing the bassist and one guitarist, the sound would not suffer since the respective lines were being supplied by backing tracks, and that really worked. As we prepare to approach the end of this monumental three to four part composition, the Plini guys make it back to the stage, joining in with Jake and Misha, and we now get a four part harmonised guitar solo.
What an absolutely perfect introduction to the set and one that will certainly make it into the book of unforgettable moments. With Chvurch Bvrner, the now foursome unleash all the brutality they can muster and circle pits are quickly formed.
One of Sotelo’s greater traits, and what, in a way, makes this band so special, is the ability to write fantastic melodies, ranging from the most cacophonic and ferocious of growls to extremely epic choruses, and Chvrch Bvrner is the clear example of that. Quick and straight for the jugular, this is probably their heaviest and darkest track to date.
‘Remain Indoors’, from their third album ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’, really showcases the ability of drummer Matt Halpern, with complex drum patterns loaded with flairs, while the crowd follows forming perfectly harmonious waves. We then go back to the latest album with ‘Follow Your Ghost’, another epic number, dark and sludgy with plenty of double pedal, heavy down-tuned riffs and breakdowns which call for incessant head bobbing, while once again Spencer beautifully finishes it with his great versatility of growl, scream and clean vocal.
‘Scarlet’ is an old Periphery classic and one of the most commercial songs in the set, with a more melodic singing style, while Misha and Jake are having a guitar conversation on stage. However, ‘Marigold’ is the follow-up that takes absolutely no prisoners; deemed as the ultimate anthem of the band, the crowd are now literally in a frenzy. Ever so memorable from the very first notes of the symphonic string intro, the distinctively haunting riffs and its relentless beat, the whole place is arms up in the air, chanting the chorus, “…give me a spine to work it out”. Spencer here incites them even more, along to the thunder-like lighting effects, in some sort of prophetic motion and lets them sing the rest while ad-libbing with stratospheric notes. Another historical moment is born right here.
Time to mellow down and ‘It’s Only Smiles’ enters like a breeze, married to a more Emo type vocal, with a super catchy chorus and dreamy guitars. The audience are one and here Spencer boasts “that’s pretty close to be the best crowd of this tour – pretty fucking close.” But the tension is soon brought back with the Messhuggah-like riff opening ‘Psychosphere’, a song mimicking the gloom of the lyrics, talking about the darkest realms of human consciousness and the internal struggle. With Spencer inciting the audience to jump on a count to three, ‘Psychosphere’ can definitely be deemed the brain melter that makes perfect way for what’s next to come in the set: ‘Blood Eagle’, from ‘Periphery IV: Hail Stan’, and one that already has reached anthem-like status.
The sheer brutality of this track grabs you in the gut and simply makes you wanna shout along. Again, prophetic-like chants in the background, massive barrage and plenty of breakdowns. Here Spencer goes for his signature fry-scream with the utmost perfection in the delivery, while the boys have a frantic guitar battle in equally perfect harmony. This is the track to “lose your shit to”, the unleashing of all raw, primordial instincts and, unsurprisingly, there are moshpits absolutely everywhere on the floor.
We are at the apex of the technical, the epic and the brutish all in one and emblematic is the facial expression of guitarist Mark Holcomb, who sadly could not be there tonight, on the official music video for this song.
Time for the encore along to the groove of a hip-hop beat, while the rest of the band take a short break and Spencer cheers the audience with “some tasty red wine”, followed by “this is a song about love and it’s called ‘Lune’. Jake starts the song with the airy guitar intro, followed by a lazy beat played by Matt, then the sweet vocals come in and the whole mood is suddenly lifted. By the time the outro kicks in with the “oh – ohs”, chants fill the room, arms are high in the sky, smiles all around and then bright lights. Majestic and uplifting, ‘Lune’ marks a true fantastic ending to an ever-remarkable evening.
Drawing on Death Metal, prog, rock and even classical music, Periphery have been dubbed as the pioneers of Djent, as well as post Metal or tech Metal Godfathers, however, labels aside, when you encounter such mastery in terms of writing, composition, experimentation, precision in the delivery, performance and audience interaction, you are in for a true sonic and visual experience.
If anything the show felt way too short and left you longing for more, missing heavyweights such as ‘Alpha’, ‘Absolomb’, ‘Stranger Things’ or ‘Prayer Position’, but I guess one simply cannot have it all.
Writing about a band as extraordinary as Periphery is effortless and their live show is simply nothing less of excellence and I, for one, am certainly looking forward to seeing a lot more from this lot.
1. Reptile (ft Mikee Goodman from SikTh and Plini)
2. Chvrch Bvrner
3. Remain Indoors
4. Follow Your Ghost
7. It’s Only Smiles
9. Blood Eagle