Cancer Bats + Lord Dying + Palm Reader + Incite @ o2 Academy 2, 22 January 2016

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What better offering for your first gig of the year than a night so packed full of riffs and crunch that you go home at the end of the evening with enough positive vibes in the tank to ensure you kick the last week of January into touch? Clearly, the answer is none, so it’s a good job the Cancer Bats and their supporting cast were in town.

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Taking to the stage at a time so early that a lot of people could quite feasibly have still been at work, Arizonan metallers Incite get the sparsely-filled room warmed up with a satisfyingly old school set. Fronted by Richie Cavalera, stepson of all-round metal god Max, the band’s sound is firmly rooted in early noughies stomp metal, and for a somewhat unknown opening band its ideal. The band are tight, the hooks are easy to swallow and Cavalera has a permanent grin etched across his bearded face that you just can’t help but return. On record they might sound a little nondescript, but put them on a stage and Incite really get moving – particularly when Cancer Bats frontman Liam Cormier joins them for a song.

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Next up, one a cluster of really exciting British bands at the moment – hardcore troopers Palm Reader, who released one of the finest albums of 2015 in the form of ‘Beside the Ones We Love’. From the start to finish of their set, they everything going off at once with riffs, bounding beats and off the wall time signatures flying in all directions. Rather than being a set made up of individual songs, Palm Reader’s time on stage feels more like one big thing designed to be consumed in one go, as it ebbed and flowed from the furiously heavy to some slower grooves. They also dropped in a new song that is so fresh it doesn’t have a name and finishes with an absolutely delicious riff. The only downside for Palm Reader is that a lot of the crowd just don’t seem to get it, and they struggle to get much a of a reaction despite their clear talent, which is a real shame.

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Direct support tonight comes from Portland, Oregon’s Lord Dying, who have a particular set of skills to show off to the now much more full room – riffs. They might not be much to watch as they really don’t do anything on stage, but boy can they play. It was difficult to judge exactly what the room made of them though – the reaction seemed to at times genuinely enthusiastic and at others verging into piss0taking territory. However, by the end of the set Lord Dying seem to have ended up with a load more fans, particularly having told how one of their number had to leave this tour midway through because of a death in the family – his place being filled by members of the other bands on the bill for different songs. At least through such a horrible experience, the band has been able to soldier on and get something positive from it.

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And so to Cancer Bats, who waste no time cranking everything up to 11 and showing just why they have such a devoted following; they are a rip-roaringly awesome live prospect full of energy, noise and great songs. Whether it’s newer cuts from last year’s ‘Searching For Zero’ album or more established classics like ‘Hail Destroyer’ – the kind of song that just makes you want to stomp around in circles, banging your head and shouting along – there is plenty to enjoy here. The band also don’t worry themselves too much with talking in between numbers, instead song follows song in quick succession.

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I’m slightly ashamed to say that tonight is my first time watching the Bats live, but hopefully it won’t be the last. Every member of the band is completely on point with some sublime drumming nestled under a barrage of big guitars. But it’s Cormier who really rounds the band off, constantly on the move and spitting out his lyrics with passion and real enjoyment. He got a good heart too; his flowing glorious hair that he spends of most tonight swinging around is living on borrowed time, as he’s soon to shave it off to raise money for a cancer charity (a cause you can support HERE ).

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The band manage to rattle through nigh-on 20 songs in a blistering set before heading off stage in time for the early curfew and sending those gathered home happy. Cancer Bats are a great band full of talented, genuine people who deserve every success they get. I definitely won’t be leaving it so long to catch them play again!

Review and photographs – Dave Musson

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