Arriving an hour before doors at Rock City, it was good to see a queue already forming, regardless of the February cold. In the past few months Thy Art Is Murder have been selling out shows on both sides of the Atlantic and Nottingham was no different. The online announcement that there weren’t even tickets available on the door by one of the evening’s special guests, Heart Of A Coward, raised expectations for a great night.
As soon as the doors were opened the over-zealous barrier huggers bolted into the Rock City basement to take their places, in plenty of time for the evening’s openers Aegaeon (ih-jee-uhn, named after one of Saturn’s moons – yes I had to look it up) from Evansville, Indianna. On their first tour outside of the US and Canada they delivered a solid set to start the evening out. Their blend of guitars that flow from almost ethereal, ambient passages into more traditional riffs and breakdowns, combined with death-like vocals from Julian Kersey didn’t take long to win over the Nottingham crowd. With their musicianship and a sound that sets them apart from other bands doing similar things I can imagine it wont be long before we see Aegaeon back in the UK.
One of the things I love about going to shows is finding bands that you didn’t know about. Aversions Crown hail from Brisbane, Australia and have been around since 2010, but this was the first time I’d heard them. Within seconds of them stepping up, any lingering memory of ambient sound was crushed — Aversions Crown are heavy. If pit participation is any yardstick, Aversions Crown nailed it, their brutal, deliberate breakdowns having exactly the desired effect. It wasn’t all about breakdowns though, guitar riffs were interesting and Colin Jeffs’ vocals were immense; some of the lows he hits are inhuman, yet not at the sacrifice of annunciation. If like me, you’re late to the Aversions Crown party I highly recommend checking them out next time they make the long flight over from Oz.
Heart Of A Coward have been a mainstay on my playlist for sometime, and so my expectations for their set at Rock City were high. Having expectations like that for any set works out in one of two ways, and fortunately I wasn’t disappointed. It seemed I wasn’t the only one looking forward to the set; the packed crowd surged forward as the lads from Milton Keynes jumped on stage, exploding into material from their latest album Severance.
Front man Jaime Graham’s connection to the crowd was obvious, leaning across the barrier and into the crowd, delivering lyrics with an irrefutable passion. His ability to alternate screams, growls and melodic clean vocals sits at the core of Heart Of A Coward’s sound and was as impressive live as it is recorded.
Passion wasn’t just reserved for vocals though; the energy that the rest of the band poured into the set was unreal, throwing themselves into crushing riffs and blistering drumming alike.
Before the clearly anticipated ‘Deadweight’, the Nottingham crowd was allowed a practice of the inevitable five-word sing along that has become synonymous with the song. After a count in, the clambering crowd screamed in unison, “I don’t give a fuck!” not requiring ant sort of second try, apparently to the surprise of everyone.
The crowd went ballistic as the set was simultaneously taken to the next level and finished off with ‘Around A Girl In 80 Days’.
Heart Of A Coward have the rare ability to bring performance and stage presence together with technicality and quality sound in a way that very few bands can.
Giving the crowd a half-hour breather, the stage was rebuilt for Thy Art Is Murder. Drummer Lee Stanton appearing to be unable to resist giving a taste of what was to come while sound checking.
The band burst onto the darkened stage, and immediately the hooded (and apparently recently shaven) CJ McMahon prowled backwards and forwards, before climbing onto the top of the barrier and launching into his trademark vocal assault.
I have to get it out there right away; CJ’s vocals are otherworldly, he can transition between screams, and insanely low growls and roars in a way that really shouldn’t be possible, all while keeping their dark, atheistic lyrics astonishingly comprehensible. Fears that he may not have been 100% after social media reports of laryngitis were soon smashed out of the minds of the swarming crowd.
Their latest album ‘Hate’ saw a leap forward in terms of production for Thy Art Is Murder, and a quality of sound that I was intrigued to see replicated live. They didn’t disappoint. I’m not saying that the sound on the night was studio quality, but what slight edge was lost in that department was made up for in ferocity. Guitar work from Andy Marsh and touring guitarist Roman Koester was superb and while incredibly tight, Lee Stanton appeared intent on beating the living daylights out of his kit.
The balance of vicious delivery and interaction with the crowd was spot on. CJ giving thanks to both the crowd for coming out and the other bands on the ticket, while also reminding us that Thy Art would be at Donington Park for this year’s Download and giving his promise of the chaos that would ensue.
Highlights from the set have to be ‘Reign Of Darkness’ and ‘The Purest Strain Of Hate’.
During the set CJ mentioned to the crowd that the first time Thy Art Is Murder played in Nottingham it was to a crowd of around 60, tonight they headlined to almost 300. It’s not difficult to imagine that if they stay on their current extreme metal trajectory, much larger crowds await.
Review & Photos – Steve Kilmister