|» Eastpak 2007 10 03||
The Eastpak Antidote Tour is an annual event which presents exciting bands in different genres. This year there is an emphasis on heavier music, with the line-up consisting of Swedish trio Soilwork, Dark Tranquillity and Sonic Syndicate, plus Germans Caliban. This choice of bands was certainly appealing to me. As I enter the Carling Academy, I am somewhat surprised by its rather modest size, but usually smaller places offer greater intimacy anyway. Fortunately, there are two bars, one on each side of the floor. This is most welcome, considering my stifling rush-hour journey on the underground train.
The first band on tonight's bill is newcomers Sonic Syndicate. Most of you probably know their success story by now: winners of a Nuclear Blast band competition and a subsequent record deal with said label, they released their debut album Only Inhuman in May. This was followed by extensive touring, the highlight being an appearance at Wacken Open Air. The youthful six-piece open their set with Aftermath, (also the album opener), and it is instantly obvious that they sound heavier live than on the record. Overall, the crowd - excluding a handful of teenage diehards - is a bit reserved, but the band members are not affected, instead producing an energetic performance. They master their instruments well, and Richard Johansson - responsible for the clean vocals - sings well and does his utmost to enthuse the audience. It is evident that previous touring has provided the Swedes with invaluable experience and confidence. When the last song of their short set concludes, their endeavor is rewarded with a good reception from the crowd.
Naturally, it is an easy option for some critics to write off Sonic Syndicate because the guys in the band, with their fairly neat clothing and haircuts, do not look like bona fide metal heads, and because their music does not really offer something new. However, this view is not just narrow-minded but rather unessential. Surely, their music, reminiscent of bands like Soilwork and In Flames, is not unique, but does it have to be, really? Although their debut album is not a complete masterpiece - rather a fine, promising effort - it is clear that the band has the ability to write excellent, catchy songs. Prime examples are Aftermath, Denied and Enclave, all performed tonight. The latter, emotional number is the highlight in their set for me; quite moving actually.
Later, I share a few words with guitarist Robin Sjunnesson. He is excited about their upcoming tour with Amon Amarth in the US. Indeed, it is reasonable to predict that they will get an even better response over there, because of this genre's rise in popularity among American fans over the last few years.
7 chalices of 10
Prior to the Eastpak Antidote tour, Sonic Syndicate played some shows in Scandinavia, supporting fellow countrymen Dark Tranquillity. It comes as a surprise to me when the Gothenburg band is next on tonight's bill, and therefore is allocated less stage time than had they been closing the concert. Nevertheless, they deliver a top-class set - not that I had expected anything else. Following some initial sound problems, the well-oiled machine is in full function. The instrumentalists in the band perform the captivating music tight and flawlessly. At the same time, it is unavoidable that it is charismatic singer Mikael Stanne who is the centre of attention, once again proving that he is one of the best frontmen in the business. Rarely motionless, hair flying from side to side, he delivers his vocals with passion and commitment. He is a constant bundle of energy, something which feeds off on the spectators. In fact, Stanne is an example when it comes to connecting with the audience. Not even half of the first song - Terminus (when death is most alive) from the new album - has passed when he can be seen down at the barricades, greeting the front row faithfuls while singing in their faces.
Because of the short time at their disposal, the concentration is on the new release - further represented by The Lesser Faith, Focus Shift and the amazing Misery's Crown (one of the songs of the year in my opinion). In addition, there is room for classics such as Punish My Heaven and Wonders Of Your Feet. A brutal rendition of The New Build concludes a short but great show by Dark Tranquillity. Stanne sincerely apologizes for their short time, and thanks the fans. Always refreshing to see rock stars (Stanne would disagree with this distinction, by the way) with their feet firmly on the ground. This applies to all the members in the band; ordinary guys who simply happen to have the gift to write wonderful music. Dark Tranquillity certainly deserve their increasing recognition.
8 chalices of 10 (too short, otherwise higher)
The ones handed the difficult task to follow up this delightful performance are German metal/hardcore combo Caliban. After a suggestive intro, the band plunges into its testosterone-filled music, and the sound is brutally heavy and clear. Although I cannot say this is my favourite genre, I have a soft spot for bands like Sick Of It All, Madball and Hatebreed; their material being characterized by simple yet highly effective rhythms, and crushing riffs and breaks. Likewise, Caliban make it impossible not to be affected by the primal force of their macho metal. During the second number the moment comes which many have been waiting for - the Caliban live gimmick known as the "Wall of death". Vocalist Andreas Dörner instructs the spectators to divide into two sides and wait for his signal. Adrenalized by an accompanying, intense riff, they rush towards each other. Because of the limited floor space the effect is not that spectacular, but from here onwards there is a respectable circle pit in front of the stage. Alas, the band members are not as energetic as their fans. In my opinion, they are not that entertaining to watch, having little personality. Dörner seems to be mostly interested in punching a balloon which floats around in the hall.
Moreover, their songs are rather similar. Of course, this style of music does not usually embrace big dynamics, but I think the band would benefit from varying their material a bit in the future - this is a process which has already begun, from what I have read about the band. It is no coincidence that their strongest tune tonight is I Will Never Let You Down - a fine song from the new album which showcases a more diverse, melodic approach. All in all, a solid gig by Caliban but I think some more memorable songs and a more lively stage show are necessary. But who am I to critizise? The kids on the floor are seemingly pleased, many of them slam dancing with their shirts taken off (the male portion that is).
6 chalices of 10
Then time has come for Soilwork to round off tonight's event. Opening with a blistering version of old gem Bastard Chain, the band set the standard right from the start. This group possesses an abundance of top-notch compositions, so in this case the problem is choosing which ones to include. Next song is the brilliant As We Speak, and by now there is a great atmosphere inside the Academy. The alcohol consumed during the evening could be a contributing factor, but Soilwork definitely deliver an excellent show. It is difficult to do their material full justice in a live setting, since it is so multi-faceted - fast, relentless parts are mixed with tasteful arrangements and exquisite melodies - but having highly competent musicians in the band obviously helps. Drum extraordinaire Dirk Verbeuren is particularly impressive. In addition, the sound is close to perfect. Like colleague Mikael Stanne, Soilwork's Björn "Speed" Stridh is a terrific frontman and vocalist. He varies emotional and aggressive passages with ease. However, because "Speed" handles the lead vocals, the back-up vocals is bound to suffer live. Basist Ola Flink - while goofing around as usual, doing silly poses - makes some occasional, half-hearted attempts though.
But this is just a minor weakness in an otherwise highly convincing show. Soilwork is a very experienced live band by now, that is unmistakable. Add to this splendid songs such as Light The Torch, Follow The Hollow and Rejection Role, and they cannot really fail. The one new song performed - Exile - is enjoyable too. Accordingly, the fans show their appreciation to the band. During Stabbing The Drama, there is an impressive sing-along in the Carling Academy, and when the final song Nerve finishes, Soilwork are praised by a satisfied audience. A perfect ending to a most pleasant evening.
8 chalices of 10