First up are Tacoma newbies Stealing Axion. We have a lot of time for their “Moments” album, with its Periphery-esque grooves, and happily they translate the songs well in a live setting. “Mirage of Hope” and their heaviest moment “47 Days Later” are particularly impressive.
Next up are Vildhjarta, and if the Swedes and if the Swedes are hiding their Meshuggah fixation they don’t bother to do it well. However, they do have two vocalists and thus offer a different take on things. Modern progressive metal needs technical excellence and they have that in abundance, they also have more synchronized stage moves than Status Quo. There are plenty of good songs in their set too, “Dagger” and the new, unnamed song (the band tell the crowd to give their merch guy suggested monikers) are heavy and sprawling, but “All These Feelings” was the obvious highlight.
London’s Monuments provide the British interest, their set mostly being culled from the recently released “Gnosis” record. They do this stuff with a rather English twist, adding elements of hardcore to their mix. After entering to some truly awful dance music, they rip into “Doxa” like they really mean it – a feeling that “Regenerate” does little to diminish. “Denial” becomes a duet with Vildjharta and “Memoirs,” a song they have released to raise money for an ill friend is a fine song. Monuments are a band, you feel, that like Tesseract, are going to become the UK standard bearers for this type of metal.
Jeff Loomis is widely recognised as being one of the finest guitarists of his generation. His new album “Plains of Oblivion” is superb. We had been promised earlier in the evening, by Stealing Axion’s Dan Forbrich, that the former Nevermore man was going to “shred our faces off” so his arrival onstage was eagerly anticipated.
Loomis sets about living up to that promise during opener “Jato Unit” but as if eager not to rest on his laurels – and also to show off his new band – two recently recorded songs, “A Liars Chain” and “Speak of Nothing” are aired. These both have lyrics and take things into an almost black metal direction, which is rather unexpected. “Shouting Fire At A Funeral” puts us back on familiar ground.
Loomis chooses not to say a word throughout the hour-long set, preferring instead to let fellow guitarist, and nominal frontman, Joe Nurre, do any talking that needs to be done, and whilst Loomis’ fretwork could never be questioned, he perhaps lacks the charisma of some of his contemporaries.
The end of the evening rather neatly encapsulates this point. Nurre offers a “thanks Birmingham, you’ve been fantastic,” the house lights go up, and there is no encore. Which offers the rather incongruous thought that for one of the world’s most flashy metal guitarists, Jeff Loomis is a rather solid and unspectacular individual.