Fear Factory return to London. Four very different bands, bringing a variety of styles on one awesome night of metal!
With a really early start of 17:30, I didn’t really expect there to be much of a crowd for the first band of the evening but arriving at the Ballroom just before doors I still saw a sizeable queue building to get into the venue.
GHOSTS OF ATLANTIS
Opening act Ghosts of Atlantis, from Ipswich, were playing to a decent crowd by the time they took to the stage. Looking like a set of extras from a Mad Max film, they look like a truly scary bunch on the stage. Vocalist Pip in particular, hooded and menacing, strikes a pretty intimidating figure.
The music that GOA play is an uncompromising mix of melodic death metal with well written songs and even orchestral elements, all with Atlantis themed lyrics. They sound tight this evening. I have to say though, and this goes for all of the bands this evening, the sound in the venue tonight leaves me disappointed and wanting less volume and more clarity. Sometimes it sounds like the bottom end is about to make the PA vibrate its feet off and this just leads to a boomy, indistinct sound.
Not that this dulls the enthusiasm of GOA who deliver a pretty impressive set of songs to an appreciative crowd. closer, Lands of Snow, especially hits the mark and leaves a very positive impression, definitely one for further investigation.
If Ghosts of Atlantis are characterized by a dark brooding image, the next band, Ukrainian band Ignea, are at the opposite end of the spectrum. They look overjoyed to be playing this evening in a big London venue with Fear Factory and they’re not afraid to show it. Big smiles abound in this band. They play melodic metal with a mix of influences ranging from symphonic t0 some nice eastern touches that elevate this band above your standard melodic metal combo.
The vocals of Helle Bohdanova are impressive; seamlessly moving from growls and super deep vocals to melodic singing (almost sounding like there are two separate vocalists on the stage!) The presence of Yevhenii Zhytniuk playing a keytar is also something a little unusual.
Sadly, once again, the sound in the venue has managed to bludgeon all of the subtlety out of the music. It is a short set of 6 songs, showcasing some great song writing. The current release, Dreams of Lands Unseen, figures strongly and these are indeed some of the best songs the band play tonight. Opening with Dunes, the steady pace and punctuated drumming sets the scene and gets the crowd nodding along.
Camera Obscura is a slow to medium paced song that ticks all of the boxes and gets the approval of the crowd, which has now swollen to half fill the venue. Helle thanks the crowd for support shown in the Ukraine/Russia war and we’re reminded briefly of the sad events we see playing out on our TV screens daily. Closing with Nomads Luck, from the current album; Dreams of Lands Unseen, sees the crowd being swept along and there’s just time for a band photo before they leave the stage.
Next up are the Butcher Babies from L.A. Having seen Butcher Babies a couple of times before, they’ve never disappointed. They’re full of energy and very much on point with getting the crowd warmed up. The last couple of albums An Eye for an Eye…. & ’til the World’s Blind are both full of absolutely stonking songs, catchy tunes, super heavy production and choruses that, once in your head, are very difficult to evict!
This evening they are running a reduced quorum with am absent vocalist, Carla Harvey. Remaining vocalist Heidi Shepherd explains that Carla is doing fine but has undergone an emergency operation to fix a detached retina, not good, explaining this is the first tour they’ve been on for 15 years without sharing the stage together and how weird it feels. We wish Carla a speedy recovery.
Despite this, the Babies are on form and the superb energy on the stage is mirrored by the energy in the crowd with pits galore. I guess they have had to tailor the set to suit a single vocal too. Starting with Backstreets Of Tennessee is a fine way to start, akin to being smacked in the face with a baseball bat a few times. and the crowd love it! Certainly not the best song on the ’til the World’s Blind album (in this writers opinion) but it definitely leaves an impression!
Red Thunder is more accessible while still retaining an edge and Monsters Ball take us back into no compromise territory with Heidi Shepherd at the barrier getting the crowd to sing along with her. For the next song they are looking for a Kingpin in the crowd to accompany the song of the same title. Wrong End of the Knife is another song with an infectious chorus that worms its way into your head and refuses to leave.
Despite the PA sound, it is clear that the band are squeaky tight tonight, with the 8 string attack of Henry Flury on guitar doing its very best to cut through the boominess. Indeed, in truth, the sound has improved a little. Ricky Bonazza on bass looks to be having a ball and the drums of Blake Bailey hold the whole thing together admirably.
The set progresses at breakneck speed, with most of the songs being lifted from the ’til the World’s Blind album, sadly not much from An Eye for an Eye…. which has some of the best new material. Also, no time in the shortish set for many old favourites either. They’ll need to come back soon to play some of this stuff! The crowd continues to throw as much energy back at the stage as is being pushed out, and it is clear that while Fear Factory are the main course, there is no shortage of love for the Butcher Babies too.
They close with Magnolia Blvd. from the rather awesome Goliath album from 2013. This goes down very well and sets the scene for the mighty Fear Factory to round off the evening.
Without any fuss or preamble Fear Factory take to the stage and launch into Shock from the 1998’s Obsolete. The staccato double bass drums that feature so prominently in the Fear Factory sound are evident from the get go and Pete Webber does a sterling on the drums. Javier Arriaga is filling in for permanent bass player Tony Campos, who is currently busy with STATIC-X and he looks as focused as anyone I’ve seen on a stage. Completing the line-up is the ever present Dino on guitar and new vocalist Milo Silvestro. This is the first time I’ve seen Fear Factory with Milo on vocals and I was keen to see how he compares to Burton C. Bell. Happy to report that the vocals were pretty good so no complaints here, he even resembles a young version of Burton C. Bell!
The crowd goes mad and circle pits and surfers abound! For Edgecrusher they are joined on the stage by Svalbard singer and guitarist Serena Cherry who does a fine job helping with the vocals. Dielectric is pounded out and gives Silvestro an opportunity to try out his clean vocals which sound remarkably good.
Much of the set is lifted from Obsolete which is no bad thing, it is one of the highlights of Fear Factory’s history and stems from a period where there was stability in the line-up and some great song writing in evidence. Powershifter increases the pressure in the venue somewhat with its uncompromising double bass drum attack and the crowd respond with more surfing and pit. The centre of the venue is now awash with pits!
There are cries from the crowd – “Dino, Dino, Dino!” as the introduction to Descent rings out. This is an opportunity for a breather and allows a little bit of respite from the aural assault we’ve been treated to up until this point, I suspect it is also a welcome break for Pete Webbers legs too! Linchpin, from the album Digimortal, is an opportunity for head banging and some audience participation in the chorus.
Martyr is welcomed like an old friend & this song signals a switch to earlier material with 2 songs lifted from the excellent Demanufacture album following in quick succession with the title track being the highlight here. Zero Signal signals the end of the set and the band leave the stage for a brief pause before returning for an encore of Replica and Resurrection, with the latter being dedicated to all of the audience in attendance.
So, a fine night of metal, even the lack lustre sound could not put a dampener on it. All four bands shine in their own way, each distinct and different and all on top form. No complaints here.
Fear Factory, Butcher Babies and Ignea now continue with the European tour, with dates right up until mid December 2023.
All concert photography by Graham Hilling. You can check out more of his work on his website, here.
Fear Factory: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / YouTube
Butcher Babies: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / YouTube
Ignea: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / YouTube
Ghosts of Atlantis: Website / Facebook / Instagram / YouTube
Categories: Live Reviews