This afternoon (yes, afternoon) I find myself back again at The Mill, Digbeth (UK). Personally, one of my favourite venues for both watching and photographing bands. The early doors at 6pm usually means a sparse crowd for the first 2 bands, but this time I was pleasantly surprised to see a decent crowded building.
First up tonight we have the only UK based band of the evening, Viscera. A random and completely unrelated note, when I researched into this band (not really knowing much about their history), it came up with “psychedelic porn crumpets”…. bit random! Viscera have a heavy tech-deathcore combination which makes for interesting listening, you can’t help but like them as there’s a bit of something for everyone. They’ve been missing a bass player since Archer’s departure in February, and I’m surprised they haven’t found a suitable replacement yet. Opening their set with ‘Hammers and Nails‘ from their 2020 release ‘Obsidian‘, this starts with a melodic tech track coupled with siren noises and chugging breakdowns, making a great start to the show. Charging in like a steam train, ‘Delilah‘ follows immediately after. First track filled with ridiculous kick drums pounding away and enough chug to choke you. Next is possibly their most recognisable track and also the title to their latest album ‘Obsidian,’ which got the crowd pumped and singing along. I’m not usually one for vocals you can actually understand, but this is one of my favourite tracks of the moment. Following up with the latest song from Viscera, ‘Sungazer,’ which was released earlier this year and ending their set on a high with ‘Lamb to the Slaughter.’ I must admit the former ‘Heart of a Coward‘ frontman, Jamie Graham‘s voice just blows you away! There are plenty of guttural growls combined with clean vocals. Some friends of mine here tonight who’d never heard of Viscera before, made comment on how impressed they were, especially with Jamie‘s vocal range. Tonight’s performance highlighted just how good Viscera really are.
Now the crowd are thoroughly warmed up, next band to hit the stage are the Dutch down-tempo/deathcore Distant. A band I’ve seen live previously in March supporting Lorna Shore at the O2 Institute, Birmingham. They impressed me immensely back then and I was looking forward to seeing them again. Distant released a new single in October called ‘Human Scum’ yet this wasn’t included in their set, which was a surprise. Opening with ‘HellmØuth’ and immediately followed by ‘Oedipism’ and ‘Vermillion Rivers’ all from their 2021 release ‘Aeons of Oblivion.’ This got the crowd fully primed and ready for a wall of death, which vocalist Alan Grnja demanded, and the crowd happily obliged. Both vocalist Alan and bass player Elmer have a very lively stage presence, the towering Elmer bounding around like a man possessed! We’re halfway through the set and an excited crowd are treated with one of the 2 releases this year from Distant, ‘Exofilth’ which was released back in August, followed by ‘Aeons of Oblivion’ had the crowd chanting to which the band responded by demanding a Circle Pit. Ending the set with ‘Heirs of Torment’ and ‘False Gods’ from their debut album released in 2019, Tyrannotophia. A very solid set from the guys, sounding spot on and had a great stage presence, I look forward to hearing more of their new material.
During the changeover, the stage turned very dark and moody. Oceano appear out of the darkness and stay hidden in a cloak of darkness the entire set, which although creates an atmosphere, personally it’s a bit disappointing. In my opinion, if you’ve paid to see a band it’s nice to actually see them in person on stage and not just some shadow puppets. Opening with the very short ‘Nephlim‘ the pounding opening slows to a chugging guttural section, which I absolutely loved, followed with ‘Lucid Reality’ which is taken from the 2017 release ‘Revelation.’ Swiftly followed by ‘Dawn of Decent’ and new single ‘Mass Produced‘ which was released in August, being the first new music from Oceano in 5 years. This track is fast, hard hitting and has some nice guitar solos thrown in for good measure. Probably the most range in one song of their entire set. Following with ‘District of Misery’ and ‘Inhuman Affliction,’ both from their 2009 album ‘Depths.’ Ending the set with ‘The Taken,’ I actually quite got into this song. Reminding me of the band Filth, who I’ve seen a couple of times previously. When the song finished, they simply walked off stage and packed up. No thanking the crowd, zero interaction, which left us stood there baffled and wondering if they actually had finished. They probably see this as ‘dramatic,’ but an acknowledgement their set had ended and a thanks for watching them would have been appreciated. Unfortunately, technical issues seemed to plague the set with mic feedback, a horrible squeak every now and then spoiling the experience. I was personally disappointed with the Oceano set. I’ve never actually heard them before but was told I’d like them. The performance was lacking both visually and audibly and just sounding very samey unfortunately.
Not actually knowing much about Despised Icon, I realised it’s a joint celebration with Decapitated, as its Despised Icon‘s 20th anniversary. They’ve just released their latest ep ‘Déterré,’ the day before the start of this tour, which is a mix of re-released material from 2004 and 2006. Opening with ‘Furtive Monologue’ and ‘A Fractured Hand,’ both from their 2007 release ‘The Ills of Modern Man.’ The crowd were extremely hyped for Despised Icon and so they should be. It’s been 4 years since they’ve played the UK and they were the most interactive and pumped band of the evening so far. The dual vocalists chopping and changing, covering every inch of the stage. One of the vocalists shouted, “Do you guys like blast beats or what?” swiftly followed by the demand for the second circle pit of the evening. As a dual headline show, their set was the best part of an hour in length. Playing an array of songs from across their discography, including ‘Snake in the Grass,’ ‘Dernier Souffle,’ ‘Purgatory’ and ‘The sunset will never charm us’, to name but a few. Due to it being a weeknight and a relatively late finish, after Despised Icon the crowd seemed to thin noticeably. Speaking to the crowd, I think some where there for Despised Icon and not Decapitated and vice versa. I must admit, they are quite different bands for a Co-headliner.
I’ve seen Decapitated a number of times before, but this is the first Co-headliner I’ve been treated to. The Polish death metal band appear to be making up for lost time, they seem have spent a good chunk in the UK since Covid travel restrictions were eased. This is their 25th anniversary tour, it’s also the 15th anniversary this month of the passing of original member and drummer, Witek. The previous 2 nights of the UK leg of the tour, Despised Icon have headlined so tonight it was Decapitated’s turn. The last time I saw them at a small venue in Manchester, but tonight I was hoping for a chance to take some decent photos due to the venue being much more substantial. I’ve been to many gigs at The Mill so I was hoping the lighting and conditions would be an improvement….boy I was wrong! Following in Oceano’s footsteps, Decapitated were barely visible on stage. The dark washout of blue or red and ample smoke cloaking the band turned them into mere silhouettes and unfortunately, throughout the entire set Rafal’s vocals were barely audible.
Playing an hour-long set, mostly consisting of songs to promote their latest release ‘Cancer Culture.’ Opening with title song ‘Cancer Culture’ followed by ‘Just a Cigarette,’ ‘Earth Scar,’ ‘No Cure,’ ‘Hours As Battlegrounds’ and ‘Last Supper.’
Obviously ‘Spheres of Madness,’ which is possibly their most notable release which had to be thrown in the mix. As soon as the crowd hear that classic chugging guitar intro, the pit accelerates into full swing. I happened to be stood near the exit at this point and saw a number of people who’d clearly had too much fun in the pit, being escorted to the door, very sweaty and one slightly bloody. The last few songs, ‘Nine Steps,’ ‘Never’ and finishing the set with ‘Iconoclast,’ the night draws to an end.
A mixed bag tonight with some brilliant sets and some a little disappointing, although the crowd’s enthusiasm didn’t seem to lack and were hyped until end. For me a thoroughly enjoyable night, although VERY long! I do sometimes wonder why I do this to myself, after being up at 4am for work, quick home and change, drive to the venue for 6pm doors then finally getting home for almost midnight, all I can say is I slept like a baby!