Tonight, I find myself back at the O2 Academy Birmingham for the mighty Carnifex and Chelsea Grin, a dual headline all-American line-up show. Selling out every date of the UK leg of their tour, which isn’t surprising. Both bands have gained a solid UK fanbase and become well-known names in the world of metal.
Another early doors gig meant travelling during rush hour. A 45-minute journey turned into 1hr 40 mins thanks to road closures, accidents and heavier traffic thanks to rail strikes. Unfortunately, this meant missing the first band, The Convalescence. Not knowing much about these guys and when doing some research, they looked an interesting band visually, so I was a bit gutted to have miss them. I’ve seen their name floating around a few times, but never had chance to actually check them out until recently.
Luckily, I did manage to arrive in time for Philadelphia’s Varials. Another band I didn’t know much about. They’ve recently released their latest album ‘Scars For You To Remember,’ conveniently also the name of this tour. This metalcore 5 piece hit the stage for only the second time ever on UK soil. Opening their set with ‘Romance’, from their 2019 album ‘In Darkness’, playing a range of songs from across their catalogue including their latest single ‘.50’ then rounding off the set with ‘Empire of Dirt’ from their 2017 album ‘Pain Again.’ They’ve more of what as I can only describe as a darkened metalcore vibe about them, more of a mellow offering rather than the aggression of the following band, Bodysnatcher. Varials gave us an energetic and interactive set, an excellent showcase for what they have to offer from across the pond.
Next up on stage are Florida’s Bodysnatcher, which for me are a very marmite band. Loving some of their songs, but sometimes just dipping a bit too much into the hardcore genre for my personal taste. I was looking forward to seeing them live though, liking elements of most of their tracks. Unlike the dual headliners, Bodysnatcher aren’t following in their footsteps and are playing nothing from their first album tonight. Opening with ‘Black of My Eyes’ from their album ‘This Heavy Void’, one of my personal favourite tracks. The slow chugging bass thumped throughout the venue, the crowd slowly bobbing their heads along until the heavy breakdown and the crowd explodes into a pit, followed by some two-stepping madness. Next song of the night, ‘E.D.A’ from the bands newly released album ‘Bleed Abide.’ Closely followed by ‘Wired For Destruction’ then ‘Take Me To Hell’ which is possibly the most downtempo song of the set. Vocalist Kyle shouts out “This goes out to Josh who I’ve not seen since March, this goes out to Monasteries.”
Following a couple of tracks we’re then treated to some more new material with ‘Behind The Crowd.’ This track has an obvious Bodysnatcher feel to it, but with some additional techy guitar moments in the background, adding an extra layer to the package. Ending their set with ‘Kings Of The Rats’, which happens to be one of the songs I personally find too much for my taste, but one of their most popular songs never the less. By this point there was so much smoke you could barely see the band on stage. Unfortunately, I felt the crowd let us down somewhat as throughout the entire set seeming surprisingly tame. I was expecting violence as I often get kicked in the head at these sorts of gigs, but not tonight. The crowd mostly stood and watched, slowly bobbing their heads along to the music.
Next up its Chelsea Grin’s turn to pull a shift up on stage. Tonight’s performance consists of their self-titled E.P in its entirety, with a few other choice favourites thrown in for good measure. With each headliner having an hour-long set, we’re here for the long haul.
An unexpected intro courtesy of the crowd, was a recital of ‘Last Christmas’, this was met by giggles and smiles from the band. It was nice to see vocalist Tom Barber down at the barrier, thanking the crowd and taking photos whilst the rest of the band were completing their changeover. The first 5 songs were as promised, from the self-titled EP, in order, opening the set with ‘Crewabanger’, quickly followed by the rest of the EP.
After the EP play-through, we’re treated to probably one of the most recognisable Chelsea Grin song, ‘Recreant’ which instantly got the crowd pumped and the demand of a wall of death was swiftly actioned. The next few songs ‘Origin of Sin’, ‘Flood Lungs’, ‘The Isnis’ and ‘Suffer In Hell, ‘Suffer In Heaven’ all taken from ‘Suffer In Hell’, released last month. I feel is a more downtempo and maybe grown-up version of their back catalogue, for one it’s darker and involves more chugg, which is spot on in my opinion. Ending the set another of their most known for songs, ‘Hostage’, the crowd erupted into cheers, concluded their set.
A great show balanced with a mixture of half old, half new was a nice touch, showing how the band have progressed and become the powerhouse they are today. Sadly, it seemed like half the crowd were there only for Chelsea Grin, as the room quickly emptied following their set. Maybe it’s Carnifex’s slightly melodic edge that’s off putting? Personally, the keyboard sound effects took me a little getting used to when I first heard them, but the blackened death metal gives an edge to their music, something not many others do. Hopefully it was just getting late as it’s a weeknight and past the younger crowd’s bedtime.
Tonight, Carnifex are preforming their debut E.P ‘Dead In My Arms’ in its entirety, with a few other classics mixed in. Opening with ‘These Thoughts Became Cages’, which is the opening track to the EP, this was quickly followed by the likes of ‘Love Lies In Ashes’ and the never before played live ‘A Winter In Remorse’, to which was demanded a circle pit. We are also treated to ‘Collaborating Like Killers’ a pummelling, hard hitting track getting the crowd in full swing. ‘My Heart In Atrophy’ with its deep dirty bass drops made everyone in the pit start walking like which I can only describe as a cavemen, a slow stomp to the beat of the music. That concluded the EP part of the set, to which followed a message from Carnifex thanking us for keeping the album alive for 15 years. The crowd started chanting “Carnifex!”, to which the band replied “I want to see this whole room jump!” Rounding up the evening were a handful of classics from across the years, such as ‘In Coalesce With Filth & Faith’, ‘Drown Me In Blood’, ‘Hatred And Slaughter’ and ending the set with ‘Hell Chose Me.’ Having seen Carnifex a few times, I think tonight was the most powerful and on form so far, improving their performance and presence each show. There were numerous extremely deep and long bass drops, possibly the heaviest I’ve ever heard, shaking the room with each BOOOOOM!
What an end to a great night filled with copious amounts of death metal in various forms and excellent performances from all the bands (that I managed to catch!). Although, I really do wish tours would stop with dual headliner theme. Doors are just too early for people to make, especially on a weeknight and the room always empties for the headliner, which just wouldn’t happen on a solo headline. However, I get it, it seems to be the in “thing” to do and you do get value for money, so I can’t complain about that!
That’s it for me, home and time for bed! It’s WAY past my bedtime, never mind the people who left early following Chelsea Grin. You missed a stonking set by Carnifex and an overall top-notch night of extreme metal.