Satan’s Hollow in Manchester is a bit of a strange venue for live music – there’s a circular dancefloor in the centre of the room surrounded by a railing, and plenty of open space around the edges.
The (slightly elevated) dance floor is where bands live, and the audience sort of cluster around the edges like the biscuit part of a jammy dodger. The décor of the space though is something else if you’re into your alternative culture. It’s essentially what I’d expect Alice Cooper’s house to look like, with blood-drip painted pillars and, of course, Satan himself looming larger than life over the DJ booth in the corner.
It’s rainy and miserable outside, so after contemplating moving back to Australia it was welcome news when the doors finally opened. Being over 18, I was far from the worst off here, having happily embarked on a short (yet comprehensive) tour of pubs within a stone’s throw of the venue instead of getting damp and angry in an alley smelling of tinkle.
The waiting crowd were the most MySpace-looking group of people I’ve scene (sorry, seen) in the time since MySpace faded into obscurity. There are more Vans trainers than at a municipal skatepark.
Opening tonight are London’s Shields. Their techy-sounding, ’core infused Metal bludgeons in with djenty, down-tuned guitars and cymbals that go ‘tshhhh’ a lot, providing a heavy backdrop for the roared vocals of frontman Joe Edwards. Despite being much heavier than Ice Nine Kills, they’re absolutely a solid choice of tour support, with Sam Kubrick’s soaring cleans on the choruses bringing a Devil Sold His Soul feel to proceedings as the 5-piece crab-core (a dying art, in these tumultuous times) and body-bang (like a head-bang, but it’s gotta come from the waist, y’know) their way through a never-ending series of breakdowns.
I’m well acquainted with Shields’ live show, given they’ve previously played at Rawkus events (and I’ve caught them on other occasions too) and tonight they’re as uncompromisingly tight as ever. If I have to criticise, it’s that I never come away with one of their songs stuck in my head. As is common with the techier side of Metal, there aren’t really any hooks or stand-out riffs. A set can quickly get sucked into an endless progression of technicality, breakdowns and bridging.
Shields’ talent and capable frontman-ship keeps their set far from boring, but I’m not sure a longer stage time than this would do them any favours.
After a brief delay (during which I discovered that main tour support Affiance won’t be joining us tonight) Ice Nine Kills hit the stage to much adoration for their debut UK show. It’s a vociferously drum-heavy mix to begin with, yet I’m not really too bothered as the sound is sharper than that knife suit the police won’t let me wear any more. Plus, drummist Conor Sullivan is in fine form, smashing into his kit as the guitars are gradually levelled to match his barbarously precise stylings.
As I’ve mentioned, this is their first UK date – strange for a band who’ve been around for a decade now – and the crowd reflects this. While it’s not packed to the rafters, the fans know every word of a set littered with hits and older gems, with both softer and heavier tracks getting the sing-back treatment.
‘Communion of the Cursed’ and ‘The Fastest Way To A Girl’s Heart Is Through Her Ribcage’ are personal highlights, although I suspect I’m not quite on the same level as these cult fanatics!
Remaining UK Dates
10th Southampton Joiners, UK
11th Paris Backstage By The Mill, UK