Monday, October 5, 2015

Live review: Between The Buried And Me and Haken at Sticky Fingers, Gothenburg

Gothenburg, the unclaimed metal capital of Sweden. This city has produced tons of great bands over the years. In Flames, Dark Tranquility, At The Gates, HammerFall, The Haunted, the list can go on and on. So of course, it is only fitting that the city offers a great club for those, and other, bands to play on. And that club my friends, is Sticky Fingers.

Locating a stone throw away from Avenyn, Sticky Fingers is a two-part club that at a normal day and night is a good place to hang out, have a beer and meal, and listen to sweet music. But when a band comes to visit, the party is taken up one floor, to a stage that is elevated about 1 and a half meter above the dance moshing floor. For the short crowd, the is also a balcony just so you could get that great view over everyone. I have actually never visited the place before the show (mostly because I live about 160 km away from Gothenburg), so I did not know what to expect. I did enjoy the place though, and I would definitely return there if any other of my favourite bands visited.

Anyway, onto how the shows went.

Opening act: Haken
Opening up for the main act was one of England's finest progressive metal acts, Haken. I do not have too much of a connection with the band, but I did listen to their latest album, "Mountains" from 2013, and since I highly enjoyed it, I hoped the set list would revolve around it.

And it did. The set list included "Cockroach King", "In Memoriam", and "Pareidolia", all of them taken from "Mountains", making 60% of the set list. That was one thing I did not like, but was not surprised over, the short amount of songs in the set list. Since most of Haken's songs are very long, I knew that they would not get the chance to play a lot of songs. The total number of songs was 5, spanning a total play time of around 45 minutes, the other two being "Premonition" and "Crystallised", one of the newest songs from the band, taken from the "Restoration" EP released in 2014. "Crystallised" was massive, the studio version is over 19 minutes, but in the show, it felt like would never end. The complex rhythms, the dazzling riffs, and a keytar made this song the true stand out in this show.

But there were a couple of weird things that went on throughout the show. It often felt like the band was focusing more on not missing any notes than connecting to the audience. I swear that I saw one of the guitarist move like 3 or 4 times in the entire show (okay, I may have exaggerated there, but he did not move much). The only one really connecting with the audience was the singer, Ross Jennings, and he left the stage every time there was a long instrumental part. Okay, the stage is a little small for a band of 6 musicians, but he moved fairly freely when he sang, why not otherwise? And even if they were the opening act, it felt awkward that Ross told us what song they were going to play on every song.

So it was a fairly awkward show, and the audience did not help it too much either, but the band kept it professional and performed well enough for me to enjoy it. A good warm up for the entree.

Best: Crystallised

Worst: The overall weird atmosphere

Rating: 6/10

Set list:
In Memoriam
Cockroach King

Main act: Between The Buried And Me
I have watched Between The Buried And Me one time earlier in my life, and it was a poor show, not because of the band, but because they performed in the smallest stage with the worst sound in a festival that has not returned since 2013. I knew that the show they did in Metaltown was not the best the band had to offer, so I was pleased to finally see them in an environment that was more fitting.

damn this elevated stage, can't see Blake for shit
Since the band had recently released their seventh album "Coma Ecliptic", I was not surprised that the album was the focal point of the performance. The band played three songs from it, "The Coma Machine", "Famine Wolf", and my personal favourite "Memory Palace". It was pretty predictable that they would chose these songs for the tour, but the fans know these songs best, so it gives the band the best possibility to put on a good show.

But it is the older material that goes best among the audience. Starting the show with "Selkies: The Endless Obsession" was a bit of a shocker, but it did the trick pretty well, getting the crowd going instantly. I also liked that the band used the songs "Astral Body" and "Lay Your Ghosts To Rest" as a fusion, making it one solid unit. They did it the last time I saw them as well, so I was not surprised over that either (however I wished they would have chosen "Telos" or "Bloom" from "The Parallax II: Future Sequence" instead).

But ultimately, it was the material from "Colors" that hit the nail on the head, making the show a killer. "Ants of The Sky" ended the main part of the show, and it is a fantastic one with several tempo changes and technical solos. The band looked like they enjoyed it on stage and cooperated well enough to last the distance, and make every last part of the song, even the hillbilly part in the end, as perfect as possible. Another "Colors" piece served as the encore of the show, and even though I was surprised that the well known "Prequel To The Sequel" was left out in the set list, I was pleasantly surprised that it was "White Walls" that served as the closer. A great, final assault that made sure to make every single person in the building smiling when leaving. It sure did the trick on me

Paul Waggoner doing his thing

That has always been a strength of the band, they are always flawless in their performance, whether it comes to being in the studio or playing live. Waggoner rocks the solos like he has not done anything else in his life, and while I had extreme problems in actually seeing Blake Richardson behind his drum kit, I could hear his playing, and it certainly reminded me of why I hold him as one of my favourite drummers. One thing the band still has to learn though is communicating with their audience. There were almost no small talk what so ever during the full 1 h 20 min show, which does make it feel like this was just one done on routine.

To be fair though, the crowd was not helping the matter all too much. The whole floor was separated into rows of people, no shoving at all, which means that this show was not sold out (I guess around 200 attended). It also felt like the two front rows (in which I was a part of) was the only ones really excited over the concert, the rest just standing in the back chilling. It is definitely the quietest crowd I have been around, but it could be because the show happened on a Sunday, so there was probably not much alcohol included here. This also explains the relatively early show time (BTBAM went on around 21:30). So yeah... Sunday shows suck.

Despite these flaws, I did enjoy myself, and I certainly felt that the band got redemption for that show they had to endure back in 2013. I still think they could have put in one or two more songs in, but I like the set list, it has a little of all their famous albums, while still highlighting their new release. There still room for improvement though (both for the band and the crowd), and the first thing to fix is the date, shows on Sundays should be banned.

Best: Ants of The Sky and the perfect instrumentation

Worst: Sundays suck

Rating: 7/10

Set list:
Selkies: The Endless Obsession
The Coma Machine
Astral Body
Lay Your Ghosts To Rest
Memory Palace
Famine Wolf
Ants of The Sky

White Walls

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