LIVE: Bury Tomorrow / Employed To Serve / Blood Youth @ Academy 1, Manchester

By Gem Rogers

British heavy music is in undeniably magnificent shape right now. Not only are there a strong contingent of bands ascending to become the next wave of festival headliners, but also an incredible number of artists breaking out with albums that are making Album Of The Year lists across the board – rock, despite what some might say, is most definitely not dead. It seems a fitting end to 2019, then, to spend it in Manchester Academy in the company of three of our best homegrown talents; bands who are continuing to rise and grow from across the spectrum of heavy music, giving us one last chance to get a little bit crazy as we bid farewell to another year.

Melodic hardcore mob turned nu-metallers Blood Youth pump out a short but blistering set focusing on this year’s sophomore album ‘Starve’. It’s a style that suits them and their live performance down to the ground; there’s a fire in Blood Youth that spills out in every ominous note and gut-churning riff, with tracks like ‘Keep You Alive’ and the gorgeously technical ‘Nerve’ channelling aggression into a therapeutic release. It’s a shame there’s only time for six tracks, but it’s more than enough for the Harrogate four to prove how much they have to offer.

It’s an uncharacteristically quiet Manchester crowd in the Academy tonight, and for a while it looks as though Employed To Serve might have a much mellower set than they deserve – but it’s testament to their power that, with a little encouragement and a lot of punishingly heavy riffs, the room is utterly transformed by the end of their 40 minutes on stage. There’s good reason Employed To Serve has been the name on everyone’s lips through 2019, helped along by their impressive third album ‘Eternal Forward Motion’; layering Gojira-esque technicality over soul-crushing, hardcore brutality, there’s a precision, style, and confidence about this band that can’t be ignored (and there’s no real reason you’d ever want to). If unrelenting fury is your thing, Employed To Serve deliver it and then some – and it looks like they’ve won over more than a few in this now packed and sweaty room.

With the energy in Manchester Academy now well and truly ignited, the scene is set for headliners Bury Tomorrow to tip the excitement (and mosh pits) over the edge – not that they’ve ever really needed any help getting a crowd going. It’s been a year since their last headline show in Manchester at the O2’s Ritz, with a support slot for Parkway Drive at the Apollo tiding us over ‘til now, and their continued ascension through the metalcore ranks has been propelled by 2018’s ‘Black Flame’. While full album playthroughs are often reserved for anniversary shows, it speaks to the success of their fifth full length that tonight is not only dedicated to ‘Black Flame’, but receives the kind of joyous and frantic crowd reaction reserved for old favourites from the very first notes of ‘No Less Violent’ – and it only gets better from here.

Whatever it is that makes a band festival headliner material, there’s no denying that Bury Tomorrow have It, with a capital I (preferably one of those big flourishing ones at the start of medieval books, if you really want to illustrate it sufficiently). There’s an irrepressible, captivating energy, passion, and stage presence that lights up every moment of this set and radiates throughout the room as the pits grow and the floor rattles with every beat. Measuring success can be a tricky thing, but when the circle pits alone are bigger than the venues you once played, it’s safe to say you’re doing something right – and with performances like this, Bury Tomorrow are doing everything right.

The inclusive and electric community atmosphere this band foster is only one aspect of what makes them such a special live act – the other key part, and one that’s plain to see tonight, is their flawless delivery of this fusion of classic and modern metalcore sounds. From Dani Winter-Bates guttural roars and screams to Jason Cameron’s pitch perfect, gritty cleans, Bury Tomorrow have some of the best vocals in the game sitting atop memorable riffs and punching breakdowns aplenty that never let up, and never falter.

Recognising that ‘Black Flame’ alone isn’t quite long enough to keep a headline show all to itself – although it’s been more than well received, and there’s a few people who already look in need of a lie down to recover – a four song encore rounds off the night, featuring a highlight in the form of new track ‘The Grey (VIXI)’.

“There is no other art form like music, like metal music, to bring us together,” says Dani, as part of an incredibly personal introduction to the song, reflecting not only on his own mental health, but on encouragement to all to reach out for help, to find comfort in friends, and solace in music. It’s a topic dear to his heart and it shows, feeling all the more relevant at this time of year when loneliness can reach a peak for many. It’s moments like this, in shows like this, that act as the best reminder that we are never alone – and with one last opportunity to let loose to ‘You & I’ and ‘Man On Fire’, there’s a feeling of inner warmth that will last long after we exit into the cold December night. If you want to see the future of British metalcore, look no further than Bury Tomorrow.