LIVE: Killswitch Engage / Revocation / Tenside @ O2 Academy Brixton, London

By Dave Stewart

Killswitch Engage, considered one of the driving forces behind the emergence of metalcore, are renowned for putting on a phenomenal live show. Never a band to lean too heavily on theatrics, they’ve always been animated showmen who display an intense ability to play with a seemingly impossible tightness. When a band like that announce a string of headline shows, it’s your divine duty as a metal fan to strap on your boots and roll out to the nearest show. That show was Brixton Academy for a lot of people, and pilgrims turned up en masse to worship at the altar of the metalcore pioneers.

The gathering outside Brixton Academy was more like a swarm than a crowd, all herding themselves into the venue to digest an evening of the highest quality metal. First band on the menu was Germany’s Tenside, who strode onto the stage with undeniable class and swagger. Although unknown to the majority of attendees, they didn’t struggle getting the crowd onside, the static room becoming a pulsing sea of headbanging after a mere few riffs. Their music was well delivered, utilising old school riffs with a nu school vibe – think punchy verses and huge swelling choruses, intricately blended together to create a striking, long lasting effect. They may have taken the stage as borderline complete unknowns, but they undoubtedly left it with an army of new fans in tow. An impressive display and a perfect warm up for the hungry metalcore crowd.


Next on the bill was something a little heavier. Well, actually, a lot heavier. Massachusetts own Revocation skulked out onto the stage and immediately launched into a full frontal aural assault, blasting colossal and menacing death metal directly into the faces of the entire venue. The reaction to their set was mixed, ranging from fist pumping, aggressive pit action, to stunned, open-jawed bewilderment. Their tone was piercing, every single demon-summoning note cutting through the air like a blade and leaving a mark on everyone gazing in their direction. The precision of the rhythm section was borderline robotic, with bassist Brett Ramburger and drummer Ash Pearson working together in metronomic synchronicity. Not only that, but the dual guitar assault of front man David Davidson and Dan Gargiulo was stunning, effortlessly locking into each others playing and performing a flawless note perfect set. The majority of the room had turned up to hear a night of blazing metalcore, but a large number of them definitely left with a taste for technical death metal. Absolutely jaw dropping.


As soon as the enormous backdrop was revealed, the size of this show immediately sank in. Killswitch Engage were moments away from gracing one of London’s most prestigious venues, and they were about to bring the roof down in style. As soon as the lights dimmed, the venue erupted into a chorus of cheers, summoning the band from backstage to begin their white knuckle ride through their career. They wasted no time displaying their intentions by launching straight into ‘Unleashed’, the first track from their new record ‘Atonement’, and it whipped the crowd into an immediate frenzy. Followed by relentless renditions of ‘Hate By Design’ and the thrash-tastic ‘The Crownless King’, front man Jesse Leach stomped all across the stage and encouraged attendees to get involved in the action. They started with their feet pressing the pedal firmly to the metal, and showed no signs of taking them off the gas any time soon – and they were just getting started.

The songs that followed took Brixton Academy on an animated and nostalgic journey through all their biggest and best hits, with a few welcome stops in newer territory. Golden oldies like ‘My Last Serenade’ and ‘Rose Of Sharyn’ ignited the room into a furious blaze, with the dual riff work of guitarists Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel melting minds and raising horns throughout the venue. There were pits birthing in every direction in various shapes and temperaments, turning the floor into a living, breathing monster. Big singles ‘In Due Time’ and the southern-tinged groove fest ‘Strength Of The Mind’ had a similar effect, the huge choruses of both prompting mass singalongs that often overpowered the sounds coming from the stage. Even the surprise inclusion of ‘Reckoning’ from their self titled record went down a storm, with every chug and pinched harmonic ripping right through everyones skulls.

With a headline band this legendary and a discography so vast and successful, there was inevitably going to be some serious highlights – in fact, there were plenty of them. Newest hit ‘The Signal Fire’ was riotous, the raging riff possessing the limbs of everyone in ear shot and forcing their fists to punch the air in approval. The scene-shattering guest vocals of former vocalist Howard Jones may have been missing from the performance but his energy was not, seemingly spreading through the crowd and turning it into a swirling tornado. The opening notes of ‘My Curse’ and ‘The End Of Heartache’ were uplifting and goosebump-inducing, and shone a bright light on just how powerful an influence the band have been on everyone in attendance. You’d have been hard pressed to find a set of jaws not moving, singing along to every single lyric like it was ingrained into their brains. The most special moment, though, was their closing number.

After thanking the crowd for turning up on a Sunday and Dutkiewicz pronouncing the following Monday as “National Punch Your Boss In The Dick Day”, they let the crowd know they had one more song left to play. It seemed like they’d already played all their big hits, all their biggest singles and most popular album tracks having already been performed. But when the first notes of ‘Holy Diver’ oozed from the speakers, the entire venue exploded into action for one last time. The bouncy riff, Jesse’s soaring vocals, the bands restless stage presence and the electricity surging through the crowd made the atmosphere swell to an all new high, the final riffs bringing the night to an end in the most fun and triumphant way. A metal classic, performed flawlessly by metalcore legends.

As far as metalcore goes, there aren’t many bands that can sit in the same ballpark as Killswitch Engage. There just aren’t. Not only were they vitally important to the early success of the genre, but they’ve continued to breathe life into it over the years and are still inspiring artists today. The performances from each member of the band continue to improve, performing their music just as tightly and as physically proficiently as they did 10 years ago. Drummer Justin Foley was hitting harder than ever, bassist Mike D’Antonio was seemingly in a different part of the stage every time you blinked, both guitarists were running around and swapping stage sides in perfect sync, and Jesse was just as enigmatic and captivating as he’s ever been if not more so. A phenomenal display from one of the greatest metalcore bands of all time.


Killswitch Engage