LIVE: Normandie / Sun Arcana / Led By Lanterns @ Dingwalls, Camden

By Gem Rogers

London has more than it’s fair share of well-known venues – understandably, given the whole ‘capital of the country’ thing it’s got going on – and probably nowhere more so than Camden. Alongside Koko, the Underworld, and Electric Ballroom, is Dingwalls, a tiered, sweaty venue hidden away in a Victorian warehouse by Camden Lock, with a long history of visits from legendary artists. Tonight, it plays host to Sweden’s Normandie, on their first headline tour since the release of sophomore album ‘White Flag’ in October – and it’s definitely going to be one these four walls remember.

Birmingham group and openers Led By Lanterns have seen a dramatic change around since the release of debut EP ‘Ashes’ in May last year, with former bassist Shaun Hill taking over lead vocals and a heavier edge creeping into new material. Brimming with infectious, joyous energy, the band work through a selection of their EP tracks, alongside hook-laden new song ‘Disconnected’ and an irresistibly smile inducing cover of Dua Lipa’s ‘New Rules’ (yep, really – and it goes down a treat). A pit opening up through closer ‘Alive’ is a sign of just how enjoyable and likeable this band are, and the new direction they’re taking seems to suit them perfectly. It’s a huge, room-mover of a track, and a guest appearance from Trash Boat’s Tobi Duncan only adds to this already fantastic set from a promising band.

The job of keeping this energy high falls to Essex-based four piece Sun Arcana, who are gradually building momentum this year following the release of debut EP ‘…As I Take A Breath’ in 2018 and a UK tour supporting Emarosa in January. The thundering ‘Fracture’ is an instant attention grabber for this half-hour set of dreamy riffs nestled alongside the more technical; heavier moments blend seamlessly with softer melodies and flawless, stadium-filling crescendos that beg for an arena crowd. The real standout, though, is Tom Harper Ward’s vocals – possessing the control and range of front men like Conor Mason and Matt Bellamy with a warm tone and spine tingling power, he elevates Sun Arcana to a mesmerising level on stage. Not even a mid-set nosebleed can stop him – continuing to perform through it (albeit aided by some tissues) is not only impressive but, frankly, metal as fuck. EP track ‘When I Turn Cold’ is staggering, while new tracks ‘Sleeptalking’ and ‘Hard To Be Around’ are a superb demonstration of how much more we can expect to come from these musicians.

Tonight’s show is by far the biggest of Normandie’s twelve date ‘White Flag’ tour, and three years of regular visits to UK shores have clearly paid off. As they take to the stage to the thundering ‘Ecstasy’, Dingwalls is already beginning to drip with sweat from the accumulated bodies, and within seconds all those standing on the floor are caught in a hurricane of movement. The atmosphere is electric from the start, and the lyrics to second track ‘Awakening’ – “and it feels like I’m alive” – couldn’t be more apt than in this moment.

These are songs that were made for singing along to, and the assembled fans are more than happy to oblige – though it’s safe to say not many can quite reach the same heights as vocalist Philip Strand. With his addictive, distinctive voice, Strand is on top form – from coarse screams that rattle the air in the room, to gorgeous melodies and soaring highs on tracks like ‘Ghost’, it doesn’t take a singer to acknowledge just how difficult some of these notes are, yet there’s not even a hint of faltering.

It’s easy to get distracted by these vocals, but that’s far from being the only trick up Normandie’s sleeve. Drummer Anton Franzon is a machine, injecting anything that’s thrown at him with life and the tightest of delivery, whilst guitarist Håkan Almbladh is responsible for the most immaculate, satisfying riffs imaginable. The superb mix allows for every last detail to be heard, and there’s plenty of it as they work through a well-balanced mixture of tracks from ‘Inguz’ and new album ‘White Flag’ – whether you’re here to dance, mosh, or sway happily with hands in pockets, Normandie are here to deliver.

New additions to the set from ‘White Flag’ only build on their growing reputation for energetic and passionate live shows; ‘Dead’ is filled with fire and fury, and if ‘Maniacs’ can’t get a crowd off their feet, nothing will (spoiler alert – it definitely does). ‘(Don’t) Need You’ is a real highlight, exploding into life and taking the crowd with it, before winding down into the hauntingly beautiful ‘The Bell’. It’s a track that shows a different side to Normandie, and there’s something particularly poignant about the Swedish verse as voices around the room sing along – regardless of whether the meaning of the words is known to all, it is undoubtedly felt. These ‘White Flag’ tracks add a layer of maturity and depth alongside earlier favourites like ‘Fight’ – still packing all of the metalcore breakdown punch anyone could dream of, this one calls for an utterly riotous few minutes that feels like it may well result in the Dingwalls floor caving in.

The band have also brought along a new lighting rig for this tour, and the effort that’s been put into creating this set is remarkable. With the quality of their performance, nothing extra is needed, but this attention to visual detail turns it into something truly spectacular. Given the budget and stage space, there’s little doubt that Normandie will eventually be turning out shows to rival the likes of Muse and Nine Inch Nails – as it is, there are few who even come close at this level.

Closing with an encore of the empowering, anthemic singles ‘White Flag’ and ‘Collide’, the enthusiasm and voices in the room are unwavering, and it’s an exhausting but fitting finale. Tonight’s show is the product of a band who have continually worked to improve and hone their live performance over the last three years, beginning to fully realise the potential they have always shown with no signs of slowing down; lively, warm, infuriatingly talented and heaps of fun, Normandie have all the hallmarks of a band bound for the top. Their upward trajectory seems set – the only thing left for everyone else to do is get on board.