LIVE: While She Sleeps / Every Time I Die / Vein @ O2 Academy Brixton

By Punktastic

As a headliner, picking support bands must be a tricky process. You want someone who will put in a solid performance and get the crowd warmed up, but not someone who will upstage you. Brave, then, for British melodic metalcore favourites While She Sleeps to have chosen these fucking WILD international bands to precede them on this short UK run.

Relative newcomers, Vein, waste absolutely zero time making Brixton Academy feel like a 150-capacity sweatbox, the crowd immediately rippling out into a savage pit as the band tears through ‘Old Data in a Dead Machine’. Vocalist Anthony Didio spends most of his time on the barrier, the eager crowd clamouring for the microphone while trying to dodge the steady stream of crowd surfers. Behind him, each member of the band plays as aggressively as possible through the frantic riffing / drum ’n’ bass frenzy of ‘Virus://Vibrance’ and the menacing sludge of ‘Doomtech’. The sound isn’t amazing, and this causes some of the more nuanced elements to lose their impact slightly – but what Vein lacks in sonic clarity tonight, they more than make up for in relentless energy and enthusiasm for their belligerent craft.

If Vein are like a Jack Russell, small and snarling and wantonly snapping at anyone who gets too close, Every Time I Die are a German Shepherd; confidently intimidating, every attack considered and deliberate. The boys from Buffalo have been doing their thing for over two decades now and in that time they’ve fine-tuned their live performance into a ballistic missile of swaggering riffs.

The jeering opening lick of ‘No Son of Mine’ is all it takes to get the crowd moving, and they don’t stop until the emotional last chords of ‘Map Change’ ring out into the night. Between those two moments we’re treated to a setlist with no real surprises (bar a new, as-yet-unreleased track spectacularly titled ‘Planet Shit’) but when your “obvious” songs are as good as Every Time I Die’s are, who cares? Keith Buckley commands the stage like the hardcore veteran he is, absolutely oozing with charisma as he flits from the poppy hooks of ‘The New Black’ and ‘It Remembers’ to the severe screams of ‘Floater’ and ‘The Coin Has A Say’. Every Time I Die are also excellent at the middle ground between those points; the ‘party hardcore’ numbers like ‘We’rewolf’ and ‘Decaying With The Boys’ that are just as likely to cause a dance-off as they are a circle pit, and these tracks go down an absolute storm with the swarming Brixton crowd, causing blistering circle pits and crowd surfers aplenty.

This is a band that have proven themselves able to turn their hand to many styles and successfully stamp that signature ETID flair on each of them, and tonight’s setlist is testament to the consistency of their 20+ year career. Next time we see Every Time I Die on these shores they’ll have a new album under their belt, and if ‘Planet Shit’ is anything to go by it’s going to be a blinder. [LK]

After an already stellar lineup, it’s any wonder this crowd has any energy remaining to throw into the main event. As it turns out, however, the 5,000 fans in attendance at this sold out show should not be underestimated, and the moment While She Sleeps kicks off the show with ‘ANTI-SOCIAL’, it’s clear that the anticipation of this third set has already breathed brand new life into the souls crammed before the stage.

By the time the chorus kicks in, Brixton Academy is virtually moving with the crowd as they launch into the air and throw themselves around fearlessly, consequences be damned. Among the inevitable mosh pit bruises, and the almost constant shower of beer that drenches members of the pit, random items of clothing can be seen to be intermittently chucked carelessly in the air as the heat becomes too much to handle. Though in a short while these jumpers, t-shirts and shoes will certainly be missed, for now it’s simply all part of the fun.

The final chapter of this stupendous evening is an attack on all the senses; bright flashing lights that move in time with the beat, intense metal beats and riffs, the stench of sweat and beer, and the taste of absolute chaos. It’s a cocktail of carnage, but tonight it’s the only item on the menu and it’s going down a treat. 

From the front to the back of the stalls, WSS fans are either screaming the lyrics or showing their appreciation between songs through deafening roars, and it’s clear that this band carries indescribable meaning for so many, as tears are shed and arms are forcefully and determinedly thrown into the air. Happily obliging to regular commands to open up a pit (or two or three), and crowd surfing without the need for any encouragement, this crowd is as relentless as is the band on stage. Front man Lawrence ‘Loz’ Taylor leads by perfect example as he flings himself around, giving his absolute all to this 90-minute set alongside his mind blowingly talented bandmates, together creating a faultless metal experience / dance party extravaganza. 

The front of the pit is so enticing that those further back can be seen to gear up before pushing through the masses so as to avoid missing out on all the fun, joining the mayhem ahead, although that’s not to say that the back of the pit doesn’t also see mini circle pits emerging in this safer, less uncontrollable environment. 

Following a short intermission, the band returns to the stage for one last hurrah, with ‘HAUNT ME’ inciting one of the loudest sing alongs of the night and providing the crowd with one final surge of energy to push them through the last two songs. It’s a bittersweet moment when we reach the finish line, as fans find themselves high on the euphoria that can only come with having seen three of the scene’s most promising bands while also disappointed that such a night has to end. 

While emotions are certainly confused, there’s no doubt, at least, that everyone in attendance will be holding onto this evening for a very long time. [YB]