So on an ordinary Wednesday night, I made my way to a new venue in Wakefield by the name of Warehouse 23. Having got inside, I was genuinely surprised that my feet weren’t sticking to the floor and that the toilets had toilet paper and didn’t stink of urine.
On top of that, the bar prices were very reasonable, being much more “pub” than “venue”. This was the first time in quite a while that I’d bought myself a drink at a gig and not felt like I’d been done. The venue are also building a bit of a reputation thanks to the bands they’re putting on since they opened last year.
On this particular night, it was the turn of Swedish genre smashers, Amaranthe, supported by the Modern Metal of Engel and throwback Glam/Sleaze Rockers, Santa Cruz.
The first band up, somewhat surprisingly having read the poster, was Santa Cruz (****).
Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I will freely admit that from my position right down at the front in the photo pit, it was somewhat difficult to gauge the sound and the reception the first two bands got, but the Finns seemed to be playing something of a blinder. They were definitely not a band going through the motions. All shapes thrown were genuine as were the smiles on the members’ faces during their set.
As for the set itself, it was like being back in the late 80’s, very much following in the footsteps Hanoi Rocks’ Michael Monroe. Classy Glam/Sleaze Metal, straight off Sunset Strip, but infused with that characteristic Finnish know-how and confidence.
The boys from Helsinki certainly made themselves a few friends, going by the comments I heard from various members of the audience. Then again, with this type of crowd, the type of music Santa Cruz play and their Finnish attitude, failing to connect was never really an option for them. They connected big-style.
Next up were the band I had been expecting to see first, Gothenburg’s very own Engel (***½).
Obviously no sour grapes from either side, then.
Their style of music is very much straight-ahead Modern Metal in a similar vein to the more melodic sides of bands such as Killswitch Engage and current iteration of The Agonist, contrasting clean and Death Metal vocals over a Melodic Heavy Metal base. The band themselves were very professional and self-assured. Their level of experience was obvious (only accentuated by relatively new vocalist Mikael Sehlin’s mentions of the band’s “fourth album“) and they used that experience to put on a solid, if unspectactular show.
Finally, to what had to have been a somewhat disappointing crowd (which more than likely got more to do with the newness of the venue and it being a Wednesday night not long before payday, than it has to do with the quality of the bands on offer), Amaranthe (*****) hit the stage.
Their enthusiasm and the obvious joy of performing was incredibly infectious. It was virtually (and literally!) impossible not to stop a huge grin spreading over my face as I snapped photos in the pit and then from the punters’ side of the barrier following the traditional three songs.
To say that, onstage, Amaranthe are a well-oiled machine would make them seem soulless. They’re not, by any stretch of the imagination. They’re actually a lot of fun to watch. The triple vocal line-up of Jake E, Elize Ryd and new boy Death Metal vocalist, Henrik Englund worked a lot better than expected on the surprisingly spacious stage.
When propelled by guitarist Olof Mörck, bassist Johan Andreassen and drummer, Morten Løwe Sørensen, they form a truly formidable live outfit. One of the tightest I’ve seen in a long while. They were almost effortless in their stagecraft and were very obviously enjoying themselves as they powered through a set made up of songs from all three of their studio albums.
As for the music, it’s bouncy, catchy feel-good stuff, ample proof that good Metal doesn’t need to be grim, angry and aggressive.
Not even a technical fault early on that took down the vocals, guitar and bass could even slow their momentum.
There were no tantrums or hissy fits from the stage, which was a very pleasant surprise.
They actually finished the song before joking around with the audience and each other until the power was restored, at which point they carried on as if nothing untoward had happen. Extremely professional and very refreshing.
Throughout the whole set, probably the only miss-step was the entirely gratuitous (but thankfully not long) drum solo. Then again, it did give the rest of the band time enough to gather themselves before carrying on. To say the two hour set flew by would be by no means an exaggeration. The pounding encore-closer and final song of the night, Massive Addictive came far too soon.
An apt way to finish, really. It would be cheesy to say that Amaranthe, as a live act, are Massively Addictive… but they are. Their sheer joy at being on stage and the quality of the songs and musicianship on offer make that something that really does have to be said, despite the fermented milk factor.