Rise to Remain hit the stage with a point to prove – that their ‘Kerrang! Best Newcomers’ award was not just a token honour given casually to please the press like some ‘Brit’ award and whilst they may be classed as new, they were very familiar to many in the crowd tonight, receiving a rousing reception. Perhaps buoyed by their award they exuded a real cocksure confidence. They launched straight in to The Serpent, with its intense machine gun fire drum beat and screaming vocals. The pace and intensity was maintained throughout the set, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. The band were clearly a very tightly knit unit and enjoying the cacophony of noise that they were producing, at one point looking like a row of nodding dogs, all caught up in their rumbling mayhem.
As further evidence of their confidence they then took to thanking first band up, Tiger Please, and headliners Funeral For A Friend, giving the impression that they are ready to move up to the next level of headlining such venues. Next song Purify, then saw the mosh pit erupt, followed by Nothing Left, showing the variety in their music, driving drums right at the start followed by gentler moments for the chorus and phenomenal fretboard trickery from guitarist Ben Tovey. Again this was followed by between song banter from lead singer Austin Dickinson, whose speaking voice comes over as something akin to an 80s Radio One DJ, confident, but also perhaps a tad cheesy. The band closed their set with Bridges Will Burn, the crowd responded with some full on pogoing, singer Austin getting through some mic difficulties to display no less than 4 different vocal styles during this track, and with the rest of the band taking the opportunity to get stuck into some foot on monitor posing and classic riffing. Definitely, ones to watch.
On to tonight’s headliners, Funeral for a Friend, touring in support of their new album, ‘Welcome Home Armageddon’, enter to a hysterical reception, a gig which their large fanbase are clearly looking forward to. They kick off with Roses, with its vaguely poppy American feel; this pumps the crowd even more. Rookie of the Year follows, a big anthemic sing along track which shows that they could comfortably command bigger venues. Juneau is gentler in parts and gets the crowd singing along, singer Matt Davies-Kreye then let everyone know how good he thinks their new album is –it gives him an erection, he certainly performs like he’s excited by it. To spread the excitement further he then encourages the crowd to form a conga line to dance to Aftertaste. End of nothing gives baby faced drummer Ryan Richards a chance to exercise his death scream vocal chords, a mild mannered looking man shouting at Satan, a truly comedy sight to behold.
Highlight of the evening is History, a softer song with jangling guitar – this seems to add to the heartfelt, emotional feel of the song, the line “raise your fingers one last time” sees thousands of fingers raised in celebration of this beautiful track. Last song Spinning over the Island hits hard like a battering ram, with newest members Gavin and Richard giving it the full Wayne’s World rocking , bobbing dance (complete with their 80s vests). A full on rock number yet still retaining pop sensibilities.
The band start their encore with Oblivion, a celebratory, rocking number, rousing the crowd, who clap along and enjoy every second. Next up is screaming Napalm Death-esque, Front Row, keeping the momentum going right into the last song, Escape Artists. Matt encourages the crowd to test out the ‘nice gentlemen’ (security staff) at the front, needless to say a mass of flying limbs ensues, with the more static members of the crowd getting stuck into a good old sing-along.
Where FFAF differ from some of their peers is that they manage to provide music with a hard edge, but vitally retaining really strong songs, which they aren’t afraid to mix up and vary style-wise, all to fantastic effect. A brilliant band loving their tunes (both old and new), riding high on a wave of self-confidence, a band truly back at at their peak.