With support from Lerous and Tesseract, Rock City Nottingham 18th March 2017. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say prog was making a comeback. Truth is, it never really left us, as any good fan would tell you. I’m a fair weather prog fan, if I’m honest. I don’t always like to listen to the music, unless it suits me. That said, Devin Townsend isn’t strictly prog and I’m sure if I asked him, he’d punch me in the face and say he’s metal! Although his music does have some progressive elements in it, alongside some amazing riffs which do take you on a journey, you just have to dive into his back catalogue to see what I’m referring to.
Prog featured heavily tonight mind – especially with the first band up, Leprous who originate from Oslo, Norway. Initially, I loved their sound, very dark and atmospheric, a bit like the lighting for these guys. I’m aware many in the audience tonight love this band and everything they’ve ever produced, which was my initial reaction but as the set went on, it started to sound a bit samey, with every track sounding like the last.
That said, the band have great energy and passion for their music. Einar Solberg, the bands lead vocalist and synth keyboard player has a very powerful and unique voice. In all fairness, I did enjoy their music, but as I’m not a massive prog fan, I’ve probably disregarded them for being so. Since and as I sit here and write this review, I’m currently listening to the bands top 5 tracks on Spotify and the top track happens to be ‘The Price’ which is the opening track off their latest studio album and its a great piece of music. A further 3 tracks, which feature in the top 5 also appear on their latest studio album ‘The Congregation’ which tells me I should check this album out first and work my way back. If you want an example of how dark and atmospheric these guys are, check out the track ‘Rewind‘, my goodness, this track could almost be metal! Attack of the bass, which features heavily here! I must also admit, Leprous are a very unique band, with a very unique sound and I admire their attempt to stand out from the crowd, which I feel they’ve managed to do remarkably well. Maybe I need to immerse myself within their world a little more, to better understand them and what they do, after all, this was only my first time hearing them play. After tonight’s performance, I’m willing to do this, so job done, I guess, they’ve impressed me enough to want to find out more.
The band have released three full length studio albums since 2012, the last of which ‘The Congregation’ being released in 2015. In 2016, they released a live album, from their performance at the prestigious Rockefella Music Hall.
Seeing as they are heavy weights, in the world of prog music, I notice they’ve been selected to perform at the massive prog related festival ‘Be Prog, My Friend’ which takes place between 30th June to the 1st July, in Barcelona, Spain, along side the likes of tonight’s headliner Devin Townsend Project as well as a few other personal favorites of mine, Marillion and Jethro Tull! Maybe I like prog more than I realised or care to admit, guilty pleasure then? My mood has to fit the music, I guess, I am somewhat of a chameleon when it comes to music, I can adapt and find the good in any genre….well, almost any genre, there are exceptions.
Although I was looking forward to seeing Devin perform again, as it’s never a dull moment with him, I was secretly more excited about seeing TesseracT play – for the first time I might add. Here’s a band, who manage to produce clean vocals, along side some pretty heavy riffs and loud, jebus, I got pre-warned about how loud these guys are, but I wasn’t quite expecting that!
Here’s a quirky fact, the most played location, for this band is in Santiago, Chile? The UK come in second, naturally! TesseracT originally formed back in 2003, as a side project for guitarist ‘Acle Kahney‘, yet it took the band until 2010 to release their debut EP ‘Concealing the Fate’ with their first full length debut album ‘One’ following soon after in 2011. Seven studio albums later, we have the powerhouse we see before us today!
In geometry, the tesseract is the four-dimensional analog of the cube; the tesseract is to the cube as the cube is to the square. Knowing this, helps me to understand what the band where thinking when they chose the band’s name, as it fits their music perfectly. When you listen to TesseracT, you get a real sense of how technical they are when writing their music, yet it works well!
One thing that did strike me about tonight’s performance compared with the bands earlier recordings, is how different Daniel’s voice is, it’s now much more refined. Yes, I’m aware the band have had several vocalists, over the years. Their original vocalist was in fact French, a Abisola Obassanya (Thanks Wikipedia).
Tonight’s show was superb, I’d almost go as far as to say, sheer perfection, all except for Daniel flicking his sweaty hair all over my camera lenses, however I unintentionally got him back though! I accidentally stood on his mic cable, all be it briefly. As soon as I felt a sharp tug from under foot, I jumped off it. Sorry. haha.
I first and last saw Devin Townsend Project perform back in 2014, at Sonisphere festival (man I miss that festival, Knebworth is such a great location). On that particular day, Gojira opened the main stage, which also featured the likes of Mastodon, Airbourne and Metallica!
I distinctively remember thinking, this guy is a born performer who clearly doesn’t take himself too seriously. He also compared that day, introducing the other acts that featured, so I got to know that he also has a great sense of humour. Many people I’ve spoken to, still fondly recall Devin’s time in the band ‘Strapping Young Lad’ truth is, Devin’s solo career has surpassed the success he had with his first band but it did help to plant the seed for his later material, which combines a concoction of genres from hard rock, progressive, metal, in fact, his sound reaches ‘Far Beyond Metal…..love? See what I did there!
Out of the eleven or so solo albums, Devin has produced since going it alone, his latest offering, ‘Transcendence‘, which was released last year has been his most successful, from what I can see having followed it’s progress. Seriously, what’s happening over there in Canada – those guys are producing some fantastic music lately and with such a variety and diverse music scene, which we here, in the UK appear to be loving! In fact, I’m seeing another bunch of Canadian’s this week, who go by the name of Sumo Cyco, a female fronted version of Skindred, no less. See, diverse!
One funny moment tonight, someone in the crowd held up a great poster with Devin’s face on it. I couldn’t see what was actually written but one side said one thing, the other side, had an angrier Devin face, saying something else, which the artist confessed he loved, as it appealed to his narcissistic nature!
It’s safe to say, Devin’s fans are fanatical, with some travelling around the country with him, while he tours! Although tonight was a collective mix of his music, his previous show at a packed out Hammersmith Apollo, saw him performing ‘Ocean Machine: Biomech‘ in it’s entirety for the first time ever! Any true fan had to be there! Sadly, I wasn’t, but I did see him perform ‘Kingdom‘ live, here in Nottingham, which is a track I love and made up for me missing out last night!
Truth is, no one really missed out, especially here in Nottingham, which saw the crowd filled to the rafters – literally, the balcony was open! haha Fantastic show. Although the lighting fit the mood, for the first two bands, perfectly, dark and moody, Devin’s set was lit like a Christmas tree. Thank you for giving us a great spectacle and a great show! Until next time, my friend!
Review and Photography by Jay Hawkins (JJ Photography UK)