When this tour was announced last May, European metalheads were understandably filled with excitement – a lineup this strong was certain to be one of the best gigs on 2017. Aborted and Soilwork are already well into the touring cycle for their most recent – and utterly superb – albums, while this marks the first tour for the newest offerings from Sepultura and Kreator, Machine Messiah and Gods of Violence, both released through Nuclear Blast in January this year. Each band on the bill have years of experience mastering their live show, and by all accounts this was set to be a masterclass in how metal should be performed.
Aborted  opened up proceedings with a show of utter brutality. Focussing mainly on their new material, half of Aborted’s set was made up of tracks from their newest album, RetroGore – easily the strongest album the Belgian quintet’s strongest album to date. Aborted’s brand of grind-influenced death metal is certainly not to everyone’s tastes, but I dare anyone to fault their live show. Though their stage set-up was simple, as one would expect for an opening band, their performance was as tight as tight can be. The sound quality throughout the night was pretty decent, if raw – this rawness lead some of Aborted’s music to blend together and determining the individual tracks was difficult in the wall of extreme death metal blasting from the speakers, but on the whole Aborted proved they are a band worthy of headlining in their own right, and really sent sparks of excitement throughout the crowd.
Soilwork [8.5] followed after a longer than anticipated break. Though leagues more melodic than the gore-obsessed Belgians that preceded them, the Swedish veterans capitalised on the momentum Aborted built. Shockingly, Soilwork played only the title-track from their absolutely wonderful newest album, The Ride Majestic. Instead, they focused on more “classic” material, playing tracks from The Chainheart Machine, A Predator’s Portrait, Stabbing the Drama and The Panic Broadcast. However, two tracks – “Rise Above the Sentiment” and the title track – were present from their stunning 2013 double album The Living Infinite. Equally as tight as Aborted, Soilwork managed to talk the tightrope between brutal and melodic expertly. The only real complaint that can be made is that Björn Strid’s mic was a little too low, and his truly enchanting clean vocals became totally lost in the mix.
Things started to go a little downhill with Sepultura , unfortunately. Technically speaking, there was nothing bad about Sepultura’s performance – Andreas Kisser was able to shred through the few classics they played just as easily as he could in the ’80s, Eloy Casagrande punished the drums and, as I’ve said before, Derrick Green is a really good vocalist. However, their entire performance was flat, uninspired, and frankly boring. When they played the classic material Sepultura is adored for – “Refuse/Resist,” “Arise,” and a track from Beneath the Remains that’s name escapes me – the crowd went understandably mental, and the band really seemed to be in their element. However, the songs played from Roots onwards gave the impression Sepultura were merely going through the motions – metal by numbers, as it were. The steady stream of people leaving the main hall of the Academy to grab merch, get a beer, or nip out for a smoke throughout Sepultura’s set is a clear indication of how disappointing the hour-long set was.
After Sepultura killed the momentum Aborted and Soilwork had so effortlessly built, there was an air of apprehension in the venue. That atmosphere completely disappeared the second Kreator’s [9.5] intro track came blasting through the speakers. Diving straight into a perfect rendition of “Hordes of Chaos,” complete with an awesome delay effect on the vocals for the chorus, all memories of Sepultura’s subpar performance were wiped clean. Gods of Violence, Kreator’s newest opus, is already set to be one of the best albums of 2017 – and the live performance of the title track, the metalhead-honouring “Hail to the Hordes” and the eulogy-esque “Fallen Brother” show Kreator can easily replicate the brilliance of their album tracks in a live setting. Real highlights of the whole night, however, were hearing the evil anthem “Satan Is Real” played note-perfect, and the percussion-led “Apocalypticon” leading into the thrash masterclass of “World War Now.”
Kreator did not focus solely on their newest album, however. Digging into their impressive back-catalogue, the Coma of Souls sing-along “People of the Lie,” 2005’s Enemy of God title track, and a few numbers from their 2012 slab of perfection Phantom Antichrist all made an appearance – including the latter’s instant-classic “Civilisation Collapse.” The band took a short break after “Civilisation Collapse” and returned for an old-school fuelled encore. “Violent Revolution” was played to absolute perfection, and a mashup of “Flag of Hate” and “Under the Guillotine” followed, complete with Mille Petrozza’s signature waving of the Kreator flag. And of course, the Teutonic quartet ended the night with a blistering rendition of Europe’s answer to “Raining Blood,” the title-track from 1986’s utterly essential Pleasure to Kill. Their set did not go completely without a hitch, however – a technical mishap led to the confetti cannon going off during the soundcheck, and for much of the show Mille’s mic was far too low. Otherwise though, Kreator have shown once again that they have the calibre to headline festivals the world over.
I’ve said it before, both on and off the record, and I’ll say it again – Kreator are the best thrash band in the world, bar none. Their unique style and passionate stage performance makes seeing them live a truly special experience. Although their stage show is far from sparse, with the signature steam gun Mille fires into the crowd, and enough pyro to recreate the Fire of London, I can’t help but wonder what they would do with a larger budget for their stage show, but it goes without saying it would be something truly spectacular.
If Sepultura had been cut from the bill with Aborted and Soilwork getting an extra 15 minutes each, the remaining half hour of Sepultura’s set given to Kreator, and slightly better sound, this gig would have been as close to perfect as you can get. The extra half hour would have given Kreator the chance to play more from Coma of Souls, and their new-era classics Violent Revolution and Enemy of God. Though there was nothing on their setlist that should have been dropped, a few more of tracks from these albums – had time allowed – would have been something truly special to see.