Last summer's packed-out UK debut shows at Download Festival and London's Islington Academy proved the hype was very much justified around Spiritbox - as if their 2021 debut Eternal Blue hadn't already proved that by being one of that year's best metal albums - but now the band's first headline tour of the UK is elevating the bar for what to expect from the new generation of exciting new metal stars.
With the whole tour sold out, a queue snaking round the corner from Birmingham's O2 Institute and out of sight isn't unexpected, but there's a genuine sense of buzz and excitement long before folks actually get into the venue. With a vest showing off his muscled frame, Loathe frontman Kadeem France cuts an imposing figure even before a massive screen at the back of the stage casts an ominous red glow over the band that turns them into shadowy silhouettes.
The last time the Liverpudlians played Birmingham it was to a sold-out headline crowd at the 600-capacity Asylum in December 2021, and the band seem utterly at ease commanding a crowd over three times that size. 2,000 metalheads lose their minds as riffs go off like underwater charges beneath the melodious waves of Screaming and Two-Way Idiot Mirror, while straight-up brutal tracks like Dance On My Skin and set closer Gored ensure Loathe strike a unique balance between visceral and playful, Kadeem dancing and bouncing across the stage with a surprising amount of whimsy that betrays his larger than life personality. If it works for Bruce Dickinson and Maiden, why not for Loathe too?
Even on the first night of their tour, Spiritbox feel like all-conquering champions. The crowd are already roaring and chanting their name as the band come on to pulsing lights and wailing ambient noise, but the crowd's volume dial goes way up when vocalist Courtney LaPlante strides out, the djent-flavoured riffs of Rule Of Nines made all the more overwhelming by pulsing lights and visuals of flames and explosions cast onto the screen behind them.
The effect is more in line with what you'd expect from veteran showmen like Nine Inch Nails or Queens Of The Stone Age than a band with just one album under their belt, but also representative of just how far Spiritbox have come in such a short time. Considering just how powerful her voice is, Courtney is surprisingly softly-spoken between songs. "We're Spiritbox, and we're so happy to be here with you tonight," she offers mildly, before unleashing the kind of scream that could make gods tremble on Circle With Me, the crowd not needing the on-screen prompt of "CUT DOWN THE ALTARS" to howl along.
Playing almost all of Eternal Blue, its striking just how many massive sing-alongs Spiritbox have already got in their arsenal, newer songs Rotoscope and Hysteria showing their anthemic tendencies haven't abated since the album's release. The former sees Courtney strutting across the stage and egging the crowd on with a massive smile. Holy Roller sees the room reach fever pitch, its explosive riff and garguantuan vocal hook marking it out as a metal classic a little over three years to the day from its release.
After that, it's a relative cool-down, Courtney even joking that, "you've had enough breakdowns tonight" as pulsing electronica leads straight into Hysteria - which still features a massive breakdown, naturally. With the more melodious Constance and Eternal Blue to close out the set, Courtney repeatedly urging the crowd that "if we can do this, anybody can!"
It's a lovely sentiment, and Courtney's parting words that "it hurts sometimes to look different, or act different, but just remember, you have as much right to be here as anybody else" mean the band go out on a triumphant, emotional high. But there's also a sense as Spiritbox leave that they aren't just anybody: this is one of metal's most exciting new bands truly coming into their own, offering something that nobody else could possibly replicate.
Spiritbox Setlist Birmingham O2 Institute, July 5 2023
- Rule Of Nines
- Hurt You
- The Void
- Circle With Me
- Silk In The Strings
- Secret Garden
- The Mara Effect, Pt. 3
- Holy Roller
- Eternal Blue