Unearth, live in Bridgend

Support: Shadows Fall, The Acacia Strain, War Of Ages, Pay No Respect

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Ten years ago this tour would undoubtedly have received much greater attention, boasting two of the heavyweights of what was dubbed the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal. However, with the prevailing mood favouring the neck tattoo and sugary-pop brand of metalcore, this year’s Hell On Earth jaunt limited to a short three-date run around these shores.

Coming onto a clip of Arnold Schwarzenegger delivering his Six Rules to Success, Kent’s Pay No Respect tough but righteous hardcore gets the early birds windmilling and kicking the shit out of each other, with finale Game Over getting a fair hearing as the room starts to fill. War Of Ages are a fairly unknown entity outside the US, which perhaps explains the muted reaction to their melodic metalcore. The dual vocals of Leroy Hamp and Elisha Mullins deliver the requisite peaks, but it seems the crowd are saving themselves for something altogether more grisly.

“We are angry and miserable, and our job is to make you all miserable”, states The Acacia Strain’s Vincent Bennett as he leads his band through a ferocious set of misanthropic heaviness, spewing nihilistic lyrics straight into the faces of terrified onlookers and even gobbing on the crowd, just to make sure the message gets across. The singer’s bug-eyed intensity and music’s eerie, atmospheric pounding elevate the feral noise beyond anything the deathcore scene that followed in the band’s wake could ever conjure.

Having just announced their impending hiatus due to family commitments and Jonathan Donais’ duties in Anthrax, it’s heartening to see Shadows Fall – a band that inexplicably never received the recognition and followers they were due – get a hero’s send off. Frontman Brian Fair brings the party in triumphant style with a set that covers all bases from the anthemic clout of What Drives The Weak to rapturously-received earlier cuts Idle Hands and Crushing Belial. The decade-old The Light That Blinds still sounds fresh, delivering huge flailing leads and percussive batteries that get the crowd jumping and singing in unison. The band are mobbed while leaving the stage in a fitting testament to what will be undoubtedly be a much missed force in metal.

Late-running sets and technical problems lead to a delay that slightly thins the crowd before Unearth get a chance to show why they’re still the masters of the breakdown. Luckily all momentum is clawed back halfway through opener Giles, and by the time the shredding pyrotechnics of My Will Be Done arrive the dancefloor becomes a mess of tangled bodies being knocked to the ground – or simply falling over on the treacherous, beer-soaked surface. Celebrating ten years since The Oncoming Storm saw the band mentioned in the same breath as fellow New England trailblazers Killswitch Engage, the set is understandably packed with blistering mainstays This Lying World and Failure. The towering twin-harmonies of Watch It Burn keeps the pit spinning while new number Burial Rights gives a great account of the visceral Watchers Of Rule that lands in November. Only briefly pausing for Buzz McGrath’s Adam D-inspired ‘comedic’ interludes, it’s a set that’s perfectly suited to the sweaty, enclosed surroundings, delivering celebratory vibes and belligerent intensity in equal bite. No matter if they’re playing in front of 100 or 10,000, Unearth are a band that fail to disappoint.

Adam Brennan

Rugby, Sean Bean and power ballad superfan Adam has been writing for Hammer since 2007, and has a bad habit of constructing sentences longer than most Dream Theater songs. Can usually be found cowering at the back of gigs in Bristol and Cardiff. Bruce Dickinson once called him a 'sad bastard'.