Gig Review: Arcane Roots @ O2 Institute2, Birmingham

photos + words by oliver butler (@notoliverbutler)

Way back when, I concluded that Arcane Roots MUST be ugly. Their November show saw them play under the cover of fog & darkness, which really added to their heavy, ethereal sound; however, for their latest tour in support of nearly-new record Melancholia Hymns, the Arcane light show went to the next level and my, oh my, they are some beautiful boys with some beautiful beats.

Taking to the stage in Birmingham’s O2 Institute2, a lovely little basement venue, support from Hyena Kill and Grumblebee were thorougly welcome to whet the appetite of the crowd, serving up hor d’oeuvres of heavy riffs. What’s more, the bass player for Grumblebee looked like a world-class Serie A midfielder; what more do you need? Check them two out – the looks are good but the music is better. It’s actually very rare I enjoy all bands on the billing, so credit to all that took to the stage last night.

Tuesday night’s main event, however, blew everyone and everything out of the water, starting off with Off the Floor, then flying into the riff-tacular Matter. I really enjoy Andrew’s vocals, especially on Melancholia Hymns. It feels like it’s got an Eastern influence in parts. I might be wrong. I don’t know. It’s only because I do this for free I still have a job.

Some things in music are consistent; there will always be fresh & new musical ideas from every genre, and every rock band will have a Spinal Tap moment. Arcane Roots’ was that their magical light show was drinking so much power, the lights went a bit funny. Whilst that was being sorted, we were treated to an impromptu audience with Adam Burton entertaining the crowd, and I mean entertaining. It was a good laugh and a good vibe all night. I perched against one of the pillars towards the back and watched it happen. The crowd were having a great time, so were the band. It was great.

Speaking of fresh & new musical ideas, we were treated to a brand new track called Landslide. It’s really very good, nice riff, the best bit being a big, big scream from your man Andrew from out of nowhere. He said that it’ll be out soon, with “something and another something”. Is that something an EP? Is it another tour? Is it a tasty pizza? Watch this space, sports fans.

The setlist was a real mixed bag, but the sort of mixed bag that is a tasty pick & mix. It was good to see Triptych & Arp on the setlist. On the other hand, it was slightly disappointing to get only an abridged version of Before Me, but understandable considering the length of the song. It worked really well as an opening track, but I don’t write the setlist – I just write about them.

A huge rendition of If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves was the perfect crescendo to the set, with Half the World sending fans home happy, satisfied and rocked out. It was another lightning set from the Londoners, but left me wanting more. Imagine the show they’d put on in a larger venue with a bigger lighting budget. It’d be the best gig in the world! For now, though, an entertaining evening in a Brummie basement is more than enough to put a smile on your face.

Gig Review: While She Sleeps @ O2 Institute, Birmingham

words & header photo by oliver butler (@notoliverbutler), other photo by paris (@parisxria)

More now than ever, we need a sense of unity, togetherness and community, and it’s up to our elected leaders to promote these ideals. However, in the absence of elected officials, it was up to While She Sleeps to bring this sense to Birmingham’s O2 Institute on Tuesday evening, and for the entirety of their UK tour, which kicked off with a mega support slot at Architects‘ sellout show at Alexandra Palace.

It’s been an exciting old year for the Sleeps Brothers; after electing to go their own way and release music independently of a record label, their fourth album (third if you don’t count The North Stands For Nothing), You Are We, was universally praised by all that came into contact with it, peaking as high as eighth in the UK album charts. Clean production, emotionally stirring lyrics and heavy riffs were abundant. Unafraid to bite their tongues in song, You Are We felt like a rounded call to arms for the disenfranchised.

This was clear as a packed O2 Institute screamed out the opening to You Are We, as a barrage of limbs opened the first pit of the evening. This was a really good crowd. It felt like one of those adverts where there’s a gig and everyone’s really into it. The band were also into it, with bodies flying across the stage left, right and centre as Loz and Aaran got the crowd good and rowdy, with Sean & Mat laying down those heavy riffs, and of course, Adam dropping the beats. I didn’t stop to ask the names of the crowd, but considering how organised and into it we all were, I’m 90% certain they’re all hired extras. While She Sleeps will make huge losses on this tour paying extras, but play amazing gigs. Easy come, easy go I guess.

While She Sleeps gig 2
Source: Paris (@parisxria)

I should also mention that I’ve bought myself one of those stupid fitness watches, so I can confirm by the end of Civil Isolation, I’d already done 700 steps and burnt 75 calories. Seven Hills and Brainwashed doubled that tally, and though the circle pit to Brainwashed wasn’t impressive as the circle pit round the sound tower at Ally Pally, it was still a sweaty washing machine of a mosh-pit.

There really wasn’t a let up in the big riffs, or the big tunes. It’s really good to see them playing Death Toll live, as that is a big, dirty, heavy melee of a song. I stopped checking my calories burnt rigorously at this point, but I’ll tell you know, it was a lot. Two t shirts and a hoodie round your waist is NOT a good call for a modern metal gig. Again, the crowd were REALLY good here, getting stuck in with The Chapel, This is the Six and Our Courage, Our Cancer. The big singalongs were really good too, especially with Empire of Silence and Steal the Sun, proper horns up, all voices stage-wards singalongs. I felt myself getting more hyper throughout the gig, same with the crowd, and the band. We shared a common goal of having a great night out.

The theme of unity, togetherness and caring for each other reached its peak after Silence Speaks, Loz returned from wriggling about in the crowd to bring our attention to a girl that had been front and centre, and smooshed or not, she sang every word of Silence Speaks, like the dyed-in-the-wool Sleeps fan she was. So Loz pulled her on stage, thanked her, and left her on stage for the finale of Hurricane, and I’ve never seen someone so happy, excited and in disbelief in my entire life. Really, it was a beautiful gesture, especially for someone who’s been smooshed against the barrier for an hour or so, and it would be an unforgettable moment for anyone who got pulled on stage at that point.

So, eulogy time again. I love a lot of bands, and the people in those bands, but I also accept that in real life, they’re likely dickheads, or don’t really care about their fans. Sleeps seem the polar opposite; they genuinely seem like they consider every person in the halls and academies they play their friends, and you feel valued as a fan, they play their hearts out and you repay that energy back to them. So I’m thankful for their music, and I’m thankful they put their hearts and souls into two amazing gigs in less than a week. It sounds corny, but when you feel personally valued in a room full of hundreds, you bounce a bit more on your feet.

WSS are one of the most exciting bands out there at the moment, and I guarantee they’ll be putting on their own headline show at Alexandra Palace in the next album cycle… if not bigger.

Fitness Results

Calories Burnt: 754

Steps Taken: 5,554

Distance Travelled: 1.96mi