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Live review: Obituary and Exodus @ The Engine Rooms, Southampton, 30/10/2016

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Less than eight months after completing their last trek of the UK, San Francisco thrash legends Exodus returned to our plucky little island.

Exodus

However, this time, the unfathomably heavy five-piece were not the main event.

Rather, the group co-headlined a series of dates with the Florida-based Obituary, providing a double dose of die-hard metal with Prong and King Parrot helping them along the way.

With Obituary representing their hometown of Tampa and Exodus flying the flag for the California Bay Area, this new tour has been dubbed the ‘Battle of the Bays’, and its culmination – the fifth and final UK date – came at the appropriately seaside Southampton.

It may have been the night before Halloween, but that didn’t stop Aussies King Parrot (★★★☆☆) from bringing the party early. The five-piece delivered a mix of Cattle Decapitation-esque grindcore blended with hardcore punk and while the group pulled off a charismatic opening performance, they were sadly let down by two factors.

First, the audio mixing was horrible. The drums come through clearly but other than this, it seemed that everything came through either muddily or not at all. The biggest sufferers here was the bass of Matthew “Slatts” Slattery and the vocals of Matthew “Youngy” Young. The second issue was the crowd, which began as a tiny cluster against the barricade as King Parrot took the stage and did not grow fast.

Other than this, however, the humour of this fast-paced five-piece resonated the most, demonstrated brilliantly between songs and as vocalist Young leaves the stage to interact with audience members against the barrier.

The momentum remained strong as New York rifflords Prong (★★★★☆) took the stage. At this point, the metal masses of Southampton got noticeably bigger and the power trio led by singer/guitarist Tommy Victor began to work the city into a thrash-tinged frenzy. Visually, the front-man is actually the most notable aspect of Prong’s entire set, as – whenever he is not stood at the mic – he either jumps wildly or moves around the medium-sized stage with an enigmatic swagger, showing a confidence that most modern metal bands would endlessly envy.

Victor and co. were the least heavy band to don the Engine Rooms’ stage on the night, but the group’s sheer demeanour was enough to win over the venue’s crowd, as well as some melodic moments on cuts like ‘Unconditional’, which contrasted whole-heartedly with the intense, extreme metal that would go on to close the night.

Exodus (★★★★★) may have been the first performer of the dual headliners, but nonetheless totally outshined the main event in Obituary (★★★☆☆). To put it simply, everything about Exodus’ show was perfect; the energy (from both band and fans), the audio, the setlist, the performer–crowd interaction, even the size of the venue, which is slightly larger than the more cramped Talking Heads that they played back in March.

The Engine Rooms gave Exodus that perfect balance of having an intimate, close concert but also a bigger stage, which let the highly energised and adrenaline-pumping juggernauts move freely. As a result, Exodus felt less restrained and is now fully able to remove any shackles from their set.

Singer Steve “Zetro” Souza is an encouraging front-man, leading the crowd in chants, fist-pumping and headbanging but, most of the time, the encouragement is not needed, with an amazingly hyped audience going above and beyond to have a good time with the Bay Area pioneers before them.

Crowdsurfers ran wild as Exodus neared the end of their set, with moshpits occurring on an almost non-stop basis. This was a great night to be a metal fan in Southampton, and the evening undeniably peaked when the entirety of the Engine Rooms did the Toxic Waltz in honour of the extreme heroes that are Exodus.

As unbelievably pumped as the crowd remained when Obituary took over, the Floridian five-piece could not follow the insurmountable precedent that Exodus had set. While the sheer aggression and fast pace of the latter’s unique style of thrash added immensely to the adrenaline of the show, Obituary’s death metal was predominantly more mid-paced, slowing the momentum to what felt – comparatively – like a slow crawl. Although the group did receive more than their fair share of crowdsurfers, it is highly likely that that was due to a combination of excitement and inebriation instead of the actual music itself.

The first forty minutes of Obituary’s hour-long set dragged awfully, with very little about the group’s music – especially to non-fans or newcomers – sticking out at all. It is only after the band played their new single ‘Ten Thousand Ways to Die’ that the momentum began to rebuild itself, with a little more variety and vitality sneaking into the show. However, this was too little too late, and did not distract from the sheer mass of boredom that came before it.

In this ‘Battle of the Bays’, the majority of fans left the Engine Rooms with little doubt that the west coast effortlessly triumphed over the east, with Exodus easily coming off as the most vital, exciting, awe-inspiring and powerful act of the night.

Exodus’ latest album, Blood In, Blood Out, is available physically and digitally via Nuclear Blast Records.

Obituary’s brand new single/live album, ‘Ten Thousand Ways to Die’, is available physically and digitally via Relapse Records.




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