IN FLAMES, NORMA JEAN & LIGHT THE TORCH At SWX Bristol [Review & Photo Gallery]

In Flames

On arrival to the SWX Bristol, UK, the queue was already around the block an hour before doors opened – wow! I’ve not seen this at the SWX for some time. Fans were keen to get in and watch this awesome lineup

Light The Torch

Without checking the stage times until I got there, I was surprised to see that Howard Jones’ (ex Killswitch Engage) band Light the Torch was first on the bill. So maybe that’s the reason everyone was here early – to not miss one beat.  And with the release of their album ‘Revival’ last year, the anticipation for Howard and the lads to take stage and play some tunes off this awesome album was immense. With the whole place full up, the chants for Light the Torch started. Then one by one, the band appeared to one of the loudest receptions I’ve heard in this venue. They kicked straight in with track, “The Bitter End” and played a short but punchy set which consisted of most songs off of ‘Revival,’ including “Lost In Fire,” “Virus,” “Calm Before the Storm” (to which fans were singing especially loud and proud), and the hit track that’s getting lots of radio play, “The Safety of Disbelief.” Howard’s clean vocals and screams were on point tonight, and to be fair, they always have been. If you want to see an energetic performance, get to one of the dates on their headline tour of the UK starting on the 25th of April at the Thekla in Bristol, on the 26th at London’s O2 Academy Islington, on the 27th at Stoke-on-Trent’s The Sugarmill, and finally on the 28th at Leeds’ The Key Club – because next time they tour the UK you will not be able to see them play in venues of this size.

Norma Jean

Next on stage were Norma Jean, who have been around for 20 plus years, and with a back catalog to back it up. I don’t know if something went wrong, but as they came out on stage to yet another warm reception from this Bristol crowd, nothing happened for a little while. It seemed like they were line checking their equipment to me, which for a concert of this size is a no-no. But within minutes they kicked off their set and all was forgotten as they churned out tune after tune of metalcore greatness.  They didn’t mess about with chatting between songs, just got on with the job in-hand, and entertained the crowd with gem songs like “The Planet,” “Funeral Singer,” “1,000,000 Watts,” and “The Anthem of the Angry Brides.” The Anthem song has a fast twirling guitar solo over the top of the crunching riffs all through this track, with fast drums which slows down to a mild pace bounce. The crowd nods along with approval while vocalist Cory Brandan’s screams and growls echo through the venue. All in all I was really impressed with Norma Jean but would have liked to have seen them open the night.

In Flames

Last up was Swedish metallers In Flames, and being the headline act, it’s normally the reason people are mainly here. But tonight, every band got the respect they deserve, and it was a mixed, packed out room with some diehard fans for each band.  So, the lights dimmed and guitarist Bjorn Gelotte came out, followed by each member one by one. They smashed straight into their set of 19 songs with a full mixture of new and old tracks. First track was “Voices” from their new album ‘I, The Mask,’ released just over a month ago. And this album is a triumph, proving they are here for a lot longer. With the bass buzzing intro, then that chugging riff, the excitement in the room was electric. Then it kicked in with the crowd jumping along from front to back, with Anders controlling the stage, up on the step which covered the front of the stage. It was also nice to see ex-Megadeth guitarist Chris Broderick standing in for Niclas Engelin, and he did an amazing job. Having Broderick stand in was a surprise to me, but the sound from him and Anders’ guitars was phenomenal – especially when you heard the plucky guitar intro to “All for Me,” the sound was immense. If you shut your eyes you would think you were in a stadium with the sound so huge for a mellow intro. The pit was carnage from start to finish, with vocalist Anders Friden commenting on the amount of inflatable pink guitars in the audience – there were a few (and not on sale, I might I add).

In Flames

For In Flames to choose what to play must be a difficult choice with 13 albums under their belt – 13!   But they chose wisely due to the number of fans singing along, and even to new tracks which are a month old. Anders also commented about Brexit, saying they don’t know when they will be back, but told to the audience to move to Sweden because, “We like other people.” Brilliant! But someone in the audience tried heckling later on by shouting “IKEA” (the famous Swedish furniture store), to which Anders responded, “nice one, mate,” with a cheeky grin. If you are not aware of In Flames, I find that hard to believe, and all I can say is get on the computer and search and listen. Check for dates as this is a show not to miss, and is one to put in the diary for next time they tour your area.

In Flames’ setlist:

01. Voices
02. Everything’s Gone
03. Pinball Map
04. Where the Dead Ships Dwell
05. Call My Name
06. Monsters in the Ballroom
07. All for Me
08. (This Is Our) House
09. Deep Inside
10. Here Until Forever
11. The Chosen Pessimist
12. Leeches
13. Colony
14. My Sweet Shadow
15. The Truth
16. I Am Above
17. Cloud Connected
18. The Mirror’s Truth
19. The End

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