Live Review: Periphery, The Contortionist, Intervals

Periphery-North-American-tour-Fall-2014

So much talent on one stage – perhaps even too much. Okay, maybe that’s a lie, but seriously, this tour is one outstanding batch of musicians.

On Thursday October 2nd, London was treated to an incredibly talented lineup featuring Djent metal Gods Periphery, alongside openers The Contortionist, Intervals, and Toothgrinder. Appropriately named the ‘Escape from the Studio’ tour, these shows represented the first opportunity in a while that headliners Periphery and The Contortionist were able to perform their music in a live setting.

The Contortionist, having just completed their third full length, Language, was fully prepared to perform music from their much-anticipated album. While Periphery, who just finished recording their release set for early 2015, were just as excited to be back on the stage. What followed was nothing short of incredible and you could tell from both the musicians and audience that it was time for these bands to be back performing.

Unfortunately, with a 7:00pm start time, making it to London from a 9-5 job in Waterloo simply did not happen for me. I did, however, walk into a venue with a vibrant energy and it can only be assumed that Toothgrinder did an excellent job of creating a positive musical atmosphere for the evening.

Intervals was the first band I would see that night and managed to captivate the audience from the very beginning. Opening with ‘Moment Marauder,’ the sound was gorgeous. If you’ve heard Intervals’ latest album, A Voice Within, well, you’ll be hearing near-perfection live. The sound was superb, guitar tones cut, and drummer Anup Sastry’s playing held together extremely complex riffs with sheer ease. Aside from one sour note while changing tones during one of lead guitarist Aaron Marshall’s solos, the set was perfect. Having seen this band play for years now, it is truly astonishing to see how far they have come, especially now with new frontman Mike Semesky. Semesky takes on the frontman role perfectly and leads a group that up until this point had no real lead or focal point. If you enjoyed A Voice Within you will love their recent sets, and if you haven’t yet heard the album, check it out and expect to be impressed with extraordinary playing and well-written songs.

The Contortionist was next to take the stage and the feeling in the audience was actually quite surprising. While a portion of the crowd was in complete adoration of the band, another portion seemed almost completely unaware of their music. What I have taken from this is that The Contortionist, while being fairly new onto the big scene, has music that is like an addiction to listeners. One does not casually listen to The Contortionist. They either don’t get it, or have completely fallen in love.

The performance that followed was extremely powerful, with syncopated breakdowns and dark melodies, to impressive solos and atmospheric climaxes. The audience was moved, with many stops of silence in songs being met by dropped jaws in the audience and a sense of astonishment. Gasps from the crowd followed the climactic outro of ‘Conspire’ and one audience member I had spoken to earlier who had never heard of The Contortionist, peered over wide eyed as if to signify how his musical world had just changed.

There were a few slip-ups in the set due to technical difficulties with the stage sound that definitely took away from the emotional power and flow of the songs. Guitarist Robby Baca was having issues with his stage monitor and was communicating with other members on stage constantly. But having seen The Contortionist on many occasions, I can say that this is not typical. Either way, the die-hard fans that recognized the errors were accepting and simply enjoyed watching a real group of musicians slip up together and succeed together. The anticipation for Periphery was building and what came next was sure to be the climax of the evening.

When the lights dimmed and drummer Matt Halpern walked on stage through the fog, the floor erupted with cheers and even devil horns held high. I recognized the energy and really felt a part of something big. It was at that moment I realized that these guys were rockstars! Opening with ‘Muramasa’, Periphery moved onto the stage as the lead guitar melodies filled the venue. Each of the three guitarists traded leads and appropriately stood on their respective pedestals to do so. This was one of the best intros I had ever seen. The opening was simple, but the sound was massive and allowed the band to really present themselves to the audience.

Each of the songs that followed was equally impressive. Performing music from both Periphery I and II, the band ran freely about the stage goofing off with fans and one another. It was very refreshing to see a band so comfortable on stage as if they were born to be there. At one point, guitarist Mark Holcomb kissed fellow guitarist Misha Mansoor on the cheek and ran away laughing, all while maintaining an extremely complex riff. It was amazing to see a band play perfectly, while having fun and not taking themselves too seriously. If you’ve never seen Periphery, their sets aren’t just impressive, but a ton of fun to watch.

I left the show that night with a few takeaways from the bands and their sets. The first was the value of having not just a singer, but a frontman. All three of these bands had a frontman that was able to lead the group and represent their sound to their audience. While many bands in the genre are opting to go for the instrumental route, I truly think that there is something to be said for having a real and dynamic frontman.

What impressed me the most about the evening though was Periphery’s guitarist Mark Holcomb. This man is a rockstar. While all band members were extremely talented, Holcomb has an aura about him as a performer that puts him on a different level. His comfort and confidence with his instrument was unmatched, almost as if he was born with it attached to his arm.

Lastly, let me just say that stagediving is great… sometimes. It shows that the crowd is passionate, loves the band, and wants to show that love by getting as close as possible and putting their bodies at risk. But when stagedivers begin spending seconds on stage, it takes away from the show. I’m sorry, but no – the audience did not pay to see you taking a selfie on stage. I’m serious: a selfie. And let me be real, I like stagediving. When I played in a band it was my favourite thing in the world to see a passionate fan jump into the crowd. But having recently witnessed a stage diver bump into lead guitarist Paul Waggonner of Between the Buried and Me during the climax of their ‘Selkies’ solo, it’s really begun to bother me.

So here is a friendly request: If you wind up on stage, get it done and dive off so that you are actually adding to the show, and not taking away from it.  

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