Live Review : Combichrist + The Alacrity + Sinnergod + Auger @ Academy 3, Manchester on June 28th 2019

Hay fever sucks. Well technically, having a grass pollen allergy is really awkward and annoying. It’s especially true when you’re off to an early doors four band gig. Ok, ok, just a fortnight ago, I was moaning about the rain in the North West, but I wouldn’t be British if I wasn’t moaning about something, right? The joy of a muggy, humid night is that Academy 3 is only as sweltering as outside tonight, rather than being a crazy sweatbox of its own making. I don’t know if it’s my imagination but this venue doesn’t seem to be used as much as it used to be, which is a shame as it certainly has its own unique layout, capacity and atmosphere.

As it turns out, the venue is a perfect size for the crowds showing for every single one of the bands this evening, with Auger kicking the night off nicely. The duo of vocalist (Kyle J. Wilson) and guitarist (Kieran Thornton) take to the stage with their backing-track already playing, fittingly dressed in traditional jet-black industrial garb. They offer up some dark, brooding and gothic elements added to a dark pop core, and I’d recommend fans of VOLA and Voyager check these guys out. But only do so if you’re willing to tune into your inner-goth, because Auger are heavy on some of the industrial-goth clichés. Wilson’s voice is deep and commanding, very much in the vein of Dave Gahan, whilst the instrumental portion of the performance is gleaming stabs of keyboard lighting up distorted guitar meshes alongside solid rock-trope tracked drums. It’s really, really enjoyable I’ve got to say, and whilst a lot more gothic than I might normally enjoy, it’s worth spending some of your time giving these guys a try.

Manchester band, Sinnergod take to the stage, and their image is a curious mix of AFI and American Idiot-era Green Day. There’s an awful lot of eyeliner on display, and there’s no denying that they have a cohesive and relevant image on stage. In fact, musically they’re best described as AFI playing Korn songs. This is evidenced most keenly by frontman Mark Hampson’s voice, which is a mirror image of Jonathan Davis’ at his most tuneful. Brother Chris Hampson can be found on drums too, but it is Mark who seemingly is the key force behind everything these guys do – visual style, vocal lines, guitar solos, the whole shebang. In some ways the stage show is compromised by Mark being stuck behind a mic stand, but they’re still an engaging, if not somewhat repetitive, rockabilly take on gothic rock.

It wasn’t until the set times were announced that I was aware that The Alacrity were even playing tonight. I also found it really difficult to unearth any genuine information on this act prior to the gig, so I stand waiting for them to take the stage with mixed expectations. I’m pleasantly surprised that the frontman, drummer and backing-track combo are actually pretty impressive. They pound and bounce through high-tempo KMFDM-esque tracks to a jumping crowd. I fear for my pint as a textbook cybergoth threatens to send it flying with their arm swirling dancing…but the pint and I remain unaffected by their obvious glee at the pounding music and theatre on stage. These guys at times remind me of the cybergoth room at The Wendy House in Leeds (if you ever went to the monthly night at Leeds University you’ll know exactly what I mean). I can hear and see a great deal of Front Line Assembly influencing The Alacrity, but I simply can’t get over how much the drummer looks and plays like Stephen Morris from New Order. That’s no slight on him, and his drumming is truly a large portion of the effective aspects of this act, together with the bouncing industrial backing-track.

Combichrist are a very similar proposition in style to The Alacrity, but are on another level completely when it comes to execution. The thumping backing-track kicks in and the crowd go wild as the two drummers and single guitarist stride onto stage. Finally, we’re joined by Andy LaPlegua himself – the fulcrum, ever-constant, frontman and genius behind the band. On studio record, people can sometimes become confused as to what Combichrist are trying to achieve, but the truth is they are Norwegian-born LaPlegua’s aggrotech industrial-metal vision that was made for intense, sweaty gigs. Simply put, tonight they are flawless. Like an industrial-berserker, he is the key to them live; commanding band and crowd alike. Brutal, guttural vocal lines are thrown out into the crowd like barbed gifts, all to the backdrop of thumping, pounding electro-metal backing-track and mid-scooped thrashy guitar. The two drummers offer an interesting dynamic; with one smashing away like a beast and the other prancing about, almost limiting himself to dallying in the art of percussive support.

But on reflection it's an appropriate demonstration of the double-headed approach to Combichrist - powerful, aggressive industrial music delivered alongside caricatured aggrotech dance performance. It’s the fantastic job of balancing these elements that serves Combichrist so well, and in turn allows the ecstatic crowd to have the night of their lives.

Words by Matt Fraser
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki