Live Review : Powerwolf + Amaranthe + Kissin' Dynamite @ Academy 2, Manchester on January 19th 2019
It’s that time of year were the family tries to kill off the weakest member by incubating the most virulent strain of cold, flu or chest infection possible and infecting a member at the most inconvenient possible time. All attempts to resist are futile, alcohol gel, tissues, exercise and pre-firing (See Call of Duty) day and night nurse are not barrier enough and my wife manages at the very end of her own ordeal to pass the lurgy onto me. Both myself and Johann’s crimson death wagon cough and splutter into Manchester for a mid-afternoon chat with Johannes (Hannes) Braun, vocal songsmith for Kissin’ Dynamite, more to follow as a separate piece on rockflesh.com.
Two pints, two burgers and about thirty throat lozenges in we stroll back to Academy for half six, yes you read that correctly first band, Kissin’ Dynamite kicking things off at 18:40 on a Saturday night. We are in the Academy 2, the big red box. Having been in attendance earlier in the day during the soundcheck I can now attest to its powers of expansion. It seems so much bigger when it’s full. I furnish myself with a pint, £4.60 for those who need to know. Kissin’ Dynamite are immediately onstage, I did wonder how I would receive the band live after spending some time talking with them. During the research process I’d watched a few live videos and they came across as very heavy and very polished. From the start they maintained a very high standard. Tighter than those little screws on a VGA cable after you have accidentally turned them two millimetres too much. The guitars are really heavy, the music is kept light by the vocal harmonies. They kick things off with the incredibly catchy ‘I’ve Got the Fire’, the first track on their latest album ‘Ecstasy’ is as pop rock as the baby of The Darkness and Poison but with Skid Row guitars. ‘Ecstasy’ is a continued departure from the bands classic rock beginnings and is further proof that Kissin’ dynamite are finding their own feet. The highlight of their set are the final two songs ‘I Will Be King’ and ‘Flying Colours’. ‘I Will Be King’ is a very high tempo song with an AC/DC style blues riff backed by some more modern heavy drumming from Andi Schnitzer, Andi is the lyricist for the band while Hannes handles composition and production. They sound like a very heavy Steel Panther in parts and it wouldn’t surprise me if you don’t see the two bands together on a bill soon. We left 2018 with Clutch and one of the wildest crowds I have seen in an age, oddly I feel like we have entered 2019 with the same crowd, they are singing ‘I Will Be King’ raucous outro, pogoing with a fair amount of abandon and seem to be lapping up the best that German hair metal has to offer (not my words, overheard in the crowd). ‘Flying Colours’ rounded the set off, an epic crowd chanting, pacy powerful rock song. Hannes has a really strong voice with a good range and clearly has a lot of song writing talent. Kissin’ Dynamite are a very accomplished live outfit who tick all the live boxes without pushing the envelope very far. There is a safety in the music and lyrical content that may leave them somewhat behind their modern contemporaries, they were signed at fifteen and I feel that they have yet to spread their wings. If you love metal absolutely grab a ticket, they won’t let you down.
I don’t bother with another drink, it’s rammed and I’m starting to feel a little unbalanced. Not much time is wasted getting Amaranthe onstage. I have not one iota of information about this band, walking ears first into the unknown. I’d be more excited if I didn’t feel like keeling over. I’m sweating quite badly and the poster form “Contagion” pops into my head. I’ve ran out of lozenges and I can’t face another drink. A techno keyboard rings out, an EDM chord progression fills me with a jolt of dread. Heavy guitars punctuate the dance music, a female singer bounds onto the stage, the music drops for the verse, it’s suddenly veered into pop music, another singer enters stage left, a bulky male with long hair and what appears to be a head band appear. He growls in response to the pop songstress vocals. Then a third singer enters the stage, what the fuck is going on? The song suddenly turns into a rock song and the third singer, more in the classic rock mold starts on his portion of the verse. If the description is sketchy please understand the song is being delivered at about 140 BPM and has at once been two music genres I’m not massively into and two I absolutely love and I’m a bit confused.
‘Maximise’ is the criminal that is stealing my soul, it has dispassionate calls and responses, between dynamic points a singer will shout the same trope “How are we doing Manchester?”. It can’t be avoided really, once maybe twice in a set but not per song.
‘Digital World’ takes us down a more predictable route of some post Rammstein dance apocalypse. The music has started to blur, yet the six-foot, pogoing woman with the spatial awareness of an epileptic Labrador (challenge me, I own one) has reminded me why I wear steel capped boots to gigs and roused me from a standing coma. I move to a more central position. ‘1,000,000 Lightyears’ takes a more metal turn and has elements of Dragonforce but much more geared towards guitars than keyboards. The song has a better structure, yet the chorus does have a touch of ABBA, this is actually a very good song. The guitar solo is outstanding and deftly handled by the female guitarist (later to be corrected to male guitarist, I have appalling eyesight). ‘Amaranthine’ is as conventional a power ballad as the night is likely to offer. It’s a well-orchestrated song and showcases the singers various talents. Amaranthe take songs from all their available albums, I feel that they have somehow veered away from a very promising beginning with their self-titled album. The emphasis seemed to be more focused on the heavier elements while providing very hooky and accessible choruses. Amaranthe grew in confidence through the set and as they visited their back catalogue it is clear there are some good moments but 45 minutes of such confused genres left me a little bored. The crowd on the other hand absolutely lapped the band up, they were given a great response from the Manchester crowd. Despite the good reception, Amaranthe go out of their way to piss the crowd off with their bass player performing a solo yoga session partway through the set. Not quite having the charisma of Luke from The Struts this doesn’t go down well at all and is bizarrely drawn out. Once they finally start playing music again I wish I had more involvement in the yoga portion of the set. Ultimately the band relies upon the reaction of the crowd and not the rambling opinion of a flu ridden hack. They should look to the reception as proof that they are and have been doing things right. The Academy 2 was packed for Amaranthe and numbers count in the touring game.
It goes downhill pretty rapidly from here on, a semi scuffle breaks out to the side of me, it’s nothing and is resolved as quickly as it started but the gap between Amaranthe and Powerwolf is completely unacceptable and totally unprofessional. It may well be their first tour in the UK and the Academy sold out but the crowd are terribly restless and heavily pissed on a Saturday. I have started a small but noticeable sway to accompany the now profuse sweating. About forty minutes after the support act leave, Powerwolf enter the stage to some semi religious samples before exploding into their very peculiar brand of operatic costume Metal. I’ve been a photographer for about ten years and now wish I had offered to swap roles for the night with Johann. The music is bewildering, the concept almost exclusively hangs on the idea of metal as a religion. I can’t cope, I’m about to keel over to pogoing disciples of clown metal. I can’t quite make out if the keyboard player is an elf, is this dungeons and dragons incidental music. Am I surrounded by level 90 warcraft masters? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?
It’s about now I remember taking 3 night nurse tablets and I wonder how they have mixed with the three pints I have had. I bounce off shoulders to the bar where Johann is nursing a pint, he sees me and immediately offers an early exit. I’m not even sure I can get to the car, it can’t be that bad I muse. Suck it up. It’s a rare occurrence but an early departure was required. I couldn’t give the band the attention they deserved. The Academy crowd was rapturous in their reaction. The place was as busy as any gig last year. I left feeling dejected, I wanted to have more energy for this gig. I was looking forward to Powerwolf’s first outing and ended up bewildered. Kissin’ Dynamite were fantastic and could quite easily provide a surprise hit in the future. As for Amaranthe, they are ploughing a very narrow path and not one I could travel readily. It had looked like being a great day and ended up a little fluffy, with hazy edges. We are back in three days for Skid Row, any home remedies are welcome.
Words by Paul Flett
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki