Xentrix, Acid Reign, Shrapnel @ Academy 3
Norwich thrash die-hards Shrapnel take the stage by storm with a barrage of adrenalised metal and technical bravado that tears into the gathered mass like vultures on a fresh carcass. And tonight their vicious anthems "all about killing people", to quote screamer Jae Hadley, rattle the walls with formidable force. Tracks like Warhead and The Virus Conspires are particularly brutal. thrash metal is an honest music and needs to be delivered with sincerity as well as skillfully and thankfully these chaps have all those qualities. There's no room for preening and posturing when there's some serious head-windmilling to be done and after three decades of the genre it's awesome to see such quality bands emerging from the UK that take the laws laid down by the greats such as Slayer, Testament and Exodus and bring them up for modern inspection. Bravo lads.
Born in 1985, dead by 1991 and rebooted in 2015, British thrashers and the square-danciest band in the world Acid Reign are here to entertain you. And they do just that. And, judging by the amount of merch they appear to be shifting this fine evening, the Reign have been greatly missed in their 14 years absence.
British thrash has always been a bit underrated, particularly back int' day and frankly never seemed to take itself as seriously as their USA counterparts – instead relying on a more humorous and punky attitude and demeanour. Acid Reign are no exception. Where as on the one hand they had a tendency to fuck about a lot they also had some pretty fine socially conscious lyrics in their hard hitting tunes. Tiswas-thrash, anyone?
All these qualities are what make tonight as much of a party as it is a gig. Vocalist 'H' engages the crowd effortlessly, hyperactively bouncing around the stage with the same fitness as am 1989 'H' and at times joining the flaying audience in the pit. A pit, by the way, that is absolutely potty. The musicians on stage, Paul Chanter and Cookey on guitars, Pete Dee on bass and Marc Jackson on drums, are clearly having as much fun as we are; whether it's belting out classics like Humanoia or new track Plan of the Damned. In fact they all appear amazed at the amount of love in the room for this band.
Blind Aggression from The Fear LP kicks serious arse and the set climax of Motherly Love, name-checking everyone's favourite psycho Norman Bates, raises the roof with the crowd shouting along in fine voice. "Mother Loves You!" This was one fuckin' heavy party and everyone is invited.
Trying to out party the Acid Reign chaps would be futile and trying too hard to top the previous performance would result in a very hard lesson. Fortunately,
Preston's Xentrix have the tunes and skills to follow the previous riot. The thrash they bring to the table is of a more metallic bent, relying less on punk shenanigans and going straight for clean slicing riffage served directly to the throat with a side of power.
Xentrix are and always were one of the leading UK thrash bands. Forming in 1985 they made initial waves with their Shattered Existence debut in 1989. In spite of healthy support slots with the likes of Slayer and Sepultura, and quality releases like For Whose Advantage they never really made it as big as they could have if they'd been given more support from a British scene that seemed more obsessed with all things American thrash at the time.
Still, they are back now and ready to redress the Balance of Power. Charging through a back catalogue of massive thrash anthems Xentrix is nothing less than on fire tonight. Bangers like Questions and Reason for Destruction make you swell with British pride, the attendant crowd always knowing the quality we have to offer in the heavy metal world - a world in which the British were once leaders.
Chris Astley's voice has a Chuck Billy rasp to it and his right hand down-picking speed must rival that of a certain Hetfield's. On stage banter is minimal though and pretty much used only to introduce songs. This is typical of our homegrown, down-to-earth UK bands, always lacking that over-the-top theatricality of their U.S. counterparts. This could in part explain a certain lack of success across the pond. Musicality and proficiency certainly isn’t lacking though and Kristian Harvard, Dennis Gasser and relatively new guy Chris Shires all shine throughout.
Anyone expecting Ghostbusters, perhaps their biggest known hit and yet continuously ignored in their live repertoire, is going to be disappointed. Even so, it’s a masterful set and after brutal new offering Red Mist, which sounds massive, the band finish on their anthem No Compromise and indeed there has been none tonight. Xentrix prove tonight that they are still vital and possibly more influential now than they ever were 26 years ago.
Words: Paul Cooke