Arch Echo and Schiermann at Satans Hollow: Live Review
Words: Phil Weller | Photos: Anthony Firmin
Arriving at Satans Hollow on the back of their Metal 2 The Masses Final defeat to Barbarian Hermit, Chiasmata’s set was only going to go one of two ways. Performing in front of only a handful of people – most of whom were band members and venue staff thanks to the impractically early 9:30pm curfew inflicted upon proceedings tonight – it would have been so easy for the young, inventive tech metal act to not play with care or passion. Instead however, the pleasing reality was that this band found fire in their final defeat and, despite the mere smattering of people around to hear their songs, they played tighter and with more power and impetus than they did at Rebellion just 11 days earlier. Their flaws then – some wayward vocal notes and their technicality at times seemingly shackled by nerves – are non-existent here and it’s a massive shame more people aren’t around to hear them. Their low, grinding eight string riffs merged seamlessly with Zoe Gale’s impervious high range vocals and the dual guitar attack of Cailum Finnegan and Alex Lescionok, iced with harmonised sweep picking tailor made for a billing like this, characterised a really solid and lively 30 minutes of music. Subsidia was heavy but melodious, whilst the chorus of Euphoria still stands as their most invigorating, uplifting and memorable slice of music they’ve written to date and as such makes an ideal set closer.
Like a fine ale, excitement for the release of Prognosis' debut album is brewing nicely and, beginning to really fine tune their set ahead of endless touring in support of the album, the Mancunian four piece unleashed a blistering performance here at Satans. Opening with Echoes the band start as they mean to go on, with full throttle riffage taking the night's musicality to it's heaviest peak. Both Encore and High Road grip everyone present who in turn respond with genuine enthusiasm as they absorb much of what is solidly delivered like an aural punch between the ears; an almighty run through Drones at breakneck speed has the swelling crowd baying for more which they get in the form of Void's tapping guitar ecstasy. Numerous cries for an encore are sadly turned down, the ludicrous yet tight timings this evening preventing any such whimsical frivolity. Besides, little do we know it at this point but the band are leaving some energy in the tank for a second secret set. Capitalising on tonight's early finish to headline Grand Central with what felt like a career-defining set after the headliners pulled out last minute, it was a performance akin to an AK-47 in the hands of the two guitarists, completely slaying the crowd, completely drenched in sweat. But we digress…
Schiermann meanwhile eschew their love for Animals As Leaders – indeed, their drummer Matt Gartska even guests on their debut self-titled album – with eight string slap guitar, intelligent, virtuosic grooves and an algebraic rhythmic intensity. Main man Christopher Schiermann’s playing meanwhile – this is his solo project – is bolstered greatly by his band, which includes the brutal yet intricate drumming of Uneven Structures sticksman Arnaud Verrier. Technical Disabilities is a typically djenty affair, spiralling through a myriad of complex musical architecture that is performed with pristine precision and clarity, but it is when the songs lift to more melodic and vibrant pastures, flavoured by emphatic positivity and major key motifs that really still this band stand out. Sure, the brazen technicality and djent chaos, played flawlessly, is impressively, but these more hook focussed moments give the songs a gravity that pulls you in and makes you smile. They add the sweetness that will have you coming back for more and that is the real difference between a band that can play like gods and gods worth worshipping.
Arch Echo though, comprising of an elite band of musicians who are almost all graduates from the prestigious Berklee College of Music – where Dream Theater met, and whose list of alumni is jaw dropping – as well as big social media personalities in their own right, take the night to another level altogether. Across their 45 minute set they indulge the audience with five dazzling individual performances, coalescing to make one heart-warming and musically inspiring collective performance, that is not only a delight to listen to, but also to watch. While songs like Earthsine and Color Wheel unite the crystal clear, gorgeous melodic vibrancy of Plini and the jazz-ravaged, almost spasmodic avant garde playing of the late Allan Holdwsorth, fusing it further with heavy djent elements and keyboards that sound like video game dreamscapes the band move about on stage, all vying for your attention. With music as overtly nerdy and detailed as this – which is no doubt a nightmare to play at times – the band could be excused for standing stock still to make sure they don’t balls up their parts. The reality though was that their movement and energy made their set anything but solely a listening experience and as they interacted with each other and their audience – which was at this point fairly sizable for an American band’s debut Manchester show, especially with an 8:45pm start – their smiles infected you. You smiled back. And they made it all look so enviably easy.
Whilst Schiermann’s melodic lifts were a rare commodity that helped transform their songs into more than just guitar wankery, Arch Echo peppered their songs with hooks, sugary melodies and sweet, catchy-as-the-common-cold motifs galore. Engaging and enigmatic musical moments waited round every band, coming in on a fanfare that would curl up inside your psyche and repeat itself endlessly for days to come. They closed with Afterburger, a song where keyboardist Joey Izzo, animated and hilarious to watch throughout, and guitarist Adam Rafowitz cemented themselves as star performers. Their fingers danced blurredly across their instruments while they played the crowd like a puppeteer. Breathtaking is, in 2018, an oft overused expression but for Arch Echo it is damnably applicable. What a band, what a performance.