A clammy Wednesday night in Derby at the beginning of September can mean only one thing – Hell On Earth! Well I’m sure there are other things it could mean, but on Wednesday 3rd September 2014 it was the Hell On Earth Tour featuring, for the last time on British soil for a while, Shadows Fall.
The Hairy Dog, Derby seemed like a strange setting for this tour. Bands that usually sell well in venues much bigger than this, all together on the same bill, with tickets left on the door, just didn’t seem fitting for the occasion. You’d be forgiven for worrying about how ‘up for it’ the bands were going to be. Local support Skies In Motion soon set about putting those worries to bed though. Coming on to a sparsely full room, they persevered and brought their own style of melodic-hardcore with an energy from frontman Adam Connor that would have got a much bigger room off their feet.
Skies In Motion were a more than adequate warm up and set the stage for Pay No Respect. Similar in style, but much more comfortable on stage. Their raw emotion and brutal style is made even more powerful by how tight they are as a band. The change from four to five members last year hasn’t disturbed their style, in fact it has improved it with the extra guitar helping to build a wall of sound. The songs from recent EP Hope For The Hopeless were a class above their older material and the crowd responded accordingly. Overall, you could tell that there were only a smattering of hardcore fans in the crowd and they were not the sort that were going to be the only ones down the front, smashing the place up. Luckily, Pay No Respect did a good enough job of that themselves and by the end of their set had most of the room convinced of their worth on the tour. A good showing in front of a tough crowd.
You could feel the difference in the crowd when The Acacia Strain took to the stage. As well as making this one of the most diverse lineups this country is ever likely to see. Half an hour of pure anger followed and the crowd loved it. There was an air of excitement. Quickly nullified by a speech from the singer about how there is “too much positive music in the world”. They soon set about balancing the scales. The first pits of the evening opened up and the room turned into a sweaty cauldron. Seemingly making the band feel right at home.
In the build up to Shadows Fall you could feel the anticipation growing. Everyone knew that this may be the last time they see these guys. The band were aware of this too and wasted no time blasting straight into a set packed with hits. Despite this being their last UK tour (Bridgend & Derby on a final tour for a band like this? Doesn't seem right) they were still pumped for this show and a 45 minute hits set was pounded out with the band’s energy as high as it has ever been. They weren’t hindered by the small stage, with most of the band constantly on the move. They managed to build upon the energy that the previous bands had helped grow and this made for an electric atmosphere. In fact, Shadows Fall’s live performances are now so tight that the only distraction is singer Brian Fair's exceptionally long dreads (pretty sure he nearly took someone on the front rows eye on more than one occasion). Crowd interaction was kept to a minimum, used only to reassure fans that they are not splitting up, they are just slowing stuff down. There didn't need to be any more interaction though, their music does the talking.
The bands hiatus will mark a big loss for the industry and their fans. But a band that so obviously still loves playing won't be able to stay away for long. When they do eventually make it back here, go and see them – they deserve it!