Before this delightful night of metal mayhem had a chance to explode into life, we were greeted by Mr Matthew K Heafy on stage. He grabbed a mic as the bemused crowd looked on. Everyone was fully aware that the first bands set time was nearly over and we had yet to hear a note. Matt went on to explain that unfortunately Caliban could not perform tonight as their trailer, containing their instruments and kit, hadn't made it to the venue. Caliban frontman Andy Dörner followed him up to confirm the bad news. He reiterates their disbelief in what had happened and tells of how pissed off the band were that they couldn't play. After bidding the crowd an early goodnight and urging them to bang heads regardless, Matt tells the crowd to check them out online and next time around.
The band stepping up to bring joy back to the Empire is none other than sharp suited Texans Upon a Burning Body (8) and these Mafioso lookalikes are here to fuck shit up! Ferociously tearing through material from 'Red White Green', UABB only relent their assault to summon up something more from the already crazy pits opening up across the floor. Nobody really new what to expect when five wise-guys stroll up in front of them, full of swagger, and in perfect unison bellow 'Welcome to the family'. The deathcore mob from the Lone Star State are here to collect their protection money in blood and sweat whilst delivering crushingly brutal beatdowns and dropping huge gang vocals in abundance. 'Texas Blood Money', 'Sin City' and particularly 'Intermission' sound devastating tonight and fill the venue with a slick style. The band oozes confidence and will move on to bigger things. Deathcore can sometimes be seen as a dirty word, but when it's done this well, who can resist throwing down?
Before I continue, I really want to point out that I am not the biggest As I Lay Dying (7) fan. And much to the disgust of almost everyone I spoke to at the venue, just don't 'get' them like the wild fans around me. The ever-present metalcore stalwarts have boundless energy and it is clearly infectious as bodies soon start to pile up in the centre. AILD have a huge back catalogue to draw from as they are currently touring their sixth album during their eleven years of service and fans are just a rabid now as ever before. Their ripped frontman Tim Lambesis, who surely moon-lights as a WWE wrestler, has everyone in the palm of his hand as he roars through the anthems, with material from 'Awakened' being as warmly received as anything from 'An Ocean Between Us'. Guitarists Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso demolish everything with their twin riff assault as they prowl the stage. Closing the set with fan favourite The Sound of Truth' is a masterstroke and sends the flailing bodies into one more frenzy.
It's nearly time for what we have all been waiting for and excitement is reaching breaking point. Not a single person can contain their selves and when 'Capsizing the Sea' rings out through the PA, chills genuinely shot down my spine. There was a split second of silence around Shepherds Bush before… Innn Waaaaaaaaaavvvvvveeeeeeeeesssssss… and every single person crammed into the Empire collectively lost their shit. Trivium (9.5) are in terrifying form right now and seem hellbent on domination, perhaps that should have come their way earlier on in their careers. It has been an insult slung around by pillocks for some time how Trivium are Metallica's protégés and are simply ripping them off, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to split Heafy and Hetfield apart in terms of their abilty and charisma.
In fact, the whole band gives off a phenomenal amount of 'star power', they really have proved their chops in the live environment and look unstoppable. The newest member of the clan is drummer Nick Augusto and he looks born for the part! Light-speed drum breaks and insane displays of technicality make him fascinating enough to watch alone, that's without mentioning Paolo Gregoletto and his precise bass lines. Corey Beaulieu has formidable shredding skills and windmills as furiously as he riffs. Matt is at a peak in his career as a guitar slinging frontman and nails it perfectly. Whether he is roaring through the harsh classics like 'Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr' or showing off his soaring cleans with anthems like 'Built to Fall'. Matt is comfortable with any song from any point in Trivium's history, sampling cuts from all five albums and proving, beyond doubt, that Trivium are ready to mentioned in the same breath as any metal heavyweight gracing the stage today.