I Prevail at O2 Ritz, Manchester, 18.06.19 / Louder Live
It takes a special breed of metal band to sell out one of Manchester’s best-loved medium-sized venues on the same night that genre gods Metallica are headlining the Etihad Stadium just across the other side of the city. Yet that is a feat that I Prevail can now add to their already considerable list of achievements. After spending the majority of the past few years touring the US and recording their sophomore full-length, ‘Trauma’, their long-awaited return to the UK mainland was greeted with rapturous excitement, and tickets for their show at Manchester’s O2 Ritz flew out of the doors at a pace that made it seem as if they left of their own accord! As such, the venue’s famous bouncy dance floor was crammed with black leather-clad shoes and battered Vans from the moment the doors opened: piercings and worn t-shirts abound as the crowd prepared for a whiplash-inducing night ahead of them!
Long-awaited returns were plastered across the board, as openers Palisades were making their first UK appearance after several years sequestered across the pond in their native New Jersey. Blasting through a short but violently sweet set, the fusion of with tumultuous screams from vocalist Lou Miceli riled the crowd up almost instantly into a headbanging, fist-pumping frenzy! From the darkly grandiose ‘Better Chemicals’ to the heartfelt ‘Erase the Pain’, whose poignancy was unfettered by it’s scything guitars, Palisades were as engaging as they were abrasively outspoken. The set’s highlight was undoubtedly ‘Let Down’, with its electronically-influenced edge and uplifting, sing-along chorus line that greased the expectant audience's vocal chords in style!
In truly idiosyncratic I Prevail fashion, the audience were spared the bells and whistles of extended changeover times and a precariously stacked line-up, as the night’s headliners waited just 20 minutes after the departure of their singular support before they decided it was high time to shake the Ritz to its very foundations...
And on that, they delivered in spades!
Opening with the punishing ‘Bow Down’, the ferocious single from their latest record ‘Trauma’, the upswing in both the room’s energy and its temperature was tangible from the very first pummelling bass note! From the off, the atmosphere was intoxicating, as only the room’s very outer fringes were spared a battering from the virile pile of adrenaline-fuelled bodies being thrown around in the centre of the room! The pace never slowed from that moment onward, as the band thundered into the rousingly emotional ‘Scars’, whose lyrics pulse with a headstrong defiance and whose growling bassline reverberates through the pit of your gut, lighting a fire deep within that even the sweat that already hung like a mist in the air could not extinguish.
The few other tracks the band carefully plucked from their debut LP ‘Lifelines’ were a delectably raucous selection- rather like a box of chocolates spiked with cayenne pepper! Landmark single ‘Stuck in Your Head’ boasted pulsing, heartbeat-esque drums that cascade into an infectiously electrifying chorus, while the record’s title track was preceded by an emotionally-charged speech from unclean vocalist Eric Vanlerberghe, and was greeted with a forest of swaying phone lights- a rare moment of distilled placidity, which, while it was incredibly short-lived before the arrival of the second chorus, was goosebump-inducing to witness. Throwing it all the way back to their debut EP ‘Heart vs Mind’, for those who ‘like the heavy shit!’, was the practically deranged ‘Face Your Demons’. Unchained and packed full of gritty, guttural screams, the spike of adrenaline that accompanied the unified screams of ‘Open the fuck up!’ flashed through the room like lightning!
However, it is also a testament to just how far this band have progressed in the three years since ‘Heart vs Mind’, that many of the more experimental tracks from ‘Trauma’ were embraced with just as much gusto by the crowd as their earlier forebears. When single ‘Paranoid’ was unleashed upon the world, there were some distinct murmurs of discontent among I Prevail’s stalwart ranks. However, with its series of choreographed crowd interaction, it was ensured that the set’s breathtaking tempo never lulled- in fact, many in the crowd were glad of a short window in which to catch their breath! Catchy and electronically underlain, ‘Low’ was perhaps even more of a surprise, yet with its invigorating chorus, it still proved a fist-waving triumph. As close as I Prevail will likely ever get to soppy was the balladic ‘Every Time You Leave’, which guitarist Dylan Bowman dedicated, with tears brimming in his eyes… to his dog (but which, nonetheless, still caused genuine tears to swim in the eyes of many of the fans crammed against the barriers).
Nevertheless, it was, as always, the heaviest tracks with exerted the most raucous reception from the baying crowd! Eric’s stunned exclamation of ‘You guys really DO like the heavy shit, huh?’ was greeted with a chorus of anarchic screams, which descended into calling the ferocious lyrics of ‘Gasoline’ back up at the stage, audible even over the screaming guitars and cantering drums! The darkly venomous opening vocals of ‘DOA’ married perfectly with its rap-inspired verses, pairing those old bedfellows of rap and metal in perfectly anarchic equilibrium- and with several plunging bass drops per chorus, the pit opened and collapsed inward faster than a snapping shark’s jaws! And don’t let the wispy, poppy harmonies that open ‘Hurricane’ fool you- with a bass drop in the bridge as exhilarating as any you could ask for, it was just as whiplash-inducing as the rest! Rounding out the evening with one final flourish, after one of the most insistent calls for an encore you could imagine, was closer ‘Come and Get It’, which knocked the atmosphere in the room up to a fever pitch hitherto undiscovered, as the imploding mosh pit took the entire room with it, and nobody was spared the barrage of blows and swinging limbs that rained down like hailstones from every direction!
Cathartic, unchained, unbelievably sweaty, yet utterly captivating. Exactly what metal music should be.
'Trauma' is out now via Fearless Records.
I Prevail's UK/EU run continues throughout this month, with more US shows scheduled for later in the year- dates and tickets are available here: