Amaranthe & Dragonforce @ Academy, Manchester

Well, what a night this turned out to be? Three colossal titans of modern metal all on the same line up was really something to behold. All three coming off huge album releases this year. Infected Rain with a career defining album, Time. Dragonforce with their hyper release Warp Speed Warriors and Amaranthe with their sci-fi influenced record, The Catalyst. All of them have become critically acclaimed and all three are well known for delivering great live performances. So, when it was announced that the trio would be hitting the road together, and that road would end up in Manchester, UK… I knew this was a show I had to attend. This tour has been incredibly successful with more than 75% of the dates being sell-out shows. Manchester was one of the sell-out dates and boy, you could feel it. Within moments of the doors opening the venue was already starting to pack out with fans clamoring for a good view to witness this special show. I looked around and being a part of this crowd felt like something special was about to unfold and I was right. This was such an amazing show with all the bands contributing to the atmosphere and all of them bringing their own style of metal chaos to the evening.

Opening the show up were the Moldovan metalcore collective, Infected Rain. I have to say their new album Time is one of my favourite metal albums of the year so far. With this set they gave an absolute belter of a performance. With their line-up change and new music out in the ether they felt refreshed and revitalised. They just had a pep in their step and a stride that couldn’t be denied. Their setlist consisted mostly of new material from Time and was paced quite well. They left me wanting more and never felt like they were outstaying their welcome. Their whole set was just about right for an opener. Lena Scissorhands is such an enigmatic and energetic frontperson. The way she can navigate from screaming horror show to salt-of-the-earth human is amazing. Neither side of her feels out of the ordinary and it’s a cool presence to witness in a live setting. Being on first, they also were able to take advantage of a fresh and ready crowd, who had rushed into the venue to escape the rain outside. There were circle-pits and wall-of-deaths galore as the band was able to amp up the audience and move them to their will. This was an insane, yet magnificent performance that was worth the price of admittance alone. I think between the sound mixing to the ferocity of the performance itself, to the energy of the room this was one hell of an opening performance.

After a short change-over it was time for the ever-popular Dragonforce. This was one hell of a ride! Dragonforce have been heavy metal heroes of mine ever since I heard their album Ultra Beatdown. It’s fair to say I’ve been hooked since then. The genuine genius of the band is that their music is so complex yet it has immense mass appeal. Even if you have no interest in heavy metal I’ll bet you can still admire the sheer technical competence and skill of their solos and well constructed hooks. This performance had it all and then some. An awesome setlist that mixed old and new material? Check. Blistering guitar solos? Check. A charismatic performance with an engaging stage show? Double-check! They really brought their A-game. I was in total awe. Every moment of their performance was so special to me. I really meant the world to this reviewer.

I enjoyed the new songs from the album Warp Speed Warriors as they slid so neatly into their older material and they were able to navigate between old and new material. One of the newer songs that felt so fitting for their style was the new single “Power Of The Triforce”, a song inspired by The Legend of Zelda video game series. The band threw a giant stuffed chicken into the crowd to crowd surf throughout the performance of the song. Another new track that just felt right in the set was “Doomsday Party”. An entrancing track that got all of the audience moving. That doesn’t mean that the new material dominated the set. Big hits like “The Last Dragonborn”, “Cry Thunder” and “Fury of the Storm” all got their time in the spotlight. Vocalist Marc Hudson wailing at the top of his lungs.

Manchester crowds are always so much fun to be a part of, especially when sold out, making this a special experience. The crowd went into overdrive and I think everyone, at this point, is sort of in on the joke for Dragonforce. With mosh pits to cover songs “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion and “Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift. I think you have to be a special kind of music snob to not find this at least a little entertaining. This is a band that can add these elements to their performances and the audience is just 100% on their side. The band brought their set to a close with their iconic hit “Through the Fire and Flames”. The crowd went crazy as the special effects that the band brought with them went into overdrive. Giant dragon head, augmented reality lasers, pyrotechnics and giant arcade game cabinets flickering with video game footage. This was a feast for the eyes, ears and whole body.

After experiencing that high of the set, I’ll be honest, I didn’t know how Amaranthe was going to follow that up. While they didn’t have the insane special effects of Dragonforce, they did deliver a competent, bouncy and fun set. After experiencing the hyperactive visuals of the prior band, Amaranthe felt a bit like a come down. However, two songs into their set I was dancing and singing along. The Swedish metallers have a very different energy and have a different approach to performance. The bass was pumping, the guitars thrashed and the three vocalists Elize Ryd, Nils Molin and Mikael Sehlin traded their individual responsibilities. I’ll admit I wasn’t really into the harsh vocals from Mikael. Maybe I’m too used to their previous harsh vocal sounds and Mikael was just a different style of vocalist. It was just a little off putting at first. I soon grew to like it by the end of the set, it was just something that didn’t feel right. Especially when it came to songs like “PvP”.

If I was impressed by anything in this set it was the clean vocals provided by Nils Molin. His voice just soared on top of the production and then some. He really worked on all of the songs and even made older tracks his own. Technically the set was very good. The performance was tight and punchy, all of the techno/EDM elements are part of the charm of Amaranthe. They have their big hits and you could tell the audience was left satisfied by this band. The crowd was just as amped experiencing them as they were for the previous two bands. With the new songs like “The Catalyst” and “Damnation Flame” it felt like the set had found its momentum and the band just kept riding that vibe all the way to the end of the set. I’ve been listening to Amaranthe since their second album, so when they burst into the title track of that album “The Nexus” I was so happy and the band delivered this song with vigour and passion.

I think the special moment of this set came with a different performance of their big single “Amaranthine”. I had never heard this song performed like this with a slow piano intro and Elize just being allowed the space to breathe and show off her truly magnificent voice. Their set ended with a double hit of “That Song” and “Drop Dead Cynical”. These songs are pulsating anthems that really show off what they can do on full blast and it was a great way to send the crowd home happy. As they are big sing-along tunes. This was the way I wanted the set to end too. I love the Amaranthe songs which allow for maximum crowd participation. “Drop Dead Cynical” was pretty much the only song I think this set could have ended with. It’s a fantastic closer with its catchy hook and pulsating rhythm.

What an amazing night! All three brought something different to the evening’s proceedings and I think that it was in a decent running order. The controlled chaos of Infected Rain, the visual and technical splendor of Dragonforce and the powerful pop of Amaranthe. It was a night that I think left the Manchester crowd satisfied. There was something here for every type of metal fan and overall it was just a solid night of entertainment.

Words by Mike Birchall

Photos by Chris Ryan


Mick Birchall

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