Another night out in Manchester and I was off to the O2 Ritz for a night of heavy metal goodness. Sadly news spread before the show that one of the headliners for the night, Amaranthe had to pull out due to illness. This was a massive blow to the lineup and I think the venue was expecting fewer people to turn up. However, the Manchester crowd turned up in droves and brought positive vibes. The queue went up the road and around the corner, catching the attention of pedestrians passing by. Speaking of stepping up in a big way, I have to give props to the other three bands on the bill as they all had extended sets due to Amaranthe’s absence. In all honesty and as much as I hate to say it. It felt like a better-paced night. The three bands all got that little extra time to shine and they certainly did. The atmosphere was incredible with everyone there for the love of the music. You could feel the enthusiasm in the air, people just waiting for the lights to time and for the bands to bring the noise.
Ad Infinitum opened the show and they were impressive. Already I could tell that the sound engineers cared about the show and the band sounded absolutely immaculate. I’ve been so interested in this band since their first album Chapter I: Monarchy a couple of years ago. This was the band’s first time in the UK, not that you could tell, they were welcomed to Manchester like conquering hometown heroes. I think front-woman Melissa Bonny is such a powerhouse vocalist. Her vocals ranged from soaring highs that sounded so sweet and beautiful to the meaning and toughest of growled vocals. You definitely noticed her and she commanded the stage with confidence. Their set consisted of their hits mostly with some of their newer songs sprinkled in. Their music is symphonic metal infused with electronica and power metal elements. It was fast and hard and hit with force. All of the elements came together with a well-mixed and executed set that warmed the crowd up for the night to come.
Up next on stage was the ever-popular, Butcher Babies. Now, I’m going to be completely honest, I do not like their music. It’s just not for me. For those who like it, I’m glad you do, but this is just not for me. Now, I don’t want to let my personal bias get in the way of the review. Their set was explosive and filled with charisma. Dualing front-women, Carla Harvey & Heidi Shepherd definitely bring the hype and get the crowd going.
Running around the stage, screaming and headbanging. They pack quite the wallop of sound. The guitars screeched and roared, the drum and bass work was wild and there was a real sense of controlled chaos. The Manchester crowd seemed to be enjoying themselves quite a lot. When Butcher Babies called, the crowd responded and responded with rapturous applause and cheers. Their commanding performance was ideal for the midpoint of the evening, as much as their music is not to my taste, at least they were entertaining. There wasn’t a dull moment of the set and they set the stage nicely for the main event.
Without Amaranthe performing, it was up to Beyond The Black to send the crowd home happy. They accomplished their mission. It’s been seven years since I last watched them live and my oh my, how this band have grown and evolved over the years. With their new album coming in January 2023, this was an ideal opportunity for them to test out some of their new material and infuse it with the sound of some of their bigger hits. The sound was absolutely crystal clear. Everything was in sync and at the right level.
You could hear the guitar solos, the vocals and the chugging riffs and the tight rhythm and bass. It all came together in such a beautiful way. Frontwoman, Jennifer Haben was such a showwoman. Costume changes, singing while playing a giant floor tom-drum, theatrical masks and other props. The whole performance was very impressive to watch and listen to. The band were so active on stage, with plenty of movement and showmanship, it really was an absolute pleasure to be in this audience. My personal favourite performances of the night were the new song “Reincarnation” which was a fiery and catchy performance. Also, the dramatically powerful “Human” was a great centrepiece to the set.
Unfortunately, I was unable to stay the full duration of the set due to travel logistics, however, it was still a pleasure to spend my evening in Manchester once again with such amazing performers. I had such a good time and this has to be one of the best-sounding concerts I’ve been to in a while. The sound production all evening was top-notch. I am fully back on the Beyond The Black hype train now and roll on for that fifth album in 2023. I hope to see them again sometime in the future.
Words by Mick Birchall and Photos by Philip Goddard