VENUE GORILLA, MANCHESTER
SUPPORT AGENT FRESCO, 22
Because the venue is turning into a club night after this live show has finished, the 10pm curfew means the three bands on tonight’s Scandinavian triple-bill get less stage time than they ordinarily would. nevertheless, the compact hall is healthily full by the time the first of the bands comes on stage at 6.45pm.
The oddly named 22 get only half an hour in which to impress with their angular, staccato approach, pummelling the crowd with a visceral sound from the off. at times somewhat reminiscent of Thumpermonkey if they were accompanied by a truckload of drum kits being pushed off a cliff, the norwegians get a rousing reception from the fearless stage-front devotees.
next up are agent Fresco, from iceland. describing themselves as math metal, the elements of precision pummelling in their set are mitigated by strong melodic content courtesy of the almost falsetto vocals of frontman arnór dan arnarson. They fit plenty of succinct tracks into their time, and arnarson delivers some arresting showmanship, making his way through the crowd to the back of the venue (accompanied by a lengthy corded mic no less), before climbing onto the bar and up into the balcony.
when norwegians leprous come onstage, however, it’s clear who the headliners are. it isn’t often that the phrase ‘the opening cello solo’ is used with reference to a rock performance, but tonight is that exception as the band open with the slow burn of Bonneville from latest album Malina.
Such moments of calm are rare, however, as the eerily backlit band turn everything you thought you knew about progressive metal on its head in a presentation of merciless intensity.
By the time Third law twists king Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man riff inside out and spits out the bones, you have the feeling that this is what 50 years of that track’s subversion have led to. Meanwhile, Mirage has moments of such monolithic intensity that it seems as if your record collection is being reflected in a dark, distorted fairground mirror while being burnt to ashes. in a good way.
leprous are unstoppable, irresistible and fearsome. with a cello.