LIVE REVIEW: Annisokay, Shields, Fixation, The Garage, London, 12/10/2023
Photo Credit: Kevin O’Sullivan
Having opened the Avalanche stage at Download this year — and smashing the hell out of it in the process — as well as supporting on Devin Townsend’s European-and-mini-UK tour back in the Spring, Fixation are as good a band as you could want, even if they were only being given time enough for six songs to work with. With splashings of fellow country-men Leprous, as well as dashes of early Muse, their falsetto-laden, instrumentally explosive songs bristle with barely contained rage, vocalist Jonas Wesetrud Hansen seething into his microphone. And that’s only on record — live, the passion and energy on display puts most bands to shame.
From the outset, Fixation put on a show. The slow, ominous ringing of bells gave way to haunting, almost Gothic choral-esque singing, as the four piece took to the stage and quickly exploded into motion with the ferocious Ignore The Disarray. Judging from the instrumentals at least — unfortunately it took a few minutes for the vocals to kick in, through no fault of the band’s own. Such is the way of live music! But when the vocals did kick in — the incendiary Stay Awake, the dismissive, scathing More Alive, the heartbreaking Violent Tendencies — the band came alive, the group a blur of movement and sound, the crowd lapping it up and loving every second.
After a quick second to take a drink, Jonas’ hand trembling in adrenaline, to make up for the strings of spittle hanging from his mouth throughout the set — a testament to his almost manic passion that had been forcibly wrenched out for the adoring London crowd — it was almost the end; but first, What We Have Done. A song stemming ostensibly from climate change and the destructive and irreversible effects that humanity is having on the planet, What We Have Done, taken from their debut EP Global Suicide, is stunning, the crowd spellbound by the masterful display in front of them. It even has some token screaming, just enough to explain the band’s inclusion on the furiously vocal tour — and thank God, because the night wouldn’t have been half as good without them. 9/10
The second act, Shields, is a little unusual as a writer in needing some context to really appreciate: five years ago, it would be nigh unheard of for any discussion of burgeoning new acts at the forefront of the bludgeoning UK metal scene to not mention them. Led by vocalists Joe Edwards and Sam Kubrick, with a host of successful singles, an EP, and their at-the-time freshly minted debut album Life In Exile, along with a string of awesome support slots and headline shows alike, Shields seemed primed to be the next big thing. And then they lost the band’s guitarist — and more importantly, close friend — George Christie; along with the grief and the pain came an inability to see any hope of a future for the band. Everything was shadowed by the loss, and they understandably called it quits, going on to form or join their own products, distanced from Shields.
Then, suddenly, Burn It Down Festival 2023 happened, with Shields announced as the special guest, and all too quickly the one-off show became a single, and then a tour with German metal outfit Annisokay and the afore-mentioned phenomenal Norwegian prog-metallers of Fixation, and, almost overnight, Shields were back. Still tinged by their loss, sure, but now matured by it, strengthened by it. Harnessing it, even, to create some new sounds that are distinctively them; you can still hear Joe’s gutturally thick screams, with the almost staccato drums providing a nice home for Sam’s clean vocals — and the odd distinctive growl of his own — but you can tell how the years away have let them grow.
Seeing them back in London then, in Islington’s The Garage, as just the support? Talk about setting expectations high. With a good portion of the crowd there for the band’s first London show in five years, the band’s reappearance was a delight to behold. Breaking straight into recent single Bury Me, Edwards floppy mop of hair in tow, seemed to ooze vitriol as his screams drowned out Kubrick’s softer voice. The adoring crowd, already breathless, barely got a second to rest — nor should they, the ungrateful lot! — as the band went from Love Is Dead into It’s Killing Me into Mother, the crowd furiously head-banging and screaming along all the while, a flying frenzy of a set that had the steadily growing room in tatters. After the classic I Just Feel Hate saw Edwards climb off the stage, onto the barrier, and finally launch himself on the shocked crowd, torn between catching him in their hands and catching him in their phone lenses, there was just fan favourite Black Dog left — and what a song. It also most prominently features Sam’s afore-mentioned screams, providing a beautiful (or disgusting!) harmony between the two vocalists. A fantastic set, and a hell of a reintroduction from the group! 8/10
The first sign that Annisokay were around, besides the giant flashing screens, was a thudding bass that echoed in your very bones, at least until bassist Peter Leukhardt tried to subtly sneak across the deceptively well-lit stage. The next, really, was when vocalist Rudi Schwarzer flew onto the stage, his guttural roars and shrieks buffeting the crowd, veins popping as if in a live-action diagram of high blood pressure, while Nico Vaeen’s blast beats and kick drums seemed to have bullied their way into making some new heart rhythms for the crowd. (Mostly) instrumental opener Into The Abyss helped to set the scene for the night, reflecting the same depth and power as the namesake would seem to suggest, right before breaking into the epic Throne of the Sunset, and third track What’s Wrong, which seemed almost an oxymoron — for the excited London crowd, the brutality on display seemed to be just right.
Despite the auditory violence, the German outfit still seemed to manage to surprise, however — Ultraviolet, taken from new EP Abyss Pt I, as with the openers, went from electronic intro to beautiful breakdown, while Like A Parasite, stemming from a little bit further back in the band’s evolution, happily fluctuated between guttural screams and a electronic fill that Enter Shikari would be proud of.
It wasn’t just pure heaviness, however. The fantastic Fully Automatic saw clean vocalist Christoph Wieczorek take point a little more, with the slight change of pace seeming to give the crowd enough confidence to move, although a huge abyss opening through the crowd seemed to foil any attempts at crowd surfing before they had (quite literally) taken off from the ground. This little reprieve even led to the announcement of a found set of wallet-and-keys awaiting their owner; the eruption of cheers, from both crowd and band, seemed to help the band perhaps ease the few nerves that had been present, forcing them to just ride the chaos. Similarly, Friend or Enemy had the crowd forced to their knees before launching upwards at the band’s behest — although, of course, there’s always that one guy at the barrier too cool (or more likely tired!) to get involved. The beautiful The Tragedy, meanwhile, felt almost like a song from an entirely different band, as ‘soft’ as it was – though soft is of course used lightly where Annisokay are concerned. There was even a cover of Linkin Park’s much-loved classic One Step Closer, with Rudi Schwarzer climbing onto the crowd to deliver the final blows, the crowd happily screaming along.
Meanwhile, fan favourite Human, complete with some tasty licks of industrial metal, saw the crowd open their biggest pit of the night — though the fans seemed at a loss of how best to use it, with a ten-person strong rowboat (or perhaps longboat!) quickly forming in the centre before being fractured by the otherwise impatient crowd itching for the breakdown wall of death.
As with a lot of bands, though, it was in the encore that they shone. Emerging back onto stage to the almost pop-rock intro of Calamity, Rudi rocking out a jaunty little jig while Christoph took charge once more, yellow and purple lights streaming from the spotlights behind them, the tone felt one of celebration; they were finally back in the UK, and it was amazing. Finally, with bones a-battered and skulls a-rattling, the anthemic STFU helped draw the night to a close — usually a band hearing screams of SHUT THE F*CK UP from their crowd might be taken as some particularly unimaginative heckling, but for Annisokay it felt more like a badge of honour, and so it should be. A fantastic final song from an equally fantastic band, and one whose performance was nothing short of staggering. 8/10
Written By: James O’Sullivan