14th July 2023 1 By Malli "Metalhead" Malpass

It’s a Wednesday evening in sunny Bristol, I arrive about an hour before doors for the much anticipated Spiritbox show at the 02 Academy. The queue was already filling and was threatening to imminently swell to the venue’s capacity of about 1600. The Hatchet, the old pub opposite the O2 is busy with pre-gig revelers and a 40-minute wait for food. The beer garden is full of a wonderful range of Metalheads, from teen girls to grizzled and bearded middle age men (Me). There’s little black attire on show, which I’m unused to at metal shows.

The scene has changed, developed, and is now drawing a more diverse crowd than ever. Metal in my opinion is currently in a renaissance period, much like the mid-90s into the 2000s. All eyes are on our community again, thanks to the prevalence of bands breaking through social media like never before, making bands that would have been fairly niche 10 years ago, more accessible and exciting. 

One such band is Ontario, Canada’s extreme heavy hitters Brand of Sacrifice, who are tasked with warming the eager O2 crowd up this evening. You can always tell the mood of a Metal crowd by how they react to the music being played over the PA before the bands come on. Needless to say, the crowd was receptive, belting out The Back Street Boys, AHA, and Neil Diamond before Brand of Sacrifice took to the stage. That apparent receptiveness didn’t make it easy for the band though. This is Spiritbox’s crowd but Brand of Sacrifice hit the stage like it belonged to them. 

And boy did they hit hard. Seeing a band this extreme, at a venue this size felt weird. It wasn’t too long ago that extreme music like the was resigned to smaller dingy venues. Brand of Sacrifice embraced their environment and gave 100% to the audience. Sadly as is often the case at this venue the sound was muddy, and much of the music sounded muddled. Frontman  Kyle Anderson tried his best to get the crowd moving, with demands for walls of death and circle pits but he could never get the crowd at large on side and the intended chaos of the pit proceeded in fits and starts. That isn’t to the detriment of the band, the musicianship was incredible and the band had a commanding presence. There were clearly some major Brand of Sacrifice fans in attendance, who had the time of their lives but much of the audience seemed to view Brand of Sacrifice as a decent band they had to get through to get to Spiritbox. 

Next to his the Stage was Liverpool’s Loathe, who brought a much more dynamic vibe to the now heaving capacity crowd. 


Loathe hit hard and heavy, and they’re a band who clearly have it all going for them. They employ a plethora of styles, one minute sounding like the epitome of Metalcore, the next slipping into Deftones-esque ambiance chilled Incubus evoking lulls and frenetic Dillinger Escape Plan chaos. All served up tighter than a tardigrades tush. Loathe suffered from the same lousy, muddy sound that Brand of Sacrifice had to trudge through, which meant much of the nuance was lost in the murk. I could barely hear the vocals for the entire set. One thing that bugged me about Loathe was the apparent intentional disconnect with the audience. Aside from the obligatory Introductions, “Thank yous” and cheer rousing “GIVE IT UP FOR SPIRITBOX”, main man Kadeem France would often sit down with a towel draped over his head, gently nodding along while the rest of the band played the more low key moments. Maybe he’s shy or has sensory issues, I don’t know but there was a clear and unfortunate disassociation with what could have been an incredibly receptive crowd had the interaction been more animated. I guess Loathe fans expect this seemingly nonchalant attitude but for me, it left a bitter taste in the mouth of my ears and eyes. 

Loathe’s unceremonious exit from the stage signaled what the sweaty throng had been waiting for, Spiritbox. I watched as the roadies and techs started to remove the gear from that stage, amps drums, cables, keyboards, and pedals left the stage in an efficient, practiced order but they kept going, removing everything except a huge blank screen and Spiritbox’s drum kit.

Not an amp to be seen and fewer leads than an unemployed dog walker. The stage looked baron and unfamiliar, more like a stage at a pop show, where the artist sings to a backing track. There was a big empty space, which felt less like a metal show and more like an inspirational speaker was about to come out with a headset mic to sell you a 12-week self-improvement scheme.

As a person of advancing years, I forgot we were living in the damn future, so when Spiritbox hit the stage I was stunned (in a good way), and so, SO impressed. The sound had gone from the mire of thick audible sludge of the first two bands and was now clearer than ice made from nun piss. The huge screen was pumping out visuals and chanting along lyrics and the four members of the band were free and unsheathed by such crass, archaic accouterment as a guitar lead. Singer Courtney LaPlante is an absolute star who fills the stage in much the same way as Paramore’s Hayley Williams. She’s a master at her craft, switching seamlessly between harsh screams and crystal-clear vocals with the skill and accuracy of album recordings.

The crowd has been turned up to 11 and were bouncing like lunatics within seconds of Spiritbox hitting the stage. The band churned out the fan favorites with the same energy as the new music they presented to the applicative crowd. The staging was amazing, the playing was flawless and the crowd was very, very happy. This is the future of our scene. Bold, bright, slick, and technological but still uncompromisingly METAL. 

Overall it was a great night of music and a worthy inclusion in my brain’s memorable gigs file. 



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