VEIL OF MAYA + Betraying the Martyrs + Vildhjarta + Structures. Sub89, Reading. 02.05.12

This seems like a complete tour. The sort of package they don’t put together anymore. Four bands, a common sound, all rare visitors to the UK, it should be great. But tonight is far from perfect.

Canadian quintet Structures have some truly classy elements to their sound, a genuine progressive edge, but they opt for all out war tonight. Whatever Spyros Georgiois is doing with his guitar is not making it through Sub89’s speakers. A sort of simple sledgehammer heaviness emerges instead and while it gets heads nodding as it booms around the room, as the night wears on, with every band unleashing a similar onslaught, it gets increasingly difficult to recall. On another night Structures could slay, this is not that night.

Vildhjarta have even less redeeming features. Despite having six dudes on stage (including two vocalists making much the same noise) and being the most straight-up metal band of the bunch, they sound sparse, staccato and flat. You can hardly blame them for looking bored. The textured crunch of ‘Disease’ works well but there are only brief flashes of the band these Swedes could be.

Betraying the Martyrs are the best act of the night. The only band to sound better live than they do on disc. Their energy is unlimited and infectious, inspiring proper moshing for the first time, and, actually making full use of their six members, the French outfit sound massive too. If frontman Aaron Matts is a wrecking ball, dominating the stage and unleashing the best low growls of the evening, then keyboard player and clean vocalist Victor Guillet is a live wire, adding depth and dynamism (and also appearing to have more fun than anyone ever has) without ever being distracting.

Veil of Maya are tame by comparison. The Chicagoans have been going for almost a decade now so should be able to steal a show like this in their sleep but they never once explode. Sure, Wednesdays in Reading are not the most exciting of times but even when playing killer material like ‘Punisher’ and ‘Unbreakable’ the band seem sleepy, sloppy and uninspired. Frontman Brandon Butler either isn’t trying or just doesn’t have the power to recreate his recorded screams, relying on a lot of reverb to get the job done, and the band behind him put in a workmanlike performance at best. Far from a complete tour, or celebration of a scene just now maturing then, this was an underwhelming evening. Reading will see better shows, all of these bands will have much better nights.

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