Babymetal / Amaranthe / Sleep Token (Live Review – Brixton Academy, London, July 2 2019)
Brixton Academy has been one of the greatest venues in London for decades. A staggering number of history’s greatest musicians have taken the stage in full view of an audience guaranteed a great view thanks to the gently sloping floor, and smashed their shows out of the park. Babymetal (10/10) are one of the best live groups out there in 2019, and their set in London this week served to solidify an already formidable reputation.
Long before the headliners made their entrance, Sleep Token (9/10) brought their own signature brand of theatricality to the table. Sleep Token have been on a consistent upward trajectory ever since they first emerged back in 2017, putting out an ever-lengthening string of indie-djent bangers while successfully leaping from highly respected independent label Basick Records to the major-backed Spinefarm. Referring to their gigs as “rituals” dedicated to the worship of a godlike figure named “Sleep”, Sleep Token managed to make a slew of notable festival appearances (including Download, Tech-Fest, and Reading and Leeds) before they’d played even ten shows, and proved themselves worthy of the Brixton Academy stage from the moment they appeared.
Masked, clad in hooded cloaks, and ready with a series of new songs beginning with recent single “The Night Does Not Belong To God”, Sleep Token quickly whet the appetites of early arrivals and existing fans who already know that upcoming full-length Sundowning is going to be ridiculously sick. Considering how quickly Sleep Token’s career has progressed, and the quality of their output on all fronts from day one, it’s impossible to witness this kind of event and not wonder who Sleep Token actually are. They’re clearly not inexperienced have-a-go amateurs, and their enigmatic image could easily conceal a recognisable face or two. The mystery continues – but what really matters is that Sleep Token can hold their own both live and on record.
Despite their mutual appreciation for theatricality and showmanship, there’s still a considerable gap between Sleep Token and Babymetal – and Amaranthe (8/10) filled it expertly. Fronted by no fewer than three vocalists, the decade-old melodic metal unit struck an ideal balance between heavily rehearsed stage moves and in-the-moment spontaneity, reacting to their fans in real time while sprinting through a career-spanning setlist. A few more songs from last year’s Helix album would’ve been cool, but other than that, not many complaints could reasonably be raised here.
You’ve already seen the score for Babymetal, so it won’t be too surprising to hear that they nailed it. No serious metal fan is even remotely unaware of who Babymetal are; they’ve been unavoidable for over half a decade, and have long passed the point where they could legitimately be considered veteran performers. Babymetal have pretty much done it all, having played arena shows across the world – including a headlining show at Wembley back in 2016 – while edging toward a million Facebook followers and almost 375 million YouTube views, adding to a long line of achievements in both physical and digital realms. As always, their combination of choreography, flamboyance, and super-tight musical skills remain untouchable – and the Brixton Academy crowd maintained constantly ecstatic energy levels while dancing and moshing to a set primarily made up of big-name singles like “KARATE”, new cut “PA PA YA!!”, and “Gimme Chocolate!!”.
When you put a lineup like this together, you’re guaranteed a good time – and whoever came up with it should be highly commended for their service not just to the 5,000 people in attendance, but to music itself.
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