Date: September 26th 2018
Venue: Rebellion, Manchester
Support: Enterprise Earth / Kublai Khan / Oceano
2018 has been an arduous year for Utah deathcore kings Chelsea Grin to say the least. In the midst of recording their latest record, ‘Eternal Nightmare’, frontman Alex Koehler left the band to enter rehabilitation and face recovery, and, in his place, the band enlisted Tom Barber of Lorna Shore take to up vocal duties.
Some hard headed metal fans found it to be a difficult transition, with some going as far to say the band needs to change their name entirely to fit with the line-up change. Still, they allowed the music to do the talking, and now they’re touring across the UK and Europe to prove that to the doubters overseas.
Washington’s Enterprise Earth  are making their first visit to the UK on this run, and opening up at Manchester’s Rebellion the pits get going pretty early on. Dan Watson has some pretty infernal vocal chops, as he proved back in his time with Infant Annihilator, and clearly this lot aren’t made with the faint-hearted in mind.
The energy levels get cranked up several notches in time for Kublai Khan  to take to the stage. Now with a decade of experience under their belts having formed back in 2008, the Texan heavy hitters have also managed to bring in a pretty lively fanbase in those ten years too.
Frontman Matt Honeycutt dominates the stage as he barks at the crowd during the likes of ‘B.C.’ and ‘The Hammer’, and Alex Taylor of Malevolence makes a brief surprise appearance during ‘Ghost Pains (Part III)’. Taylor‘s microphone completely cuts out right from the off, and the impact of his arrival is definitely dampened by the time Honeycutt passes his over to him. Still, the speed bump is shortly forgotten as soon as we move on to seething set closer, ‘Antpile’.
It goes without saying that the Illinois deathcore gang Oceano  have cuts that hit you like a slab of concrete to the cranium, but disappointingly tonight it’s more like a slab of bread to the cheek. To top it all off, the worst part is that it comes across more like a sound desk mixing issue that’s letting them down more than anything else.
Adam Warren‘s devilish gutturals and fiendish screams are some of the best in the world of deathcore, but right now they seem condensed, watered down, and restrained in the mix. Of course, the likes of ‘Dead Planet’, ‘Nephilim’, and ‘Lucid Reality’ still sound like they’re hellborne, but when it’s so noticeable that the impact is being pulled back so much, it’s hard to not take note of it.
Menace enters the room and Chelsea Grin  take to the stage simultaneously. Tonight, the Utah four-piece drag us into their eternal nightmare, confidently stacking their set high with their freshest material. We’re dunked headfirst into hellish opener ‘Dead Rose’, and almost instantly newest recruit Tom Barber and his tyrant like roars prove he’s more than capable of filling Alex Koehler‘s long-standing shoes.
Indeed, the band are so confident with their new record ‘Eternal Nightmare’ that they play it from front-to-back to the Manchester crowd, and they feed and draw off it like the record has been out for year when in reality it’s barely a couple of months old. ‘See You Soon’ is a particular set highlight, seeing the amped crowd roar “Graves! Graves!” right back at Barber and co., and ‘Hostage’ also secures itself as a certain future set fixture.
Once the album material is done, they treat the more old school Chelsea Grin fans in the room to the already established cuts, by which point sweat is literally dripping down from the ceiling to the crowd below. ‘Broken Bonds’ still sounds like it was jammed out with Hades in the underworld (shout out to the guy head banging whilst stood on the bar during this one), Enterprise Earth‘s Dan Watson makes a brief return to the stage for ‘My Damnation’, and ‘Playing With Fire’ proves you can definitely craft towering choruses in deathcore.
In a sometimes hard headed metal world, bands in situations and circumstances like Chelsea Grin do have to prove themselves to remain in the high ranks more often than most, and evidently with Tom Barber in their ranks and a new record in ‘Eternal Nightmare’, not only are the Utah boys revitalised, but hungry to show every doubter how wrong they are.