LIVE REVIEW: Polyphia @ O2 Academy Islington, London (15/02/2020)

Credit: Promo

Date: February 15th 2020
Venue: O2 Academy Islington, London
Support: Tides Of Man / Unprocessed
Website: www.polyphia.comk


Being one of the most exciting bands in the instrumental scene, Polyphia manage to garner fans from several musical spectrums.

While they’re all out in their droves tonight to pack out the small upstairs room of the Islington Academy, it’s quite evident that a hefty majority of those in attendance come from the heavier world in which the headliners inhabit.

This is clear from the moment Unprocessed [7] take to the stage. Ripping through an onslaught of technical, progressive metal bangers with a major djent inflection, it isn’t long before the crowd are won over, and bodies are bouncing. While their sound is clear and crisp, the clean vocals of frontman Manuel Gardner Fernandes sometimes come off as flat and poorly delivered, but when taking into account his precise guitar playing ability and energy, allowances are easy to make.

With stage diving antics from bassist David Levy, and the incitement of a wall of death during set closer ‘Fear’, the young German djenters appear to be living their best life while offering a tight set made up predominantly of cuts from last year’s ‘Artificial Void’.

Tides Of Man [8] change the mood completely. By adding a hefty layer of post-rock to proceedings, the Floridian group shift the atmosphere from djenty riffage and growled anthems to a serene, uplifting, slow-burning catharsis. Their sound is impeccable, as it would need to be at a gig of this nature where vocals are near non-existent. Tonight, the music is the communicator, emoting all that need be said.

Their cascading pieces soar through the venue, clutching the hearts of all in attendance. Older cuts like ‘We Were Only Dreaming’ are blended with later material to offer as much of an insight into their growing discography as possible.

The ethereal is exchanged for the intricate once Polyphia [9] hit the stage. Opening with fan favourite ‘G.O.A.T.’, the excitement and energy in the room is palpable as the crowd do their best to sing-along note for note to the noodling, guitar wizardry. The rumble of Clay Gober‘s bass overshadows the delicate, laser-focused guitar work, dominating the first few songs. Thankfully, this is rectified by the end of ‘Saucy’, with impeccable sound for the remainder of the set.

The crowd groove as if attending a hip-hop show, while bouncing like pop-punks and moshing like metal fanatics. Guitarist Scott LePage takes note of the energy, stopping ’40oz’ just before the drop, as his request for crowd surfing isn’t being met. They start the song again with at least seven crowd surfers (as counted by LePage) riding the waves of moving bodies.

The band perform with a swagger, humour, and self-awareness that makes them and their unique brand of trap/hip-hop inspired instrumental rock so endearing. When they speak to the crowd, they growl, swear, and poke as much fun as possible at the overtly serious frontmen often associated with the scene.

The set offers fans, both old and new, a perfect blend of the more traditional instrumental rock found on earlier albums, ‘Muse’ and ‘Renaissance’, and the more current electronic-tinged sounds of ‘New Levels, New Devils’. The midpoint of the show sees the group perform three consecutive songs never played live prior to this tour, with ‘Drown’ being the biggest highlight.

The frenetic start/stop of glitchy single ‘Look But Don’t Touch’ causes the most intense mosh pit of the night, while closer ‘Euphoria’ sends bodies bouncing and swaying in every direction. There’s a true air of positivity and camaraderie, as the crowd belt out the final notes as loud as they can in tandem with the dualling guitars.

An expertly precise, virtuosic performance from easily one of the most likeable, forward-thinking, and talented bands in instrumental music today. Even with some minor technical hurdles, there’s barely an embellishment on what’s practically a perfect set. With their ability, personality and youth, Polyphia seem genuinely unstoppable.