Saturday, March 2, 2024

In Flames, Norma Jean, Light The Torch at Manchester o2 Ritz

Before the first band came on the venue was packed with fans and the atmosphere was infectious. We were in for a night of mosh pits, crowd surfers and head banging, as In Flames, Norma Jean and Light The Torch took over the O2 Ritz in Manchester.

light the torch
Light The Torch | Photos by Chris Ryan Photography

The lights dimmed and the crowd were screaming, everyone’s on their feet including the upper floor as Light The Torch hit the stage. They kick off the set with ‘The Bitter End’ from their album Revival, with the crowd singing back every word. The next song up is ‘Calm Before The Storm’ which gets another huge crowd response. I am blown away by the power of Howard Jones’s (ex lead singer of Killswitch Engage) voice and how the whole band gives you chills. The song finishes and Howard starts what I can only describe as sniffing the air, and says “Smells like there is good people out there”, crowd cheers, he goes onto say that Manchester is one of their favourite places to be. After ‘Lost In Fire’ and ‘Virus’ is played Howard asks with a smile “Do you like it heavy” the crowd responds with a thunderous cheer and guitarist Francesco Artusato, drummer Mike “Scuzz” Sciulara, and bassist Ryan Wombacher jump into action. ‘Consume The Damned’ is played and it is much heavier than the other songs in this set, but it showcases the whole bands talent. We are approaching the end of the set and at the end of every song the crowd is screaming and cheering, just looking at the bands faces you can see that this means everything to them. To end this incredible opening band play ‘Die Alone’. As the crowd have done throughout the set they sing at the top of their lungs. The set finishes and I am blown away, this band is incredible, they have set the tone for the night! Next up is Norma Jean.

Norma Jean
Norma Jean | Photos by Chris Ryan Photography

Norma Jean are a metalcore band that have been around since the early 2000’s and have had numerous lineup changes however this has not changed their fan base which going by tonight’s turn out is still very big. Cory walks on stage and says “We are the Almighty Norma Jean” and they kick off their set with ‘I. The Planet’. A hard and heavy hitting song with growling vocals from lead singer Cory Brandan, epic guitar riffs from dual guitarists Philip Farris and Jeff Hickey, gut hitting bass lines from John FInnegan and hard hitting drums from Clayton Holyoak. Next song is ‘Everyone Talking Over Everyone Else’ from their album Polar Similar. During the third song of their set a large mosh pit opens up in the centre of the crowd, roughly around 15/20 people. As the set goes on, the band very rarely interact with the crowd and focus solely on the music they’re playing and rehydrating after each song. It’s not a bad thing that there isn’t much interaction just different to what I have seen over the years. At the end of the third to last song Cory kicks his water bottle into the crowd and this gets a cheer from the crowd, and causes a few more empty cups to be thrown around between the crowd. The closing song is ‘Deathbed Atheist’, a very heavy fast paced song that causes an even bigger mosh pit to open up in the middle of the crowd. The set finishes to another water bottle thrown by the band into the crowd. Overall a very good band and a good way to lead onto the headliners In Flames.

In Flames
In Flames | Photos by Chris Ryan Photography

In Flames are a Swedish heavy metal band, that started back in 1990, they are one of only three bands that are responsible for the genres known as Swedish death metal and melodic death metal. At 9:25 the lights go out, the fog machine is on and the crowd erupts into a wall of noise, and green lights on the sides of the stage show the band. They start with ‘Voices’ the song isn’t even half way through and there are pits, people jumping up and down, crowd surfers, the lot. I was stood at the side and I was even being carried forward in a sea of people. Lead singer Anders Fridén voice gives you chills! Andres says to the crowd We encourage mosh pits and crowd surfers” the crowd roars back. After ‘Pinball Man’, Andres addresses the crowd again and says “You guys are too quiet”, the crowd screams and shouts back. As we take the trip through their many years of successful hits, with songs ‘Where The Ships Dwell’, ‘Monsters Ballroom’, ‘Here Until Forever’, and ‘The Chosen Pessimist’. During every song pits are opening up left, right and centre, and crowd surfers popping up every few seconds. As we continue in the back catalogue ‘Leeches’ come on to a surge of people rush to the front, I am pulled in with them! The atmosphere is alive with people shouting the lyrics back, jumping up to be crowd surfed, I have never been to a more alive gig! Even though In Flames do have an extensive amount of songs, they did play one of their newest tracks ‘I Am Above’, this goes over very well with the crowd, who are still singing back every word. As the set ends we are hit with three of their most famous tracks, each one making more of an impact than the last. Third to last was ‘Cloud Connected’, onto my personal favorite song ‘Mirrors Truth’ and to close the set with ‘The End’.

In Flames
In Flames | Photos by Chris Ryan Photography

What I did notice which I thought was such a great thing to see was the lead guitarist Björn Gelotte smiling during every song and looking at the crowd, in fact the whole band had huge smiles on their face during the whole set. If you ever get a chance to see In Flames live, I strongly suggest that you go. It is a not to be missed event, you will be smiling for days and aching from head banging.

In Flames
In Flames | Photos by Chris Ryan Photography
I am a music reviewer based in Manchester UK. I am also an alternative model.

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