Malevolence + Sylosis + Guilt Trip + Justice For The Damned @ O2 Institute, Birmingham on 9th November 2023


A package tour proving the future of heavy music is in rude health is currently steamrollering across the UK and stops by Birmingham to demolish the O2 Institute. Hailing from Australia, Justice For The Damned have certainly made the long journey worthwhile and they waste not a single second, dishing out an earth-shaking, nosebleed-inducing sound. Locking in tightly like a series of interconnecting cogs, they soon win over the crowd who require little goading to head bang and clap in unison, whilst final track ‘Pain Is Power’ ensures they won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

Despite their tender years Guilt Trip have put in a decade of hard work and all that graft is starting to pay dividends. The buzz surrounding the band becomes immediately evident when the lights go down and a huge cheer erupts as the band arrive and step to their unique beat. While many of their peers rely on a riff heavy attack, this crew pepper their sound with gnarly solos which brings to mind the crossover vibe of Leeway and the Cro-Mags, and Guilt Trip pack a similar type of punch. But don’t pigeonhole them as some kind of retro act, a set primarily culled from latest album Severance (reviewed here) places them firmly in the present and gets the whole venue bobbing in unison like Hasidic kids rocking the Wailing Wall. Tracks such as ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ and the eponymous ‘Guilt Trip’ hit exceptionally hard, with the latter finding the first crowd surfers crashing over the barrier and sets the bar high for the rest of the evening.

Formed in 2000, and with a string of critically-acclaimed albums under their collective belts, I guess Sylosis can now be classified as “old school” but you’d never guess if your only exposure to the band was tonight’s set. Hitting the stage like a bunch of young whipper-snappers, they’re a raging tornado who fracture sound in every direction and deliver it with a take-no-prisoners ethos. However, the band’s vintage comes to the fore in their pacing, and they deliver a set that ululates perfectly as they hit us with the title-track of 2020 album Cycle Of Suffering before taking us back to 2008 debut long player Conclusion Of An Age and ‘The Blackest Skyline’. Malevolence are headliners secure in their own abilities and always give their supports a fair crack with regards to lights and sound, and Sylosis put it to good use, delivering an epilepsy-inducing light show that perfectly matches their hard-boiled songs. Final track ‘Deadweight’ provides the knockout blow, and one that leaves us all a little punch drunk.

It has been a pleasure to watch Sheffield’s Malevolence rise from small clubs to support slots to headliners, and the most amazing part of that journey is that it has all been done on their own terms. They’ve kowtowed to no one, and with many of these shows on this tour selling out, that’s made their rise all the more satisfying. Of course, it would mean nothing if they didn’t have the tunes to back them up and their set evidences a deep discography into which they can delve. As spotlights pierce the dark and sirens wail, it’s ‘Malicious Intent’ (from new album of the same name) which kicks things off and it turns the crowd in front of the stage into a writhing, seething mass. As with Pantera or Hatebreed, Malevolence are one of those few bands who can make a person lose their sh*t (but in the nicest possible way), this isn’t the kind of music to which you can remain stationary; it demands you move your body and cuts such as ‘Above All Else’ and ‘Higher Place’ instigate plenty of action in the pit. Like an unhinged hillbilly from the Deep South (of Yorkshire) ‘Remain Unbeaten’ makes its presence felt and throws its weight around with the force of a huge wrecking ball. A third of tonight’s set is culled from the band’s latest album, but as that’s such a great record, that’s no real hardship, and it’s a cut from Malicious Intent that brings the curtain down in style with ‘On Broken Glass’ sending all home happy, and with ears ringing.

As Malevolence march on towards global domination, tonight is another sure step. Next stop is festival headliners, me thinks.

Malevolence Set List:

  1. Malicious Intent
  2. Life Sentence
  3. Waste Of Myself
  4. Still Waters Run Deep
  5. Above All Else
  6. Self Supremacy
  7. Higher Place
  8. Serpent’s Chokehold
  9. Condemned To Misery
  10. Remain Unbeaten
  11. Turn To Stone
  12. Wasted Breath
  13. Karma
  14. Drum Solo
  15. Keep Your Distance
  16. On Broken Glass