What better time for the spooky, horror metal ghouls The Dead XIII to come out of hiding for a tour you may ask, why around Halloween of course. The Manchester based quintet brought the aptly named Bloodlines Tour to the intimate, albeit sweaty upstairs room of Santiago Bar for a classic Friday night of synth, brand new songs and good old-fashioned head banging.
Kicking off the evening were London trio PINUP with a collection of sassy rock songs, guaranteed to get the crowd jumping. Joining the chilling festivities shortly after with a fiercely close following were local hard rock band Fail the Enemy, dressing in the best scary dress for the occasion. Their efforts, particularly on percussion were passionate to say the least. Finally, main support City of Ashes set the stage perfectly with catchy hooks, beautiful melodies and exceptional vocals from singer Orion Powell. This style of unique, emotive rock was surprising set against the harsh and gritty notes of what The Dead XIII have to offer, but the contrast was a wonderfully refreshing surprise.
Squeezing all five souls of The Dead XIII onto the tiny Santiago stage proved a feat in itself, but donned in war paint and blacker than a charcoal painting of a graveyard at night, they graced the stage. With promise of classic New Grave head-bangers and never before heard delicacies, they blasted open with debut album Catacombs classics Frostbite and Lay Siege to Hell.
Vocalist Kurt Blackshard brought new meaning to a haunting stage presence, with his face shrouded in a mist of inky black hair and his gravelly vocals marrying perfectly against the gut busting drums and spine-tingling synth echoing from wall to wall. You couldn’t possibly get more metal if you tried.
What came next was an extraordinary insight into the future of The Dead XIII with new track Dark Days. A distinctive riff with the ability to bring the ultimately deceased back from their slumber rang spectacularly through your ears, continuing throughout this fantastic track. Lead guitarist Ste Mahoney’s epic solos were mesmerising to behold, the perfect balance of heavy, gut busting riffs, yet so intricately executed makes him quite the skilled musician indeed. This is definitely a massive progression in sound from debut album Catacombs, for it is not quite as formidable and imposing, but with more depth than has ever been heard before from The Dead XIII and it’ll be interesting to see what path it leads them down.
New track Play Hell was neatly sandwiched between foot stomping, moshing classics Haunter, Daemons and Catacombs, which proved another roaring success from the adoring crowd. Throughout the night, the synth which makes The Dead XIII so recognisable proved quite overpowering in such an intimate venue. Perhaps if their epic sound were allowed to be unleashed in a larger venue, it would have proved beneficial to the quintet. But this doesn’t mean the sound was diminished in any capacity, it just felt as if it wanted break free from the shackles of the small, upstairs room of Santiago out of the walls, into the bar downstairs and finally, bursting into the outside world. The only way to describe their sound is astronomical, and hopefully we will see them blasting out of the biggest amps in the world in a giant arena one day, such as they deserve.
Closing the night with XIII and The Greatest Mistake definitely brought the already exhilarated crowd even more so to life. Taking turns on the stage stands, Blackshard and guitarist Symon Strange added another dimension of fear looming menacingly over the crowd. This is definitely a band that doesn’t mind to get up close and personal with their fans. It’s not often that a band has a distinctive persona and if you had the privilege to see The Dead XIII live in the flesh, you would definitely remember their faces after you left and even more importantly, how devilishly horrifying their music is, but only in the best way.