Few bands could claim to have as meteoric a rise as Spiritbox has over the last two years or so, with their debut album Eternal Blue (2021) hitting either the top spot or a worthy runner-up in album polls by publications such as Metal Hammer, Kerrang and Revolver. Straight off the back of their UK debut at Download Festival, with a crowd spilling out the sides of the Avalanche Stage’s tent, they play a two-night run of sold out (both sold out in less than a minute, no less) at London’s O2 Academy Islington – we were there to catch the second.
Openers tonight are Vexed, whose progressive metal with deathcore stylings suits a larger stage than when catching them earlier in the year supporting In Flames – the guitar work of Jay Bacon cuts through from precise chugs to tapped lead work, whilst Megan Targett’s energy is endless as she bounces from gutturals, blasted high pace scream delivery and pleading cleans. A consummate performance and a fitting start to the evening.
Main support comes from Leeds alternative metallers Caskets – with their style harking back to the golden era of metalcore and post-hardcore crossover in the mid-2000s. Marrying catchy songs with non-stop movement from the entire band on stage; bassist Christopher McIntosh dropping to his knees mid-song (a rare moment without a beaming smile), and vocalist Matt Flood bounding and covering every square inch of the stage, ensuring no audience member goes without eye contact. There’s a wonderfully polished sheen that comes across even live in their music, bringing their nostalgic feel up to the modern era and striking a chord with all in attendance.
Entering the stage to screams drowning out the backing intro to “Circle With Me,” Spiritbox takes a hero’s welcome before they’ve even begun – and when Courtney LaPlante bellows “CUT DOWN THE ALTAR” to open the track proper, it feels that the Canadian three-piece (plus Josh Gilbert formerly of As I Lay Dying on bass duties) have come with the intention of levelling the venue. It’s barely a minute before the photographers in the pit are dodging security, catching the first of many crowd surfers crossing the barrier as the opening track proceeds with an energy that cannot be contained.
Moving swiftly through an opening trio from Eternal Blue, the band is flawless – Gilbert offers backing vocals very occasionally, but the hypnotic LaPlante takes centre stage with a vocal delivery that brings both some of the strongest screams and cleans I’ve witnessed live, married with a charismatic performance. She apologizes for being less mobile than normal due to a sprained ankle from the prior evening, causing some songs to be sung from sitting in a fitting blue throne-like chair on stage, but for those tracks on her feet, the lack of mobility is entirely unnoticed. Guitarist Mike Stringer spends more time headbanging than not – even during the more complex guitar parts – and it’s a testament to their professionalism how much their tone live sounded like that on record.
Towards the end of their set, LaPlante invites Harper (a 10-year-old girl who screamed her way through “Holy Roller” on America’s Got Talent recently) to join them for the song for which she’s known – and between the two of them, they slay one of the heaviest tracks on the album from start to finish. It’s another perfect moment on what’s been a set full of perfection – the energy on stage and in the audience, the sound itself both through performance and mix, and the overarching feeling of anticipation and hype paying off in full. These three UK shows may be Spiritbox’s first over here, but they certainly won’t be their last – expect huge things in the future.
1. Circle With Me
2. Hurt You
4. Rule of Nines
6. Silk in the Strings
8. Blessed Be
9. Secret Garden
10. Mara 3
11. Holy Roller
12. Eternal Blue