Around him, several thousand punters shriek and holler back in delight with almost cultish devotion. Say what you might about the 32-year-old singer, but there’s little denying that he knows how to hold a crowd in the palm of his hand, even on the biggest stages.
The Sheffield pop-metallers are making their bow at the First Direct Arena, their first headline show in the city for half-a-decade, since they played the now-defunct Cockpit. Times have changed since; fifth studio album That’s the Spirit mostly shed their deathcore origins for radio-friendly riffs and took them firmly into the upper echelon of rock, necessitating a trade-up from sweaty clubs to cavernous arenas.
The fact that they have lost none of their frantic potency in making the step into the big leagues is testament to how even with their sharper edges softened, BMTH still pack a visceral punch.
This jaunt comes as a preview run ahead of January’s forthcoming Amo. Only two tracks are rolled out as teasers across a short eighty-minute set; opener Mantra, a crunching slice of electro-rock bedecked with streamer cannons, and Wonderful Life, which Sykes and keyboardist-cum-second vocalist Jordan Fish penned during sessions for a shelved Limp Bizkit album.
The former outshines the latter on a minimalistic stage set-up, beneath a retractable rig that fires off epileptic lighting salvos, but both whet the appetite for what’s to come in the new year.
Elsewhere, it’s bruising, brilliantly entertaining business as usual. The House of Wolves and Go to Hell, for Heaven’s Sake marry hardcore squalls to top-notch pop hooks, Shadow Moses remains operatically unhinged and Happy Song is still a toweringly massive anthem. Sleepwalking’s melancholic electronica must be one of the few songs of its kind that could still strip paint off the walls.
A deviation into a medley of old metalcore cuts proves Sykes can still let loose with his ear-splitting screams when the occasion arises, while a stripped-back solo guitar rendition of Drown recasts it as a shivering torch anthem.
It’s over all too quickly, but as the singer hurls himself into the crowd and surfs around with a kingly imperiousness during the adrenaline rush of closer Throne, any sense of being short-changed dissipates in a circle pit of sensory pleasure. All killer, all thriller.