With the words “WE DID IT! YOU did it!!” Normandie, consisting of Philip Strand (singer/songwriter), Anton Franzon (drummer) and Håkan Almbladh (guitar), extended their gratitude for the endless support received on their sold out UK tour. With six British dates, five European and another nineteen planned for 2022, the excitement was unreal as day one of the Dark & Beautiful Secrets tour began at The Fleece, Bristol on October 20th, 2021. Originally scheduled for March 29th, 2021, Normandie, who formed in 2013, were supported by Caskets and Thousand Below.
Truly proving emo was never a phase, Leeds-based Caskets (formally known as Captives) kicked things off with a bang! Making as much noise as physically possible following the release of their debut album Lost Souls (August 13th, 2021). Not only did the five-piece throw themselves into the performance but the audience too, thanks to vocalist Matt Flood and a wireless microphone. The post-hardcore band of Craig Robinson (guitar), Chris McIntosh (bass), Benji Wilson (guitar) and James Lazenby (drums) who drowned in emotion, brought up a wealth of conflict that sure made us all feel rich. (8/10)
From its overarching stage and yearning to be heard, Thousand Below cascaded from above to create their very own penderstal. With album three nearing its release, the San Diego, CA quartet consisting of James Deberg (vocals), Josh Thomas (guitar), Josh Billimoria (bass) and Max Santoro (drums) did a wonderful job of blending in older angst with new raw emotion to create a textured setlist that ping-ponged between soft and sad and heavy and catchy, to create the vibe that Thousand Below is the band who can do both. (9/10)
With its punchy intro, I couldn’t imagine a better track to cut the ribbon on the Dark & Beautiful Secrets tour, than its album opener Babylon. Feeling the anticipation in the room (that was shared by both sides of the stage) prior to Normandie’s first appearance at The Fleece in almost three years. In what was a sheep trading market in a previous life, bellowing “BRISTOLLLLLL!…123 GO!” vocalist Strand flocked the audience by asking the question “are you guys ready?”. Encapsulating the meaning behind the song of herd mentality, the crowd answered with the lyric “Are you following or falling out?“. As reflective as the Babylon music video, the thoughts of the room were vocalised, “first headline show in 2 ½ years, it’s so good to be back”.
Coupled with the haze of the smoke machine and the atmospheric orange lighting, feeling like a re-enactment of the music video for Hostage, with sparks found and flames very much ignited, with the outburst of “what a fucking welcome back to the sweds”, the Normandie frontman continued to add gasoline to the evening. Following Awakening from debut Inguz (2016), Strand spoke for us all with “we’re only four songs in and this feels like the best night of my life”. With the assumptive lyric of “I guess i’m not going to heaven now” (Bury Me Alive), peering out from behind the pillared stage (as if it were the gates of hell), like the devil himself the swedish singer protested “I give my life to the sin, But I’m not a sinner” (Chemicals). Not only celebrating the follow up to White Flag (2018) with a mix of all three albums, each of the 14 track ingredients produced a lethal dose of hate and love, which Strand proclaimed “it’s the biggest fucking drug their is right”.
With a score of 9 tracks to 10, it was only right for the evening to belong to third album Dark & Beautiful Secrets, which was released on February 19th, 2021, courtesy of the independent record label Easy Life Records. Putting their whole soul into this self-proclaimed first personal album, screaming “This is for you Bristol”, Normandie gave us everything they had and more. Although Renegade was sadly missed, nothing could deter from an overall perfect ten. Sharing their untold truths, Normandie, otherwise known as “Sweden’s best kept secret”, ended the night with a triple headed encore. With an onslaught of emotions from all three bands, Normandie surrendered with White Flag. With what was a hatrick of a night, it won’t be long until the trio become Sweden’s worst kept secret. (10/10)
Normandie @ The Fleece, Bristol – Setlist:
Bury Me Alive
Thrown in the Gutter
Photos taken by Sabrina Ramdoyal at the Manchester show.