Black metal’s prodigal son goes awry in London

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Tonight’s lineup might seem an odd alliance of unceremonial upstarts and weathered souls, but it makes for a mixed and up-for-it crowd.

BENIGHTED [7] have the floor bouncing around to the rapidly shifting tempos and alternating death and ‘bree’ grunts, all unleashed with a modern sheen that feels like being interrogated by a host of piledrivers. THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER’s [7] carnival-esque if streamlined death metal instigates a frenzied succession of circlepits. It’s more Halloween on a sugar-high than arcane incantation, but Trevor Strnad’s genial, unimposing presence is an indicator of how easy the band are to assimilate, and how challenge-free. Somewhat more solemn yet ultimately a rousing, emotional journey – not least due to a hooded, chalked-up Alan Nemtheanga, whose role as fiery preacher get more intense with every gig – PRIMORDIAL [9] convert a host of new followers as Where Greater Men Have Fallen’s determined dragging of chains turns them into a wielded weapon. If the PA lacks any punch, those aerated surges of guitar become forged into an electric, immersive atmosphere, a rapt crowd losing their shit as Abbath wanders onstage during an incendiary As Rome Burns, getting a fraternal ‘Cheers, cunt’ from Alan in reply.

Primordial unleash a white-knuckle sermon

Primordial unleash a white-knuckle sermon (Image credit: Ester Segarra)

After all the postponements, dramas and invasions the capital, the moment is upon us, and if the initial wave of adulation is overwhelming, it becomes more an act of will as the night progresses. It doesn’t help that the sound is atrocious, that as ABBATH [5] declares he’s back to huge cheers, the riffs on the new album’s opening salvo of To War and Winters Bane are almost inaudible. The sound quality rarely rises above an indistinct rumble and Abbath is clearly too drunk to pull all his forces together. He slurs through mid-song banter, wanders too far across the stage so his guitar becomes unplugged, misses riffs and generally fails to offer anything like the statement tonight should have been.

There are other issues too – more than half of the set is devoted to the new album, and as visceral and thrilling as the songs are, the density of the lyrics demands far more focus than Abbath can provide tonight, and while King gives his all, the shifted personnel means that their new guitarist looks lost on stage. All Shall Fall does its best to incite a mostly exasperated crowd and final Endless hits a charge, but tonight feels like an opportunity that’s been carelessly thrown away.

Jonathan Selzer

Having freelanced regularly for the Melody Maker and Kerrang!, and edited the extreme metal monthly, Terrorizer, for seven years, Jonathan is now the overseer of all the album and live reviews in Metal Hammer. Bemoans his obsolete superpower of being invisible to Routemaster bus conductors, finds men without sideburns slightly circumspect, and thinks songs that aren’t about Satan, swords or witches are a bit silly.