Knifeworld live review - The Islington, London

Knifeworld and Admiral's Hard challenge the laws of physics at one of London's smaller venues

Knifeworld colourful group against a white background
(Image: © Ashley Jones)

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Performing in small venues can be a bit of a squeeze when there are eight of you, as Knifeworld know. Tonight, they’re giving new meaning to the phrase ‘intimate gig’ with a special acoustic set at a small pub-turned-venue that’s just a short stroll away from Islington’s 02 Academy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the show is sold out, and there are even a few fans sneaking a cheeky peak through the windows.

As the band take their places on stage, the audience’s chatter is stopped by the opening notes of the magical Vision Of The Bent Path. Charlie Cawood’s bass and Emmett Elvin’s keys mean the gig isn’t entirely acoustic, but the songs have been significantly stripped down. The result is an even brighter and more vibrant sound, with Melanie Woods’ co-vocals sounding clearer and warmer than ever, even on this freezing January evening.

The show is a little more sedate than usual; the stage dimensions mean the usually energetic Kavus Torabi is seated throughout. But the frontman doesn’t let that get in the way of engaging with the audience. “I wrote this early last year,” he says, introducing Foul Temple. “I thought we would build an empire out of their bones, but I was wrong… They were the ones building it out of our bones.” Prog hears murmurs of agreement.

Although tonight’s set is mostly based around last year’s Bottled Out Of Eden album, there are a few extra treats. In addition to revived oldies The Prime Of Our Decline and Corpses Feuding Underground, the off-beat Lowered Into Necromancy makes its live debut. It works brilliantly in this personal setting, with a resultant cheer from the crowd. Knifeworld prove they’re just as good unplugged as they are fully charged.

But tonight isn’t just about them. After a short break, Torabi returns to the stage with one of his many side-projects, Admirals Hard. The left field collective specialise in sea shanties and maritime folk songs, and comprise a cast of many, including founding vocalist Andy Carne and North Sea Radio Orchestra’s James Larcombe. At one point, Knifeworld’s horn section even join in, bringing the grand total of musicians on stage to 11, which must surely break some kind of record at The Islington. When not throwing traditional sea shanties from Upon A Painted Ocean into the audio mix, Admirals Hard even dabble in the occasional bit of acid folk, which brings this fun evening to a light-hearted close.

Natasha Scharf
Deputy Editor, Prog

Contributing to Prog since the very first issue, writer and broadcaster Natasha Scharf was the magazine’s News Editor before she took up her current role of Deputy Editor, and has interviewed some of the best-known acts in the progressive music world from ELP, Yes and Marillion to Nightwish, Dream Theater and TesseracT. Starting young, she set up her first music fanzine in the late 80s and became a regular contributor to local newspapers and magazines over the next decade. The 00s would see her running the dark music magazine, Meltdown, as well as contributing to Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, Terrorizer and Artrocker. Author of music subculture books The Art Of Gothic and Worldwide Gothic, she’s since written album sleeve notes for Cherry Red, and also co-wrote Tarja Turunen’s memoirs, Singing In My Blood. Beyond the written word, Natasha has spent several decades as a club DJ, spinning tunes at aftershow parties for Metallica, Motörhead and Nine Inch Nails. She’s currently the only member of the Prog team to have appeared on the magazine’s cover.