For all the handwringing over what’s going to sustain the next generation of metal bands, it’s easy to turn your nose up at the acts offering a guideline, whose bare-knuckle dedication to the dark arts hasn’t wavered either in terms of potency or pulling power. With a collective experience of 65 years between them, tonight’s headline acts may have very different takes on death metal but they share a unifying spirit that’s packed the Underworld full of loyal, expectant fans, ready to lose their shit even when IMMOLATION  kick off with a new track, The Distorting Light. The New Yorkers may have a sleeves-rolled, blue-collar mentality typical of the East Coast, but there’s an inherent sense of supernatural oddness about them still. Their opening gambit pummels riffs until they squirm into an atonal ooze, all the rampaging parts fitting together in a fashion no rational mind could conceive while Ross Dolan’s vocals are an off-kilter incantation, as though he’s moulding some misbegotten intelligence from the ever mutating whorl around him.
The one-two punch of the classic Close To A World Below album openers Higher Coward and Father, You’re Not A Father send the crowd into raptures, all swirling miasmas and palpitating rites as Robert Vigna swings his guitar stiffly like he’s tuning it into a host of unholy frequencies. If the triggered blasts threaten to override the spell, their resemblance to a malfunctioning machine only adds to the oddness, as Immolation itself and closing Epiphany dig deep into the metal strata to draw out a potent and tempestuous power that makes fullest sense in the most ecstatic of states.
Polish veterans VADER  are more regular visitors to these shores, but that hasn’t thinned the crowd any, and if their less sulphur-mottled, more route-one approach doesn’t have quite the same bewildering effect, songs new and old are greeted like eve-of-battle sermons. An opening Tempest and groove-laden Triumph Of Death, awash with monstrously sawing riffs, are warped with riotous thrash DNA while Dark Age erupts with imperious, old-school abandon, but the Underworld is in full-on celebration mode tonight, raising fists to charismatic, leathercladfrontman Piotr Wiwczarek as death metal’s abiding power gets charged up once more.