Live Review – Sabbat + Salute, London, 6 November 2012

The first show ever played by Sabbat (Japan) in the UK, this gig had been highly anticipated on the UK kvlt scene for a while. For me, though, this night was mainly about the return of Salute to London, their first show in the capital since Live Evil 2010. The Bristol heavy metal/black thrash sleaze merchants are one of my favourite bands so I was very excited about this gig. Deathhammer were added to the bill a couple of weeks beforehand, which for me was unnecessary but they were opening so it didn’t really matter.

The pavement outside the Bull and Gate was quite crowded by the time doors opened shortly after 8pm, though the bar inside was deserted which was pretty funny. Deathhammer started promptly and launched into playing the same rudimentary old school thrash that I remember from their performances at Live Evil a couple of years ago. The room quickly filled up with a decent crowd and there were obviously a lot of people quite into them. Deathhammer are an outfit who pride themselves on playing back to basics thrash metal, but it just comes off as boring and derivative to me. This style of stuff is quite in vogue with the thrash kids at the moment, which is fine, but their aggressive posture of being “anti-poser” and “anti-trend” is childish and stupid and they should cut it out.

Deathhammer’s set was quite short which was fine by me. The changeover for Salute was sharpish and the room was quite empty when they started, though more people quickly started filing in. The Bull and Gate normally has great sound and atmosphere and thankfully that was the case here. Salute started with a couple of tracks from Above the Law and The Underground and were straight in the groove–utterly headbanging black thrash at its best. This three-piece is an excellent live band and they did not display any rust from their relatively lengthy break from playing live. There was a fair bit of interaction with the crowd from Swine and Kaptain and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. Swine’s unique facial contortions deserve special mention; this is a band that relishes being grim and nasty.

The middle part of Salute’s set saw them introduce some new material, including that featured on the splits with Occvlta and Tangorodrim. The new songs have a slightly different feel to much of their earlier material, going more in the direction seen in Cargo of Loss/Six Deep on The Underground. They’re a bit more down-tempo and atmospheric, and more jagged and unnerving. The new song Achtung was really good and finished with a weird guitar solo that sounded great. I could be wrong, but I get the feeling that the new material is being influenced by Swine’s involvement in Hateful Abandon. It certainly is sounding more hateful and more mature. The new songs were well-received despite the fact they’re maybe not as immediately catchy as the stuff from the previous albums. Salute finished by playing 2 Bit Punk and Hell on Heels which gave the set a really strong closing. It was an excellent and very enjoyable performance.

Like a few other people I was exhausted and drunk by the end of Salute’s set but excited about seeing Sabbat. Unfortunately Sabbat didn’t have any of their hundreds of releases with them, or any merch at all, but we should just be grateful to see them play London I guess. Sabbat are a hugely experienced band and seemed really up for this show, which should be no surprise. Their set was just what you would expect–an utterly old- and original-sounding amalgam of black, thrash and heavy metal. There was still an excellent crowd when I left before the end of Sabbat’s set. Hopefully they found the experience of playing a show in London to be worthwhile.

As a footnote: during the course of the evening, apparently someone pissed inside the venue somewhere they weren’t supposed to. The landlord was unhappy about this, unsurprisingly, and is allegedly using it as a reason to ban and cancel all metal gigs booked to happen there. It’s not the first time this guy has decided metal gigs can’t happen at that venue, and it probably won’t be the last, but hopefully his tantrum won’t go on for too long as the BnG is one of the best venues for metal in London. Maybe it’s time for someone to buy him out?

Originally published on my http://www.blog.co.uk blog on 2012-11-09

Review – VIROPHAGE : Endpoint

The EP ‘Endpoint’ is the debut release of London black metal band Virophage, dating from the end of 2011. It consists of four tracks, spanning almost half an hour, of very accomplished, orthodox black metal. The opener, ‘Human as Infection’–comfortably the shortest of the four songs, though still clocking in at over four and a half minutes–is a clear statement of the band’s intent and musical outlook. Fast-paced and violent, it features ferocious drumming and searing vocals and sets the tone for the rest of the EP.

The EP actually features considerable variety across its four tracks, with frequent changes in tempo, and a couple of sections that almost venture into black/doom territory. These slower parts represent a pleasing change of pace, and serve to accentuate the aggression, particularly the blasting percussion, featured elsewhere in the recording. ‘Annihilation’ begins with a surprising but catchy bass riff that sounds almost like something from The Sisters of Mercy. Predictably for anyone familiar with The Watcher’s other projects, there are a number of memorable riffs and passages here that really stand out.

Indeed, the quality of this release comes as no surprise. The Watcher (Fen, Skaldic Curse) takes on duties for guitars and vocals, and Havenless’s drumming is also very impressive. The release is also notable for the quality of the bass lines, which to me seem unusually prominent and memorable for this style of black metal. They really add a great deal to the overall product.

This is a refreshing release, a singularly nasty and intelligent exemplar of misanthropic black metal. Every other metal band these days seems to want to put a ‘progressive’ spin on one genre or another, but ‘Endpoint’ provides an excellent example of a highly talented band channeling their ability to create a focused, but complex, expression of traditional black metal.

Having seen them play a few times, Virophage’s material translates very well into a live setting. It is perhaps strange, considering the quality of the material and the pedigree of the band, that they have not yet attained more recognition. This will surely come with time, and I’m very much looking forward to their next release.

8/10

Band page here: http://www.facebook.com/virophage

Originally published on my http://www.blog.co.uk blog on 2012-11-04

Review – ACHREN : The Forgotten King

I picked this album up after seeing Achren playing one of the recent, free Nocturnal Lust shows at the Dev in Camden. The sound at the Dev is usually pretty bad–even bands I know and like tend to sound ropey there–but Achren sounded great, so I figured they must be good. They’re a well-established band from Glasgow, and they must not play London very often as otherwise I should have known about them before now.

Achren have a compelling live energy which translates well into this album, ‘The Forgotten King’, dating from 2011. They describe their style as ‘Blood Metal’, but to me it is basically black/thrash with vocal stylings common to thrash and death metal. They remind me a bit of Acral Necrosis, the excellent blackened thrash band from Wigan.

The songs on this album are generally pretty short; only a couple are over four minutes long, and the album clocks in at about half an hour. There is generally quite an upbeat/sleazy feel to many of the songs and there are some memorable hooks. Every instrument gets a chance to shine; there is a good guitar sound with some decent soloing, and some memorable bass lines. Stand out songs are the opener, ‘Impaled’, and also ‘Manuel’s Mile’, a slower number with some good melody. The last track, ‘Pestilence’, is probably the most black-metal song here and also one of the best.

The standard of writing and musicianship here is pretty high, but there are a few questionable moves, such as the spoken word section on the title track, and the odd drum solo that starts one of the songs. Also, it should be noted that people who take themsleves and their music super-seriously might be put off by the fact these guys have a sense of humour and aren’t afraid to show it. But Achren are definitely one of the better UK bands I’ve discovered this year; this album is worth checking out (though I’m used to picking up this type of release for less than the tenner this cost me), and they are also essential to see live. Hopefully they’ll return to London soon.

7/10

Check them out here: http://en-gb.facebook.com/achrenmetal

Originally published on my http://www.blog.co.uk blog on 2012-11-04