within%20temptation%20-%20tivoli%20april%2005%20frame%20home.jpg about%20-%20jpg.jpg reviews%20-%20jpg.jpg interviews%20-%20jpg.jpg gigs%20-%20jpg.jpg primordial_london_feb2008001002.jpg
Originally formed back in 1998, tonight's opening act, Irish band Mael Mordha, remained unsigned until 2005 when they were picked up by German label Grau for a four album deal. Fairly well known in their home country, they are comparatively unknown in the UK. Appearing on stage around 7pm, the Underworld is already busy with eager fans hungry for some metal. Clad in 9th century 'battle' costumes and war paint, the Irishmen's quasi-theatrical guise is an effective one, and they manage to sustain lively crowd reactions throughout their shortish set, which leaves me wondering if I'd underestimated Mael Mordha's popularity in the UK, or perhaps there's a large Irish contingent in tonight's audience. With compositions that are discernibly influenced by the early 90s doom of Anathema, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost et al, their songwriting, at times, also has a folk-tinged sound not too dissimilar from tonight's headliners. Frontman Roibéard Ó Bogail's vocals, while not entirely in tune, elevates the folkier side of Mael Mordha's music through his earthy delivery, and his occasional use of tin whistle and war horn provides a degree of originality to the band's sound. With such a positive crowd response, Ó Bogail deems the moment appropriate to stage dive into the crowd for the band's closing number, which seems to pump up an already enthusiastic audience further still. Overall, a stunning performance, and with the fast rising global popularity of bands such as Turisas with their own brand of costume folk metal, 2008 could well be the year when Mael Mordha garner more widespread recognition; and it would be well deserved.
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Saturday 2nd February 2008
Camden Underworld in London, UK
Next up are Swedish stoner metal trio Grand Magus. Although not overly familiar with their musical output over the years, frontman Janne 'JB' Christoffersson is more familiar to me through his work as vocalist with Arch Enemy guitarist Michael Amott's sporadic side project, Spiritual Beggars. And after tonight's performance, I must admit that my preference is with the Beggars' take on stoner metal's retro-70s vibe. JB is a skilled vocalist, with a voice that is apposite for the sub-genre within which Grand Magus limit their songwriting, and also a lively frontman that manages to gain at least some response from an otherwise noticeably more subdued crowd than for Mael Mordha. However, I ultimately find Grand Magus a little tiresome after 10 or so minutes, and although they deliver a great performance, tonight, they are not for me.
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Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
And so, onto tonight's main attraction, a rare UK live appearance for Ireland's most famous metal act - Primordial. A few minutes before they are due on stage, the atmosphere within a now hot, sweaty, and rammed Underworld is one of sheer excitement, and as band members take to the stage during tension building intro music, they are greeted with loud cheers. Frontman Alan 'Nemtheanga' Averill appears to even greater crowd enthusiasm, then an almost dramatic pause in the audience's excitement as he proclaims "London...we meet again, huh?", before Primordial launch into 'Empire Falls' which sparks an already pumped up crowd into a frenzied eruption of mosh pit madness. It's an emotionally moving moment, and marks the return of Primordial to the UK with fervent avidity. Nemtheanga gives one of the most intensely passionate performances I've seen from any frontman in a long time, both vocally and visually, as he strides around the stage with boundless energy, occasionally pausing, arms outstretched to stare at audience members with a sinister glance, and delivering every lyric of every song with all the intense sincerity of a man whose sole aim appears to be determinedly conveying the literal, and occasionally, metaphorical polemic within the words he sings. This is never more emphatic than with 'As Rome Burns', a song about the pernicious repercussions the loss of individuality could have in western society where people are 'trapped' within a capitalist-imbued, monolithic mass psyche. Nemtheanga leans into the audience from the edge of the stage to sing directly into the faces of those stood at the front as if communicating a somber warning, before most of the crowd repeatedly chant the alliterative lyric from the song's mid-section "Sing, sing, sing to the slaves; Sing to the slaves that Rome burns", much to Nemtheanga's delight. 'Autumn's Ablaze' from 1998's 'A Journey's End' sounds truly sublime this evening, with its genuinely melancholic depth resonating grandiosely through the PA speakers and achieves an epic magnificence just with guitars, bass, and drums that many other bands strive for but fail to attain by using numerous orchestral backing tracks and prominent keyboards. 'Sons of the Morrigan' from 2002 album 'Storm Before Calm' engenders one of the liveliest crowd reactions of the evening with just about everyone in the Underworld moving vigorously to the song's infectiously rhythmic essence. 2005's 'The Gathering Wilderness' is represented with 'The Song of the Tomb', 'The Coffin Ships', and 'The Golden Spiral', while 'Gods to the Godless' is aired from 1999's 'Spirit The Earth Aflame'. New tracks 'Gallows Hymn' and 'Heathen Tribes' are also played from latest release 'To The Nameless Dead' and sound every bit as good live as they do recorded. With the widespread critical success of the new album, after tonight, I am left with the overwhelming impression that Primordial are also a band in their prime in the live context. Last in the UK back in 2006, also for a one-off show in London, one can only hope there is not such a long wait before they return here again. However, with numerous festival appearances all over Europe planned for spring/summer, billed as the 'Heathen Tribes Festival Tour', there are plenty of opportunities to catch the band later this year. Tonight, Primordial are, quite simply, stunning.
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