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To the average metaller this is a standard death metal bill but to the well-rounded death metaller, this concert is a showcase of a wide variation of death metal styles. Opening the night is Germany’s Hackneyed. Curiously, this band was instantly signed to Nuclear Blast for the release of their debut full-length ‘Death Prevails’ without any proper records to their name prior to this. The entire band line up is under eighteen too so the expectation is fairly high to warrant them to join one of the biggest metal labels around. The young metallers look reserved and shy on stage although the frontman bolsters a substantial level of confidence. The music is average, modern death metal with smatterings of metalcore influence but nothing as conspicuous as a breakdown. Creative ideas are missing and the music is lacklustre at best. Drummer Tim Cox truly needs to tighten his drumming as a lack of consistency proves problematic for him. The majority of the audience remain resolutely uninvolved, simply tolerating the Germans. Hackneyed are decent players for their age overall but they clearly need more experience and creative ideas to be a serious consideration for the future of death metal. Perhaps they should have waited until they became even more proficient at their instruments and generally garnered more experience before forming a band.
Tuesday 15th December 2009
Scala in London, UK
This was to be Ulcerate’s first show outside of New Zealand with two full-length efforts to their name. Their brand of death metal can be described as a technical death metal version of Neurosis. The guitar is thick and relentless, never veering into the frequently travelled path of riff salad that renders plenty of tech death totally forgettable due to the overdose of complexity. The beauty of a band like Ulcerate is that they are very capable of shoving a hundred brain-bending riffs into a single minute but they choose not to. Death metal passages are bisected by melodic, thoughtful moments that are purposefully uncomfortable which is something that should be less transparent in death metal. The vocals of frontman Paul Kelland are a point of strife, sounding far too abrasive and hollow while detracting from the band’s high level of experience. A more standard, lower death metal growl would have tied the package up perfectly. Additionally, some interaction between each of the band members would prove beneficial for this four-piece as opposed to remaining isolated in their own spots on the stage. They had a vocalist previous to Kelland (who also handles bass) so perhaps they should reintroduce someone who can deal with vocals exclusively to allow the band members to appear more dynamic live. Nonetheless, they manage to satisfy the spectators and hopefully win over some new converts given their unique sound that proves death metal is not entirely explored yet. This is a much better contender for death metal’s future than the openers.
Reviews by Elena Francis
A departure from modern death metal signals the arrival of Grave’s set. Opening with fan favourite ‘You’ll Never See’, the onslaught of classic Swedish death metal begins. Blazing, buzz-saw riffs slice and dice through the venue while the band maintains an austere stage presence. The first batch of crowd surfers for tonight appears during their set as they hack through further classics such as ‘Turning Black’ and ‘Soulless’. Of course, the band does not forget to promote their highly acclaimed ‘Dominion VII’ which is received with equal enthusiasm. Frontman Ola Lindgren looks incredibly intimidating and appears to have the audience immediately under control, which suggests that Grave’s frequent playing of the UK over the past couple of years has finally paid off. However, he does bluntly remind the crowd that they have had twenty years to familiarise themselves with these Swedish death metal legends. Closing with ‘Into the Grave’ (with Lindgren repeating the title enough times for everyone in the room to remember at least one thing about Grave), a roadie runs on stage and bizarrely enough sings Black Sabbath’s ‘Black Sabbath’ over the slower passage near the start of the track for a short while before leaving and allowing Grave to launch into the main body of their frenetic tune. This song receives the grandest ovation and when Grave leave the stage, the congregation is simply pleading for more old school Swedish death metal.
The bludgeoning continues as the level of brutality is increased. Swedish chainsaw riffs are exchanged for heavier, blood-drenched hammers as the Brazilian three-piece, better known as Krisiun, batter the audience with intensive brutal death metal. With fewer members on stage and bassist Alex Camargo tied to vocal duties, Krisiun are not particularly exciting to look at and the Scala stage does indeed look worryingly bare. As the set marches on, the crowd becomes slightly less enthusiastic due to the musical limitations of Brazil’s most successful contribution to brutal death metal. Nonetheless, working their way through odes to carnage including ‘Bloodcraft’, ‘Vicious Wrath’, ‘Murderer’ and selections from the much loved ‘Southern Storm’ album from last year, these brothers have already won over the audience even if their response to the trio is not as animated as their reaction to Grave was. Solos by guitarist Moyses Kolesne are achieved with enviable precision and instantly, all heads turn to him at the far left-hand side of the stage whenever he displays his virtuoso mannerisms. Drummer Max Kolesne handles battery with great endurance and remains consistent throughout the set. It is hard not to resist Camargo’s camaraderie during stage banter, inviting the audience to drink beer, smoke weed and numerous other metalhead clichés which he means without any hint of irony or self-mockery. Vacating the stage, Krisiun leave behind them a strong but not flawless performance.
Beginning their show with ‘Kafir!’ from their latest album ‘Those Whom the Gods Detest’, Nile immediately excite the audience with a taste of things to come. As the chorus of “There is no god but god!” arrives, the band is nearly drowned out by the fan’s crooning. The new material features Egyptian inspired melodies substantiated by conventional technical death metal executions as opposed to the usual frantic, idiosyncratic technical barrage Nile employ. The lengthy ‘4th Arra of Dagon’ and ‘Permitting the Noble Dead to Descend to the Underworld’ are further ambassadors for the new full-length and are digested with great gusto. A return to the death metal favourites that the fans anticipate seeing and Nile bless the audience with such prime cuts as the dynamic ‘Lashed to the Slave Stick’, the dark ‘Black Seeds of Vengeance’ and the sleek ‘Sacrifice Unto Sebek’. From the particularly brutal debut, ‘Serpent Headed Mask’ intensifies the madness and from the penultimate album ‘Ithyphallic’, the crowd are delivered the awesomely titled ‘Papyrus Containing the Spell to Preserve it’s Possessor against Attacks from He Who is in the Water’, which injects a thick groove into the headbanging routine. The American death metal icons are frequently criticised for not putting on as lively a death metal show as others but considering the fact that all three standing members perform growled vocals (including live bassist Chris Lollis), and the music commands a dexterous knowledge of each instrument, a fair amount of headbanging seems enough to expect. Watching drummer George Kollias maintain such incredible speeds and a high level of technicality is astounding. The closing anthem is ‘Cast Down the Heretic’ which unites the crowd in its sing-along ending. A typically blink-and-miss-it number, the show concludes far too soon and despite the audience praying for more Ithyphallic death metal, Nile take no encore. Nonetheless, this was a great death metal show and such line-ups are uncommon in England, usually tainted with useless deathcore bands.