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Hailing from Tilburg in the Netherlands, and signed to Dutch label Neurotic Records (on which their debut album '...and Kindling Deadly Slumber' was released in March this year), The New Dominion are opening act on Pestilence's reunion tour. Scheduled to play for half an hour, the Dutchmen take to the stage at 7:30pm prompt although, for whatever reason, perform for a full forty five minutes. This is perhaps in their favour as they only seem to get into their stride midway through the set and seem to save stronger material for the last twenty minutes. Combining the sounds of early Dark Tranquillity with a more straightforward death metal dynamic and a touch of post-thrash à la Darkane, The New Dominion are a solid live band, albeit retreading old school death/Gothenburg ground through a series of largely unoriginal tunes. The sparsest of crowds in the Underworld remains completely static throughout as it appears many seem to be saving themselves for Pestilence's long anticipated return. Not too bad at all, although generally derivative and ultimately uninspiring.
Sunday 12th April 2009
Camden Underworld in London, UK
With the venue noticeably busier than during The New Dominion's set, Vreid appear onstage to a larger audience and, judging by the loud cheers, some are perhaps present specifically to see the Norwegians in action. Following the demise of Windir after the band's frontman, Terje "Valfar" Bakken, tragically died of hypothermia in a snow storm at the all too young age of twenty five, Vreid feature three of that former band's musicians - bassist Hvàll (Jarle Kvåle); drummer Steingrim (Jørn Holen); and vocalist/guitarist Sture (Sture Dingsøyr); plus fourth member, and second guitarist, Ese. Playing what's been described as 'Black & Roll', the Norwegians compositional style blends elements of folk, classic rock and black metal to fairly good effect...on record. Tonight, however, I am less taken with their music. Much of the guitar riffing; tempos; and general rhythms lack variety in the main backbone of each song's structure, which somehow seems more emphatic live than recorded. Perhaps I'm simply just not in the mood as I find live renditions of their tracks far more bland than in their recorded format. On the plus side, the Norsemen have a great stage presence and uniformity in their attire makes for an effective visual statement of clanship. Overall, though, unengaging and very disappointing.
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Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
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And so onto tonight's main attraction, the recently rejuvenated Pestilence. Well, that is Pestilence with original guitarist/vocalist Patrick Mameli; axeman of yore Patrick Uterwijk; legendary bassist and 'Testimony of the Ancients' collaborator, Tony Choy; and Darkane sticksman Peter Wildoer. To be honest, that's a lineup I find myself far more excited about than, say, Martin van Drunen returning to vocal/bass duties or Marco Foddis occupying the drum stool once again. With an impressive new album, 'Resurrection Macabre', already under their belts which has thus far generally received glowing reviews, and media hype concerning their 'return', probably helps explain why the Underworld is rammed with sweaty metallers, both young and old, as they walk onto the stage. And before they even play a note, the venue erupts with a cacophony of cheers and yells; a pumped up crowd indeed. First song, 'Devouring Frenzy', opening track from the new album, engenders mass movement in the audience as an intense pit begins which remains unrelenting throughout Pestilence's entire set, including some good old fashioned stage diving and crowd surfing. 'The Process of Suffocation', and 'Chronic Infection' from 'Consuming Impulse'; 'The Secrecies of Horror' from 'Testimony of the Ancients'; 'Chemo Therapy' from 'Malleus Maleficarum', and 'Mind Reflections' from 'Spheres' ensure that established fans of the band are satisfied, whereas the new material receives just as big a response. The likes of 'Horror Detox', 'Fiend', and 'Synthetic Grotesque' sit comfortably alongside the classic Pestilence compositions, proving that Mameli is still capable of penning succinctly hard-hitting and subtly technical songs that work a treat in the live arena. The same can perhaps not be said of his frontman persona. Although oozing confidence, Mameli's between song banter is mainly limited to alternately informing the crowd at frequent intervals how much he loves them, and that he wants to see people smash each other's faces together. His intercommunicative skills have perhaps gone a little rusty in his years away from the scene, although his performance capabilities most certainly have not. Acknowledging mid-set that this is currently "the strongest Pestilence lineup ever", his enthusiasm is irrefutable as he introduces Peter Wildoer as "the best metal drummer in the world" and Choy predictably receives the loudest cheers following Mameli's similar eulogic introduction of him to the audience. And the Choy/Wildoer rhythm section in 2009's incarnation of Pestilence is astonishingly good with both men afforded a solo spot as Darkane's drummer commences an impressive drum solo segueing from the closing bar of 'Hate Suicide' on which Choy joins in with concomitant virtuoso widdlings. Pestilence wrap up their set with an encore of 'Out of the Body' and the crowd cheer and applaud as they exit the stage having delivered a fine slab of both retro and contemporary technical-edged thrash/death. I'm sure many present, including myself, leave the venue hoping that Pestilence's return transpires to be more than an ephemeral exercise in nostalgia. 'Resurrection Macabre' has already proved the contrary so one can only wish for more albums and more live shows.
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