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Opening band on what's been labelled as the 'Lukt Til Helvete' tour are the first of a Norwegian triple-bill, metal experimentalists Vulture Industries. With only one album to date, 2007's critically acclaimed debut, 'The Dystopia Journals', they are largely unknown in the UK, with only one live appearance on these shores prior to this tour. And it seems that, tonight, many of the black metal purists in attendance, who perhaps turned up solely to see Taake, favour drinking at the bar rather than taking the opportunity to discover a new band, for the Underworld's dancefloor is only half full as Vulture Industries appear on stage to commence their set with 'Pills of Conformity'. However, those who watch reciprocate energetically to frontman Bjørnar E. Nilsen's onstage histrionics and, generally, the band's dynamic performance. Attired in a suit (along with other band members), Nilsen's quasi-theatrical showmanship is the focal point of Vulture Industries' live show as he lurches around the small stage with accompanying expressive hand gestures, staring at audience members with a delirious gaze, like Tom Waits gone schizo crossed with a little Devin Tonwsend craziness. And this is so fitting for the music, which in itself conveys a sonically dramatic vibe that many have compared to Arcturus although, albeit similar in parts, I would argue is distinctly different and progressively unique in its own terms. 'A Path to Infamy' is the source of further drama as Nilsen and guitarist Øyvind Madsen engage in dialogic vocal exchanges while I'm pleased they also opt to play 'Grim Apparitions' tonight, closing track from 'The Dystopia Journals'. Tight, entertaining, and musically exhilarating, Vulture Industries are one hell of a live band and, this evening, set a high standard for Helheim and Taake to follow.
Saturday 7th March 2009
Camden Underworld in London, UK
Atmospheric intro music plays as members of Helheim walk onto the Underworld's stage to cheers from the crowd and launch into set opener 'Northern Forces', second track from latest album, 2008's 'Kaoskult'. Playing to a backdrop of Norse-themed film clips, it had been well advertised before this series of UK dates that the band would be touring with a VJ (Gjert from their hometown of Bergen) who mixes projected videos throughout their performance. Visually impressive, it's pleasing to see a band make extra effort in their live show, although I can't help but think how much more impressive this would be on a far bigger stage. Clad in chainmail, Helheim's Viking metal aesthetic is still effective in the 500 capacity Underworld and their music engenders the night's first real pit. Sarcastically introducing one of their older, heavier numbers as a "ballad" causes much laughter in the audience and shows the band also have a humorous side to counterbalance the seriousness of the Viking imagery. However, Helheim's essence is their epic sounding, layered instrumentations, and these are delivered tonight by the metal norsemen with sheer gusto and lapped up by the sizeable crowd present. Impressive.
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Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
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With controversy in black metal somewhat old hat and largely defunct, Taake are one band that seem self-handedly out to perpetuate it, most notably with 2007's infamous Essen show where frontman Hoest appeared with a swastika painted on his chest. Whatever his motivation behind the stunt, it has somewhat backfired on the band in terms of their reputation within the metal scene which even led to Kreator pressurising the organisers of the Karmøygeddon festival to remove Taake from the bill in 2008. However, Hoest has unequivocally stated that "Taake is certainly not a political Nazi-band", and the Essen incident appears to have done their popularity little harm in the UK judging by the rammed dancefloor in the Underworld as they take to the stage. Opening with 'Voldtekt' the venue bursts into action as the largest and liveliest pit of the evening ensues. I have always remained indifferent to Taake's recorded output and have never particularly connected with their brand of black metal although, tonight, I'm somewhat impressed by the energy of their performance as Hoest works the crowd effectively into a frenzied mass of voracious bodies. And, at least for me, the music works far better live than it does recorded. Taake are surprisingly good although, along with Helheim, they fail to better the compelling live showmanship of Bjørnar E. Nilsen and co. However, judging by the positive crowd response to Taake, I'm most certainly in a minority this evening.
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