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Monday 22nd October 2012
Camden Underworld in London, UK
Reviews by Rhiannon Marley; Photography by Mark Holmes
First to ignite are fellow Nordics Ørkenkjøtt. A whirlwind of African beads, glittery jackets and stripy shirts, they're a costumed powerhouse that sees tambourines as abundant as tomfoolery. And with a band moniker meaning Desert Meat, I'm half expecting a camel carcass to come flying from backstage. Modal riffs and slap-bass are split with alternative rock, laced with ethereal croons and death growls. Singer Mikael Haukeland dons a shepherd's robe throughout, and wields a fake rifle as 'Redneck Randy' by the end of the set: complete with lumberjack shirt, Skynyrd baseball cap and foghorn. Wide-eyed bouts of onlookers surround; you can hear the chaos three minutes before you see it. One guitarist flings himself onto the floor at my feet, as sirens wail and they pretend to molest one another onstage. Though the anarchy is a little much to stomach, they're a wild barrel of fun, and the closing jazz jam between drummer and bassist confirms terrific musicianship. It's the perfect marriage between atmospheric experimentation and rock n' roll. You want madness? Avoid disappointment: head to an Ørkenkjøtt gig.
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Andorran six-piece Persefone turn the tables. Their brand of progressive death with touches of metalcore takes the mood down a couple of rungs towards the more commercial end of the ladder. Pummelling tremolos are matched by beetroot-faced vocalist Marc Martins' aggression; looking like he's withstanding a 450-volt current running through him, he's a diminutive firecracker. Mostly male heads nod along, though younger chaps are more enthralled than 50-something prog buffs in Rush-circa-Moving Pictures tees. Darth Vadar's theme is slung out on twin axes, and fellow support Loch Vostok's bassist (also Rasputin's doppelgänger) is roped in halfway through. Persefone blast a canon of tasty riffs, furious galloping rhythms and sweep-picking, upping the pace and giving their all. Although a little technically ambitious for what can be delivered live, fluffed notes see compensation in performance and fans of denser waters will love them. Plus, if the tendons in Martins' neck don't snap before the end of the tour, we can rest assured that miracles aren't out of the question.
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Between the Buried and Me at The Underworld in Camden, London, UK, 22nd October 2012
Photograph copyright © 2012 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
After a few minutes' break, Swedish melting pot Loch Vostok command the now-heaving joint. Through beards and brutality, the leather-clad gents throw down classic metal rhythms, juicy riffs and reverb-soaked pipes of Teddy Möller. Numbers vary from melodic to more extreme; onlookers bear tight-lipped expressions of assessment during heavier moments. Yet Möller defends FM-friendly cuts such as 'Navigation' against the odd raised eyebrow: “I know it's fucking cheesy, but it's cool”... Their denser tunes suit their 'cavemen's conference' get-up better, and suggest more interesting creative roots. As it is, Loch Vostok are a collage of influences, with a seasoned sound and strong demeanour. As final drinks are purchased before the headliners, they're a solid last warm-up and addition to the bill, who make for quality listening experience.
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Hands clutching plastic glasses close in around me, as two screens are brought onto the stage. Lights dim, and Film Noir-esque images fill them: cars down a motorway; Vaseline wiped over a mouth and teeth; scissors chopping roses; a prawn being viciously chomped. Eerie keyboards inflate, as Leprous convulse into view in a haze of scarlet smoke. Decked in black and crimson suits and nuclear energy, they fling themselves spring-heeled around the stage, faces contorted like possessed mad professors. Frontman Einar Solberg tosses dreadlocks back, unleashing Bilateral's 'Forced Entry'. Long-haired metallers and middle-aged women are treated to career-spanning highlights, including 'Restless', 'Dare You' and 'Waste of Air', alongside new track, 'Coal'. Beautiful encore cut 'Acquired Taste', with its powerful chorus, Einar's falsetto and haunting keys, concludes the night on a particularly emotive note. For this, Einar performs as vocalist alone, without his keyboard, as myself and hypnotised others physically react in synaesthesia to each sustained vibrato and unexpected note. One guy rolls his head around so much, he's either trying to loosen it, or running on a broken clockwork motor.

Blending technical skill and cinematic ambience, Leprous are a compelling enigma. Irreverent and original, their Columbus exploration of musical terrain fuses alternative, progressive and at times balls-out metal, fuelled by surrealist vision. On record, they're terrific, but the visual dimension has rocketed them tenfold further in my estimations. Their confidence in assuming headline role is poised and Pringle-crisp: the product of craft and mesmerising passion. I've not enjoyed a gig as much from all perspectives in a long time. And, as a chanting and belly-roaring crowd affirms, I'm not the only one.
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When attending the first headline tour of a band who think genres are nothing more than man-made rubbish, what kind of line-up can you expect? Varied? Unpredictable? The sonic equivalent of the Surrealist Manifesto? Actually, a bit of all three. A cauldron of alternative, progressive death, melancholic and the scope of Leprous themselves, is set to bewitch the Underworld this eve. And as flag-flyer for a pinch of insanity, I’m here to see what weirdness it casts.

I'm a new fan of the leading Norwegians, but a veteran lover of prog. Tonight is the London leg of the European Progressive Assault tour, and it's being filmed by some beanie-hatted fellow on the upper level of the venue. Early-comers are as diverse as the ear-candy. Teenage boys in Download t-shirts, middle-aged prog intelligentsia, and a clan of emo-goths who look like Gerard Way's pack of chihuahuas are scattered around the bar. There's time to grab a pint and head down to the stage, as a barely-pubescent Wednesday Addams hands me some leaflets by the cloakroom.