So a lovely sold out show at the Underworld meant it was going to prove fun doing normal things like seeing the bands, getting to the bar and loo and as for taking photos. … Luckily this was a very civilised crowd unlike the one the night before at Deicide who I was told by quite a few people had some people behaving like animals in a zoo.
First up are two supporting British bands who are well deserving of their place on this tour and no strangers to us. On getting into the venue Ancient Ascendant are well into the swing of things and have a nice meaty sound to match their bruising demeanour. A very heavy deathly bombast chugged through the venue and the sound was a lot more brutal than when I last caught them doing a more groove orientated set at the Unicorn recently. It was a Grim Awakening of the senses and that pun should be brutally taken outside and kicked around but it woke us up admirably and although the crowd were not throwing themselves into it they were looking suitably impressed and no doubt the band were gaining new fans. The underlying guitar technicality took this way beyond simple meat and potatoes battering and chops were laid out with finesse. Another dynamic focus is the skilful hair twirling matching the velocity of the music, it is a skill that should be mentioned as how you stop without being dizzy and falling over is beyond me (as is hair so I can’t really try). The words Bathory and ‘Flash Of The Silverhammer’ were met by a hefty roar and by final song ‘The Path To Heaven’ the Reading mob had certainly left their mark.
It does seem like Winterfylleth are playing almost every week but it has paid off and the band seem to be picking up more fans each time and really putting themselves up as contenders to wearing the crown of a UK Black metal scene which really needs some royalty. The crowd were packed in and it is obvious that many are here tonight to see this lot although they have to wait momentarily for the full explosion as the folk etched pagan delight of Children Of The Stones is the intro wafting out the speakers. The lush dreamy tones are obliterated in a deluge of layered noise as the band power into things and to say this lot are fast and windswept is no understatement. Whatever vantage point you have chosen in the venue the focus is designed to pretty much take your head off and as it spreads the crowd react to the triumphant swagger of songs like The Svart Raven a number particularly dedicated to anyone from West Yorkshire down here tonight. With plenty of passion for our green and pleasant land and our heritage before man took over polluting it all with greed and corruption you can close your eyes and dream as the clamouring fervour sweeps over you. The crooning vocals accentuate singer Chris Naughton’s raw blackened delivery and it really is a case of England’s dreaming as they melodically swoop out the speakers. It’s a captivating display and an epic one where the audience seem very familiar with as the roar of appreciation at The Fields Of Reckoning proves. The last song can be but one and it seems like everyone is waiting for it. It was pointed out that in a fit of eagerness I got the title of this anthem wrong in a previous review, it is of course Defending The Ring; Frodo would have been proud.
After the last time in London where Enslaved were incredibly badly mashed in with Job For A Cowboy and Cannibal Corpse no doubt many like me avoided the show helping tonight’s full capacity no end. The good thing was that despite me thinking the audience was going to be part full of hipster bandwagon jumpers it seemed free of that facet and although there was no room left on this longship, the Norsemen were greeted like conquering heroes. Opening with title track from newest album ‘Rittir’ and following it with ‘Ruun’ was a good idea to keep those new to the band in familiar territory and as they have progressed they have kept things constant enough to not lose old fans by the wayside. The savagery is still there in the guitar and drum bombast and Grutle’s rough bark is as savage and barbarian as ever. The psychedelic tinges and harmony etched vocals of Herbrand Larsen work wonders as a contrast and these numbers show what impressive song writing talents the band have and how they have progressed progressively without selling out and landed themselves on Nuclear Blast in the process.
Enrapturing us in a swaying caress, the music washes over and then dashes us as it suddenly surges into a violent passage. On stage right you have to be careful at the front as the strumming assault of Ice Dale is dangerous to get your head in the way of and if his guitar doesn’t have an eye out his nipples no doubt will. Other end of the stage and proving difficult to catch as far as my camera is concerned is bearded monolith Ivar Bjornson and powering away at the back Cato Bekkevold. Grutle is in fine form tonight and obviously happy to be back in London in front of capacity crowd. He announces The Watcher as being a song about the guardian of the rainbow but there’s nothing hippified about it (well perhaps there is a touch of it in the folk laden essence of the song). Everyone down the front responded thrusting their fists in the air at every opportunity and the amount of shots I took ruined by devils horns was annoying. ‘Roots Of The Mountain’ was as craggy as the title suggested and this is a firm favourite of mine from the latest album, going from surging barbaric attack into one of the most deliriously delightful choruses I have heard in a long time.
It has to be said that there was an amazing atmosphere in the venue tonight and perhaps sensing that the audience could be played with and were not going to mind Grutle decided to serenade us with a quick and very British rendition of ‘Row row row your boat’ was not expecting that! Another thing that we probably would not have guessed at hearing was ‘Convoys To Nothingness’ from Monumension. It was announced as an old one not played in years even if I couldn’t help thinking that it’s not really that old I guess it is now and it certainly went down well allowing us to really trance out and feel lost in the desert with just a camel for company. Now that’s what I call music 92 was what we really had wanted though and it was time to go right back to demo era basics with ‘Allfǫðr Oðinn.’ It’s a track you never really expected to catch live in this day and age and it eagerly fired up the pit as the feral guitar licks cleaved away which in the grand scheme of things struck as totally acceptable. Continuing with more in the way of surprises comes a cover of Led Zeps Immigrant Song which proved that the blues was no difficult job for the band to play as well as the black. The muscular rocky rendition veers into a more calming psyche orientation and has us feeling our way to the dark side of the moon and the bar for a last pint during the encore. Wrapping up tonight’s spectacular proceedings is the final call of Isa and naturally it goes down a storm.
On evidence of tonight’s show it would seem that Enslaved are going to have to take a step up next time they come over here, they have outgrown this venue and well and truly owned it tonight!