LeavesIt’s generally quiet this time of year and after the mayhem of gigs in December it gives the much needed chance to refresh our batteries a bit. I couldn’t think of a much better band to see to start off 2014 than Atrocity though. They don’t play here that often and when they do it’s normally a double bill as singer Alexander Krull and players double up in support to his wife’s band Leaves Eyes. That’s exactly what we have tonight and is the reason the band are on first, so they can have a bit of a break before coming back on later with Liv Kristine. Atrocity don’t have the longest of sets and that is the only really drawback but we know we are going to get a versatile mix musically as even on latest album Okkult no two songs by the genre shape-shifters sound the same. It’s here they start, unleashing the ‘Pandaemonium’ of the opening number with occult symphonic malevolence. It’s an immediate pumped up clamour that gets fists flung in the air from the start. The heavily orchestrated segments come out well leaving Krull to command things as he gruffly roars and the twin guitarists Thorsten and Sander (no bass) scythe away. There are some really catchy numbers on Okkult and ‘Haunted By Demons is one of them. The chorus really does possess you and the song needs little to back it up. However it gets something in the form of two scantily clad local lasses wearing not much more than their tattoos as they drape themselves and writhe around the band members. It’s an eye popping spectacle and an enjoyable one but then the thought comes that if they are doing this surely Liv may well get her own back by having some oily muscle men pumping up her set!

After this we are asked if we want something old and naturally the answer is a resounding yes so we are taken back right back to 1990 for ‘Fatal Step’ and a sound much more of the old school metal of death variety which has those who remember it thrashing away. Alex seems in the best off moods hailing us in London and saying how good it is to be back here and the band romp away through another newbie ‘Satan’s Brut’ complete with those visually arresting accompaniments again. The guttural vocals in their native Germanic language sound particularly impressive here and the Teutonic pole twist of the music went well with the dancers, Rammstein would have been proud. Next we were taught the word Awesome in German and the reward was the anthemic ‘Death By Metal’ a track whose title really speaks for itself. After that Destruction ritual there was just but time for the closer ‘Reich of Phenomena’ from highly popular album Atlantis to really top it all off. All in all an excellent set but one that was over too quickly and made me think how nice it would be to catch the band headlining again at some point.

Filling the gaps between the Mr & Mrs show admirably are our very own Pythia a band I have caught on many occasion before. I was well aware that they have been working hard on new material since 2012 album ‘The Serpent’s Curse’ and was anticipating the unveiling of a couple of new numbers here tonight. It’s a very Celtic sounding blockbuster enhanced instrumental intro as the troops led by front lady Emily Ovenden come onto the stage but this doesn’t last long before we are literally bowled over. Although one could look at Pythia as a female fronted operatic band they don’t exactly play by any rules and instrumentally they are no frilly power metal group in the slightest. The sound here is loud, possibly too loud and the band pummel their way through things in a way that pretty much floors us. Not knowing the opening number ‘The Kings Ruin’ and being right by the speakers it’s a little disconcerting at first and it takes a while to settle in to more familiar territory like the rousing ‘Betray My Heart.’ Looking behind it is obvious that the British band’s ever growing legion of fans are out in force tonight as the front is tightly packed by people thrusting fists in the air and singing along even if they are not all hitting the high notes with the prowess of the singer. The band chop and churn away and the groove is at full gallop and new song ‘Sword Of Destiny’ creates a good first impression burgeoning away with everything pretty much hitting the rafters at once. With another newbie ‘The Key’ we are told that the album is going to arrive around spring and although this one doesn’t quite unlock itself on first listen it certainly goes like the clappers and it doesn’t seem to hang around none either. Pythia are somewhat unique as far as a British metal band are concerned and if they had been Dutch or German they would be no doubt huge there. It’s a harder job here but perhaps the next album could do it for them and also help spread the word about their older albums. They finish in style with the classic storming ‘Heartless’ which has pretty much everyone singing along, myself included.

There’s a good reason that new album from Leaves Eyes ‘Symphonies Of The Night’ got a 9/10 score on this site and I had been very much looking forward to catching some of the songs from it live tonight. Celtic folk etched sounds soothe us in to ‘Galswintha’ from it and then the full might whooshes in, we waited for the first vocal tones and Liv does not disappoint with her radiant tones and looked absolutely gorgeous with it, as ever beaming and looking really happy to be here to entertain us. Mistress Of Cruelty she is not but she had that beast with her and the flamboyant Krull roared his parts and put in quite a few appearances throughout the set to add some meat to things. The rest of Atrocity also had no problem backing things up musically and the whole venue seemed to have crammed down the front and were happily bouncing away to new songs like ‘Fading Earth’ Naturally it was not all new stuff and one standout early part was Nordic odyssey ‘Farewell Proud men’ which saw the might and lush vocal tones both clamouring for attention and captivating in the process.

It was one of those sets that had us rocking and grooving one moment and mesmerised by its charm the next. I settled back with a pint to watch it all unfold in front of me but the call to move back down towards the siren song nearer the front was far too much to resist for long. This was not a set for standing at the bar. They played a headlining set that’s for sure and got somewhere in the region of 15 or so numbers in giving us pretty much everything we could want from the muscular bounce of ‘My Destiny’ with the vocals gloriously hitting the high notes, to that new album’s title track which everyone here seemed to know. One I had not expected was a trip over the channel to cover song ‘To France.’ I thought instantly that I recognised it and scribbled down the words Mike Oldfield. It’s only now that I look it up and realise that I had hit the nail on the head like an unashamed musical geek. Listening to it now it’s a perfect number for Liv and the original sung by Maggie Reilly was also pretty damn good. Everyone again seemed to be singing along to this. Naturally Maid Of Lorraine was the perfect number to back it up with and the place was in full on party mode by now.

Sound in the venue was absolutely spot on for the set it had to be said, everything sparkled and shined with perfect clarity. The sudden question as to whether Leaves Eyes had played Bloodstock yet went through my mind and it appears they did in 2010 a year I obviously missed. All that can be said is perhaps it’s about time to bring them back! A splash of pure syrup in the form of ‘Elegy’ had us swaying away as it peaked at operatic crescendo and ‘Hell To The Heavens’ was majestic and powerful enough to get in some last minute head banging action. They said this was the last number but I suspect there may have been a couple more but with the normal weekend transport meltdown it seemed like a good point to bow on determined not to let anything ruin the shit eating grin this first show of the year had left on my face

(Review and photos © Pete Woods)