It’s a chilly evening and we scurry quickly into the venue to warm up as soon as doors open at 5PM. It may well be an early start but well worth getting down in time for opening band Malthusian who are over from Ireland with the headliners tonight. I pretty much knew what to expect having seen the group with members of Mourning Beloveth, Abaddon Incarnate and Wreck Of The Hersperus in their ranks recently but that still does not prepare for the massive sound of this lot. Opening with a huge elongated riff, they are quick to drop a lead lined bomb on us, humungous shaking, quaking riffs, merging between distempered doom and blackened blasting hatred. Songs are long, tumultuous and at times harrowing affairs. Cast in ice blue cold lighting the players dig in with surging passages that are both virulent and craggy, drums at times a battering mass and at others shaking with slow and epic doom laden parts. It’s a case of swimming with the tide or being completely drowned by it. The venue was beginning to fill up by now and there was no avoiding this mighty and beefy sound. With no less than three of the band joining in on vocals things are pretty versatile as well as dramatic. They only got three numbers but we hardly felt short changed due to the length and complexity of them. The band’s debut album is certainly going to be one to watch out for.
Bit of a round peg in a square hole are metallic Swedes Portrait and first thing that crosses the mind as they gallop on and fire up their thunder is why they were here and not down the road supporting Saxon where they would have no doubt gone down a storm. Per Lengstedt is a blur of motion as he enthusiastically spurs his troops into some good old fashioned twin guitar histrionics and there is absolutely no denying the enthusiasm and bravado from this lot. They pose, throw shapes and are infectiously captivating, high notes are hit and the band hold their axes aloft as they unleash a dextrous and dizzying set of songs that seem to spiral quickly by one after the other. The metal to the core zealousness may not have been my thing but I could certainly appreciate it, I did expect those at the front to be feeding off it all a bit more but it actually seemed really restrained, more polite sipping of drinks and subtle nodding of heads than anything else. 40 minutes was bearable for me, not quite a pleasure but not a chore, a bit of cheese in life is good for the soul and I certainly got my quota of that here. As for the plea from stage asking us to dedicate our lives to heavy metal, well I’ll do that in my own way thank you very much. Have this lot played Bloodstock? If not why not?
Things are a bit different in all respects as far as Winterfylleth are concerned. Their rise to ascendancy has not been quick by any means but with plenty of hard work, constant gigging and four albums under their belt there is absolutely no denying their popularity. Things are not quite as we are accustomed to tonight though following the surprise announcement just a week or so ago that guitarist Mark Wood was leaving the band. One could not really imagine the band with just the one guitarist so it was just as well they have quickly drafted in “a close friend” who it has to be said seemed from my point of view to do a sterling job. From the acoustic intro they surge into ‘The Ghost Of Heritage’ in epic and thunderous fashion. Things don’t sound too layered in the mix and the clarity of the sound here is really good. Dipping between albums ‘The Swart Raven’ seems to bolster things up with a burgeoning and giddy attack, sound is denser but still perfect with crystal clarity from the guitars as well as the angry vocal parts from Chris Naughton and the more harmonic crooning parts which even saw a special guest vocalist before he donned himself up in make-up joining in. Taking us through windswept terrains and slow graceful harmonies there were times as on ‘Whisper Of The Elements’ that we were caught off guard to be brutalised by the full blown charge of the number when it sweeps back in. There could only be one last song, ‘Defending The Realm’ has become their anthem and the day it’s not played is going to be akin to the ravens leaving the tower of London. They mention they are playing a headlining show at the Black Heart soon and ask who is going. Errr considering the reaction it’s going to be a bit on the full side then!
Tonight was going to be the first chance really to witness new tracks from last year’s Primordial album ‘Where Greater Men have Fallen’ and it is the title track they opened with. It was a bit of a shame that they had no copies for sale on the merchandise desk, guess they had run out on other dates of the tour. Still it seemed like many knew the song and the band quickly had the audience in their grip. Primordial had a lengthy set playing for over an hour and half and there was no way they were just going to concentrate on new songs, there was something for everyone here unless you were hoping to go back to the group’s very beginnings. Passionate and commanding as ever Alan Averill is the focus of attention, prowling the stage, foot on monitors and looming out over the audience. By ‘God’s To The Godless’ fists are being pumped in the air and everyone is singing along. The place is rammed and people are hemmed in but sneaking upstairs is a good move with a vantage point from the gods themselves so to speak, it’s much easier to relax and watch the mayhem ensue without spilling beer in the process. From here too we are given a great view of illuminated drummer Simon O’Laoghaire and watch him power away giving these anthems a solid backbone. The rest of the players dig in around the vocalist, strumming away and forging ever forward on new songs such as ‘Babel’s Tower.’
There are highlights throughout the set and some songs are embedded on us from multiple plays and indeed shows. The likes of ‘No Grave Deep Enough’ and ‘As Rome Burn’s with its tribal bombast and fiery chorus go down a storm. As for ‘The Coffin Ships’ there is little you could hear that is delivered with more heartfelt passion. The new songs work well, truth told I am still growing accustomed to them but on each airing their magic spreads a little bit more. Still the penultimate airing of ‘Wield Lightning to Split the Sun’ is a little too moribund and slow for flagging, aching bodies, a bit too much of a slowburner albeit a spirited one. I was really hoping that the band were going to play ‘The Seed Of Tyrants’ the most blackened bastard battering song of their career but alas this new one was overlooked. Still a small complaint and as they gave us a parting shot of ‘Empire Falls’ everyone filed out the venue satiated and well aware this had been another memorable show from Ireland’s finest sons.
(Review and photos © Pete Woods)