What surprised the hell out of me was walking into the venue shortly before half past seven, only to find it very quiet and rather empty. At half past Metasoma took to the stage to warm up the venue and luckily for them the floor in front of the stage did slowly fill up during their set. Granted nowhere near as full as it was at the end of the evening, but better than playing to the 4 of us down there when they started. Musically they were pretty heavy with plenty of bass in the mix and even more groove to go with it owing to the drummer’s interesting timing signatures. The 2 guitarists played some great chunky riffs with impressive leads while head-banging away. Now the vocals were an interesting mix. They were a combination of melodic clean with plenty of rough agro in there to give everything an even heavier feel. Interestingly enough towards the end of the gig while introducing the rest of the band the vocalist announced that he wasn’t their regular frontman and was just standing in for the band. Currently having a listen to their new album ‘Mirror of Life’ while typing this up and must say the vocals on the recording are far better than live, like you’d expect. The couple titles I managed to hear announced were “Dead Happy”, “I Am Me”, “Life Deceit”, “Sane Psychopath Addict” and “Mirror of Life”. Good show starter and being all smiles with plenty of energy should have got them plenty of new fans.
The lack of house music during the changeover was conspicuous as you could actually hear most of the conversations taking place around the venue, if you cared to listen, but also made time seem to pass more slowly. Next up were Monument and I wasn’t sure what to expect as the band started playing something faster and catchy, but once their vocalist ran on stage sporting a studded leather jacket shouting “We’re Monument from East London” I had a very good idea what I was in for. The twin guitar work on “Rock The Night” was NWOBHM all the way, as were the quick leads that flip flopped between the two seamlessly. Now I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never been an huge Maiden fan or had much time for NWOBHM in general, but for some reason their enthusiasm was as contagious as their choruses and their proficiency on their instruments undeniable but the fact their vocalist managed to hit all the high notes without any apparent strain while being a nonstop blur of motion is what had the crowd roaring their appreciation. Songs like “Crusaders” and “Renegades” appeared to be known to the vast majority around me but it was final track “Fatal Attack” that had all of them singing along. Not a bad show at all and nowhere near as out of place as I thought they would be. My only gripe is that the bass should’ve been higher in the mix as the bassist looked to be putting a lot more work than we were getting to hear, but the triggered kick drums were nice and sharp.
Then finally, the reason we were out on a Tuesday night. Wasting no time at all Sanctuary started with new album opener “Arise and Purify” and it was immediately apparent how much heavier the guitar sound was between the Seattle thrash band and the East London act preceding them. Hat donning Warrel Dane’s distinct vocals were put through their paces going from crooning to high pitched wails and quickly barked lyrics on “Let the Serpent Follow Me” while Lenny Rutledge and Nick Cordle traded leads as though they’d been working together for years. Their first foray into older material was “Seasons of Destruction” then the even older “Die for My Sins” which went down a storm and showed they’d actually got heavier as they matured. Everyone rushed to do battle in the pit for “Battle Angels” while we all tried to sing along without wanting a kick in the nuts to get to the same notes Warrel hits with ease. I may be a little biased but I still thing they do the best version I have heard of “White Rabbit” with its psychedelic qualities emphasised by Dave Budbill’s drumming and Jim Sheppard’s bass as the guitars float all over the place around Warrel’s ethereal vocal delivery. After the trio of 1987 songs they went back to 1990 for “Future Tense” for its prophetic words of what they thought the 90’s would be like. Starting a song off with leads like “The Mirror Black” does worked as well as the nearly whispered vocals on this quiet and slowish song. While guitars were easily changed, owing to different tuning on older material, Jim was retuning manually and caused a chant of “C’mon Jim, c’mon” to break out along with plenty of goading by Warrel to hurry up so they could play one of my favourite tracks from the new album, “Exitium (Anthem of the Living)”, where we all sang the chorus unabashedly out of tune, time and key. This was rapidly followed by “Question Existence Fading” keeping the tempo flowing as it goes from super-fast to a complete standstill and back in a heartbeat. After another guitar change and more abuse of Jim, things were slowed down nicely for “Soldiers of Steel” with its powerful harmonics, gentle guitar picking and immense leads towards the end. The chunky guitar and bouncy drum cadence got everyone’s head banging as we chanted along to the chorus of “Taste Revenge” before spilling over into the beautifully depressing “Sanctuary” then on to the thrash song for the night, after the final guitar change. “Frozen” just came across as so much more powerful with its heavier guitar sound and funnily enough more melodic tone at the same time, along with its vicious drum battery.
What I found really amusing was the idiot shouting ‘come back you fat bastards’ when there wasn’t a single overweight one amongst them, but thankfully for us they returned for their encore of the title track of the new album, “The Year the Sun Died”, which was a truly fitting end to a great show.
Review by Marco Gaminara