It’s actually very easy to find yourself gazing at stars in Camden. You just stand around a while looking lost and sure enough some street urchin will be along quickly enough to cosh you round the head and lift your wallet; job done. We were trying a different approach today which meant heading up the hill to London’s premier free venue for a night of hefty death metal.
First up after quite some time and liquid libations are Foul Body Autopsy one of those rare breeds of one man death metal acts. Whereas with the black stuff there are normally lots of people willing to be drafted into things when someone decides to leave their bedroom and play in the live environment, projects like FBA decide to go it alone here too; either that or they have no friends! With the foul body odour of the audience on this muggy (not in that street urchin sense) night lingering in the air we got down to groove along to this lesson of evisceration via Ipad courtesy of Tom Reynolds who was growling and riffing in the live sense and leaving everything else to backing tracks. There’s only so much you can get from something like this and it’s hardly a full body experience but excited by some music at last people quickly moved toward the front. Vocals are sluiced out in a rancid and raspy fashion, flung down a waste disposal unit sort of thing with added gruffness forcing the chunky bits through the pipes. Guitar is sharp and shreddy and the rest suitably beefy in a mechanical sort of way. It’s a step above death metal karaoke but not by a huge amount when it comes to watching it. A track from first album ‘Synthetic Existence’ I believe flailed and grooved away picking up the pace with some technical licks. A song from a forthcoming 2016 EP via Grindethic (how can it take so long to make) sounded short, sharp and suitably slamming and people were enjoying themselves enough with a bit of head-banging action going on. I can’t give massive praise or anything, the set only saw around 5 tracks being played and it was simply OK, but now something with a bit more meat to it is needed.
This is admirably delivered from the off by Danish trio Undergang who explode into things with what can only be described as some good, gnarly, old school, caveman death metal. There’s quite a buzz about this lot, partly spurred on by expectation of new and third full length album Døden læger alle sår. I have to admit on giving it a listen earlier and it not being really my thing. I guess I just found it too bass heavy, claustrophobic and ridiculously low and growly in the vocal department. Sure all these points are noted live too but there is a completely different dynamic than listening to it alone on a stereo and here tracks struck as simply ‘killer.’ Sound is hefty and thick with some brutally sluggish parts about it all. Vocalist, guitarist David Torturdød hits low tones like you have never heard before and there is something mesmerizingly bestial about his rough vocals. Even between tracks announcing the next song (naturally all Danish titles) he manages to sound completely inhuman. The big bassist Ondsind dominates the stage right area to us and drummer Anders thwacks away at the back. There is a real crusty underbelly to this beast and sure enough looking round I realise that the venue is now much busier with a strong contingent of metalpunk denizens of the truer and non-hip variety all getting down to this heaving mass. I really find myself getting into the doomy breaks and it’s good to hear the bass really heavily defined galloping away along with the drums and giving tracks like ‘Kogt I Blod’ a real thuggish backbone. Some real slowed down graveyard stalking corpse riffs are brought into play making it all the more decrepit and ghastly. If music had a smell this would be rotting cadaver and it flowed out and exploded into a battering flower of putrescence with the band even getting a violent pit in the process; job done.
Undergang along with Australian headliners Stargazer have been tearing it up around Europe on this tour and have had to contend with a heat wave most of the way by the sound of it. I bet they are glad of a slight drop in temperature we are always reliable like that but the band from down under quickly set about raising things to boiling point in here. Although considered death metal the band’s approach couldn’t be further removed from their touring partners as anyone who has encountered last album ‘A Merging To The Boundless’ will testify. They quickly twist and turn all conventions on their head with the suitably entitled ‘Of The Sun’ Things are intricate and immaculately presented with the guitar work sparkling and a huge amount of care and attention seeming to be applied to each and every instrument giving them all their own voice in the mix. I was slightly more comfortable though with one that I knew from the last album and they had to really play ‘Old Tea’ as you know what they say about us Brits and our loving for the drink (none here though it was strictly Jameson’s and Strongbow on the menu tonight). The avant-garde strangeness that wraps itself around and warps its way through the bands convoluted songs really came to play here with The Serpent Inquisitor and The Great Righteous Destroyer (!) really layering out some odd textures via guitar and bass. Vocals are right on the money too with both of them singing during various points, something I had not realised they did.
It was particularly interesting as things unfolded as I knew some songs fairly well and others from the earlier stuff not at all. Obviously on strength of this I am going to have to rectify that situation. Stargazer prove a unique entity that are somewhat difficult to describe but you could attempt to imagine a great mix of Coroner, Ved Buens Ende, Voivod, Cynic, Aura Noir, Nocturnus and even a bit of Thin Lizzy and you might start to understand them. Then of course there is also Pink Floyd and at times as on ‘Conspirators Wind’ they take us off on a wing and fly across endless vistas like a bird over a vast ocean. Then TGRD takes over vocals roaring away and some serious proggy flourishes that wouldn’t be out of place on a Rush opus merge with the flavours of death. It may sound odd on paper but it all works fantastically and they replicate the sound on album perfectly on stage. Naturally it’s the mind melting 11 minute epic ‘The Grand Equalizer’ that I am particularly keen to hear and the groove laden riffs that would make Mastodon cry herald it in and we are up for some dizzying twists and turns. The 50 minute set flies by in pretty much a blur as thankfully does the journey home but the memory of Stargazer will linger for a long time and if you get the chance to witness them, you really don’t want to miss out!
(Review and photos © Pete Woods)