Easter Weekend and held over 3 days, Doom Over London hits town at a busy time that sees a stack of gigs as well as other festivals such as Inferno in Oslo and North Of The Wall in Glasgow. This annual event has really expanded and was the only place to be for many and if you were looking for more variation than just music of the slow kind there was no shortage of it going to be on display, especially tonight which saw Impaled Nazarene headlining very aptly on Good Friday. It’s just 6 bands today on the main stage at The Dome in Tufnell Park. It was meant to be seven but unfortunately Spaniards Autumnal had been forced to pull out at the last minute due to ‘personal issues of force majeure.’ This meant some of the others would get a bit extra time to play, which suited us just fine.
First up and someone always has to kick off proceedings, its Belgian duo Sardonis comprising of drummer Jelle and guitarist Roel. Hitting things hard they create an instant bruising sound with long free-flowing guitars riffs mangled out amidst the drum battery. Instrumental but also somewhat versatile things progress into some rather thrashy Slayer like furrowing that wakes us up and gets heads nodding along in appreciation. The pair jam effortlessly and with cold blue lighting drenching the stage as they rigorously inject lots of groove into the speedier parts of their tracks. The powerful PA delivers a good quaking heft as they co-ordinate and play off each other in style. It’s already busy in the venue and this goes down very well with the first couple of pints of the day.
Ice, fog, darkness incarnate Malthusian drag us ‘Below The Hengiform’ with tracks off their momentous debut EP. Unleashing a hellish, pitch black sound that threatens to consume us all the Irish band are nothing short of devastating and with members of Mourning Beloveth, Altar Of Plagues, Abaddon Incarnate and Wreck of the Hesperus amidst their line-up this comes as no real surprise. It’s the third time I have encountered the group live and they seem to get better and better. Drumming is hefty and vocals billow out, it’s thick and turgid and completely stifling as they move into a flurry of blasts and cross genres in an uncompromising stance. The bite is ferocious and shrill guitar contortions are next to attack before we are driven further into the realms of abyssic death. Despite the extremity it’s incredibly tight and precisely delivered, with technical prowess underlying things for those of us able to penetrate its intricate depths. With 3 members all contributing vocally there is plenty of variation including what at times sounds like throat singing centre stage, adding an arcane and ritualistic feel to the assault. Skeletal guitars send shivers down the spine as they slow down and lash us with atmosphere before suddenly battering in with the next deadly flurry, literally taking our heads off. Excellent stuff!
Back to Belgium for Bathsheba which sees the drummer from Sardonis returning to his stool along with past members of Serpentcult, Gorath and former players of Death Penalty. Very much the queen of Bathsheba is the familiar Michelle Nocon but I had not realised before earlier today that she was in this relatively new outfit who just have a demo and an EP behind them so far. They move from an alluring opening song with witchy vocals and just as I am getting acclimatised it’s a case of “wallop” as they launch headlong into ‘Ain Soph’ which has a real hefty stomp about it as well as lashings of doom throughout. Vocally there’s almost a Gothic twist and I’m reminded a little of Cold In Berlin and there’s plenty going on here with classic doom riffs and bursts of speed. I guess these songs are all brand new but they certainly seemed well practiced and the singer really gets into things, twisting and turning around the stage to the instrumental breaks and throwing plenty of shapes as she chants and conjures up vocal spells. They seem to get the first real audience reaction too with a few pumping fists and twirling hair at the front. The singer nears possession for Demon 13 and it’s a close call on summoning an exorcist but hell is battered out and everything devolves into sampled sounds akin to a bunch of cannibals having a picnic. Slightly odd and after just 4 numbers that’s the lot. I certainly felt hungry for more and will be keeping my ear out for the release of this material.
With the excellent new album ‘Rust And Bone’ in my pocket I had certainly been looking forward to hearing some of it live from Mourning Beloveth. Talk about saturating us in doom, gloom and passion the Irish band drop the album’s anchor of ‘Godether’ and start up an engrossing and captivating performance. Luckily they have managed to gain a bit of time on their original set and play through 4 epic numbers tonight. The heartfelt croons lift the spirits and harmonies are absolutely majestic with the sound being spot on here. When the rugged black frenzy of this opening 16 minute track hits it is powerful beyond belief and every bit as impressive as it sounds on album. It’s great to witness right up front and close with a pint in hand and as the players twist, turn and roar within the ever present blue lighting it’s absolutely invigorating. ‘The Mantle Tomb’ sees history flowing through the clean vocals and it’s music that literally enflames the very soul. Darren Moore sits in front of the drums seemingly caught up in the power of the music as much as we are ourselves. There are overpowering moments a plenty, weeping guitar lines good enough to have you sobbing along and so much emotion that I became completely lost within it all. This was one hell of a powerful set and I felt like I needed a lie down or another drink at the end of it; another drink it is then.
It’s not so much doom but pure savagery for the rest of the night and Danish trio Undergang are next to deliver their brand of crusty death worship. I had seen this lot before at The Unicorn and knew what to expect as they grind in and give us a gnarly and uncouth clobbering. Songs are volatile and abrasive, announcements between them from David Torturdød are hilariously contorted as they are gurgled out, as all the tracks are in their own tongue it’s not like I was going to be able to note and translate them anyway. If you are looking for a primitive racket and many were, you were not going to be disappointed by this but on the whole the audience were not letting themselves go and very few were up for the challenge of going for it down the front. To be honest I found the large stage and big room a bit much for getting into what they were doing, I could imagine it going down a veritable shitstorm in a Christiana squat but here the power I am sure the band are capable of summoning seemed a bit lost. The thick sewer coated vocals sound meaty and maggoty but after a while for me necrosis and rot literally set in and I found my attention wandering. I think a song was dedicated to Jesus but for me that was pretty much it and if there was a resurrection I missed it.
It’s time to hail Satan and worship at the font of the goat as blasphemous Finns Impaled Nazarene are headlining and have a two page set list penned on the monitor so we are well aware they are going to throw all sorts of hell at us. Mika Luttinen hogs the centre of the stage with a cross painted on his head and they launch into Armageddon Death Squad finally giving some of the audience just what they had been waiting for. The bass sound is really thick and standing by it as it is powerfully strummed makes me think I’m about to be garrotted. The punky black swagger of the music is delivered in a head chopping fashion and shows no mercy as ‘The Flaming sword Of Satan’ is unleashed. What better way to spend Good Friday, we worship in our own way and this is our church!
Mika seems amused to be playing a doom fest and asks if we want some slow songs, like that is ever going to happen. They do come somewhat close to obliging though with ‘Quasb The Burning’ a real death march of a number. With 25 years-worth of material at their disposal there was no shortage of songs to fire at us. The audience is divided between a few maniacs at the front and a ring around them watching, the singer does call for more action but is not getting it tonight; well it is a long weekend. A cattle prod would have been useful as even the heretical ‘We are Satan’s Generation’ fails to get things totally fired up. There’s plenty of chat between numbers allowing us to catch breath and we are urged to raise glasses to the sadly departed Lemmy before they naturally batter into Motorpenis in salute. Not done with him we are also treated later to a cover of ‘Ridin’ With The Driver’ which he surely would have approved of. The heavy metal thunder does thankfully cause a bit of dance floor chaos. Leaving the stage we knew they would be back and it seemed like some knobs had been twiddled from ten to eleven as it was even louder all leading up to the inevitable chant a long of ‘Total War,’ which we wanted now and surely got. Time to drag tired limbs home and get prepared for the second round tomorrow. In a way it’s a blessing in disguise that the off-license was shut.
(Review and photos © Pete Woods)