There’s a bit of a back-story to this show. If you were not aware the Bröderna Hårdrock Gustavsson bros from Nifelheim are Iron Maiden fans and that’s putting it mildly. They are what you can only describe as absolutely fanatical on the British HM institution and massive collectors of all they can get their hands on. What they wanted was a promoter to pick them up to play London the day before the Maiden extravaganza at the 02 arena. Old Empire picked up the call, flew them over here to do just that and we can only hope that Dicko put them on the guest-list.

Before they ravaged us with their molten Swedish black-thrash fury though, it was time for a couple of hand-picked bands from the UK in support. Looking at past reviews it seems like it was 2014 when I last caught both these bands in action. First up are Funeral Throne and as soon as they were in front of me memories came flooding back, they are simply not the sort of band you can easily have forgotten seeing before. That’s due to their somewhat mad and exuberant stage display. The lead singer J Wilcox is normal enough and grounds things as he ferociously plays and barks out his parts but either side of him the bassist and guitarist put on a somewhat deranged display as though they have a real blood-red mist going on in their heads. Blood is very much part of it too smeared hand-prints over the set-list and covering the arms of the bassist who has obviously just cut himself just before coming on. The Wolverhampton based act featuring members of Towers Of Flesh and Haizum take us on a full-tilt ride with a black thrashing demeanour but some serious metallic licks giving them a bit of a classic metal vibe amidst the rough-hewn extremity.  There’s plenty of grit about songs like ‘Through Transforming Fire’ and no shortage of barraging thunder to head-bang away to. At one point the bassist contorts himself hunched over his instrument, completely losing himself in the essence of playing as the other two turn backs on audience facing the drummer furrowing away. The supports only had a half hour set but as Funeral Throne climax with ‘Victory’ there’s a certain amount of just that in the air.

However this was one of those shows where the majority of people were more interested in drinking in the street rather than watching the supports. There must have been 100 people out there and some proved themselves too drunk to even gain admittance resulting in police being called on them. All a bit silly with the bouncers obviously on particularly high alert. Craven Idol fare slightly better audience wise as they come on all barbaric, hairy and formulate a blistering attack. Having just released new album ‘The Shackles Of Mammon’ they quickly cast off the chains with the first couple of cuts from it. I was taken by surprise at first having only given it the one listen so far as ‘Pyromancer’ is an all too brief burst of fire and seemed over all too quickly. There’s more substance to ‘A Ripping Strike’ which certainly doesn’t defy any trades description act, as it gathers pace and speeds out the traps with a choppy fury that’s designed to rip heads off. Front-man Vrath seen recently down here in Crom Dubh admirably lays out the vocal fury and there’s plenty of fluid melodic riffing as well as pulverising beef from the drummer.  I got the impression they warmed up more as things went along and with it the band responded with fire in their bellies getting more furious along with it, older songs such as ‘Codex Of Seven Dooms’ really nailing things with galloping bravado. Those not outside seemed a bit on the subdued side though it was as though they were saving themselves for the main event.

Eventually it was time for Nifelheim and the throngs flock through into the venue. I couldn’t say just how rammed it was or how the audience were responding behind me, finding myself held in place at front of stage snapping away as the Swedes piled on and unleash hell and the very ‘Infernal Flame Of Destruction.’ Those riffs absolutely slayed and scorched as if it wasn’t hot enough already but along with that it’s a case of focussing on what’s going on stage-wards as to say the band look a picture would be a massive understatement. With spikes that could take your eyes out and all manner of black metal bling (a term I use with no offence meant) Nifelheim really are quite a unique on stage spectacle. Somehow they charge around with a manic exuberance to match the music, swapping places, fist bumping fans, gurning like loons, sticking tongues out and it’s not just the bros either, the whole band seem unleashed and utterly unhinged. Naturally everyone responds to the ‘Unholy Death’ on stage and I can feel bodies battering into my back. Time to fall out, grab a drink and some space to head-bang along myself. Not the most prolific of bands studio wise of late this means the set is chock full of classic songs although there’s no denying the reaping scythe of more recent material like From Hell’s Vast Plains’ either.

There’s little time for anything apart from flailing from one song to another’ Evil Blasphemies’ rasps and sticks forked tongue out whilst steaming away at full pelt and one of many highlights ‘Storm Of The Reaper’ is instantly recognisable and has everyone chanting away and thrusting fists in the air. At one point someone wanders up to me observing wryly “this is so old-school it’s brilliant” and that is seriously hitting the nail on the head, quoted for truth! Everything is a bit of a blur, notes are soggy, beer is spilled, there is a ‘Satanic Sacrifice’ and things draw to an all too early close with ‘Bestial Avenger’ as the death march to the end. We wait expectantly hoping for more but that’s it. Nifelheim deserve to fully enjoy the Maiden show, they earned it, hell they deserve to be supporting rather than absolute dreck like Shinedown, but we can safely assume they will be drinking the bar dry during that shower of shite!

(Review & Photos Pete Woods)