Camden seems even madder tonight, for some reason everyone thinks it’s Halloween and needs to be dressed like clowns, evil ones included. There’s a queue outside the fancy dress shop stretching down the street and everywhere is packed. Seeking sanctuary in the Underworld cannot come quickly enough and thankfully there is plenty of room to breathe as the first band Kill For Company strut their stuff onstage. I realised before coming down that this band contain a couple of members from Kingsize Blues in their ranks and although unknown to me their former band is remembered from the old London scene, making a bit of sense for their inclusion on the bill tonight. It also appears to be vocalist Tom Hennesey’s last show with the group. He’s not going out quietly make no mistake and there’s plenty of bruising anger and hateful energy about what goes down during even the very first number ‘Isolation.’ This lot churn out a veritable cauldron of fuck, some call it metal, others thrash, I call it ripyourfaceoffandshitdownyourneckcore and it batters us something silly. The vocalist growls and screams his head off, guitars squeal and bass churns with an incessant chug about it all as the drums bounce around flatten what’s left. There is a message to songs like ‘One For My Enemies’ and it’s hollered loud and clear “don’t mess!” Musically this comes from the cloth that spawned bands such as Medulla Nocte, Stampin Ground and Labrat, British brutality through and through. It gets people bouncing about as the band speed through everything at seemingly double speed, thankfully there’s none of that idiotic crowd killing but musically this has the scope to leave all but the toughest battered and bruised.
No strangers it’s time for a couple of bands seen countless times in the past and most recently at Incineration Festival. Both cut their teeth at the much missed Devil’s Church nights and it is back to this era that Welsh group Hecate Enthroned are well and truly dwelling in as much of the set list here contests. Very much in the black metal side of things and forgoing their deathly period the melody and fervour of the foggy atmospheres of numbers like ‘Upon The Kingdom Throne’ are quick to come through. The keyboards sparkle and sound suitably pompous and vocalist Joe Stamps hits both the low growls and higher necro-squawks perfectly, even if he was not around at the original time. There’s a timeless feel about it all and many in the crowd are more than enthusiastic especially as songs like ‘The Spell Of The Winter Forest’ hit majestic peaks. Of course one could look on it with a sense of cheesiness and indeed one punter is happily waving a plastic sword along in time to the music. It is truth be told a bit Monty Python but it’s all grim fun and nobody loses an eye during these dark requiems. This is as close as you are going to get to the dawn of Britannia Infernus, it’s not like we get Cradle Of Filth out playing a set comprising of songs from The Principle Of Evil and bands like Thus Defiled seem unlikely to play live again. Although keeping it old-school there is talk of new material and we have the Revelation of a new song aired. On 1st impression it’s sharp and savage and cuts like a knife, definitely one that is a continuation down the left hand path of old. Apart from the absence of Ode To A Haunted Wood, this was a cracking set, anyway I can go and blow the dust off the old demo tape and give that a play.
I can’t go and spin the new Akercocke disc ‘Renaissance in Extremis’ though as naturally near end of these dates it had long since sold out. Still this tour is the first where the reformed band were performing many tracks from their comeback album and having given it a few listens I was intrigued at how it would sound and go down live. First though there were going to be some old numbers too and those looking for David Gray’s beastly bleaty blasting were not going to be disappointed with the likes of ‘Horns Of Baphomet.’ Unfortunately some devilish intervention caused my camera to completely die so I am going to have to crib some shots through other means and shows. Clean vocals on ‘Son Of The Morning’ really hit the spot and gets the now packed crowd bouncing around.
So it is time to ‘Disappear’ into the new material and we get nearly all of the new album played through. Having not reviewed it myself I haven’t listened as much as I would have liked to and am well aware of the complexity of it all. That said it seemed instantly familiar and fits in with the old stuff very well. Sure it is perhaps a more mature album than previous and has more experimentation within the progressive nuances of the guitar work particularly. One thing that is quickly evident is just how jaw-dropping the tightness of the band is and that is something that has been said of earlier dates on the tour too so it must have been very well rehearsed. It twists and turns with plenty of moments to headbang along to. The old guard is out in force tonight no doubt with many seeing the band only since their rebirth, indeed I had chatted with one chap who had flown over from Belgium just for the show. Everyone ate it up and it all went down incredibly well. Jason Mendonca’s vocals keep things fluid changing effortlessly between course growls and soaring cleans bolstered by the backing croons of keyboard player Sam Loynes & Whitesnake boot stomper Paul Scanlon seems totally in his element to the stage left. There are moments as things progress that sound not a million miles from everything from Devin Townsend to Mastodon, something one would never have expected comparison wise but they are certainly lurking there for all to hear on ‘Unbound By Sin.’ Hellish screams punctuate ‘First To Leave The Funeral’ and spiralling riffs flow out the speakers, my head is near melting as they drive and furrow away seemingly in free-fall. Jason salutes the home town audience obviously delighted by the response and they are rewarded by a pit to the first aired track we heard from the bands renaissance ‘Inner Sanctum.’ Attention continues even during particularly lengthy finale ‘A Particularly Cold December’ I thought playing this in particular could on paper have been a bit of a risk but band and crowd are most definitely united. Curfew is approaching but there is time for another couple of old ones and ‘A Skin For Dancing In’ and ‘Enraptured By Evil’ seem the perfect choice driving us into a frenzy before we climb up the stairs into the madness of Camden once more. A chance meeting of members at a Voivod gig outside this very venue paved the way to this reformation and for that we can only be thankful for. To have both Akercocke and Iron Monkey back with us in 2017 is more than anyone could have wished for especially with the new albums seeing them both rejuvenated and at the top of their game. Anyone who thinks otherwise is quite frankly a little bit touched! A cracking night all round.
Main Akercocke shot from Incineration Festival