With many tootling off up the M1 to Leeds and Damnation Festival this weekend I had to wonder how busy this show was going to be. Fear not, London has come out and there are already a fair few in the venue for 1st band Sufferer. I had never encountered this lot before and am somewhat surprised to see it is just a duo. Man mountain Cam, guitarist and vocals dominates the front of the stage and drummer Caio thickens up the back, I note he used to be in Hex Morbidity. Thick, violent and dense sound completely pulverises, tumbling in unruly fashion out the speakers. The singer hollers about “darkness” and indeed there is very little light here. Thrash, death and elements of doom all combine in this heaving, hateful cauldron. The drummer hits a bit of a tribal beat and the frontman roars and cackles, adding an unhinged fuel to the fire. This is a rude introduction to a band but certainly not an unmemorable one. I wouldn’t go out on a limb and say Sufferer were particularly brilliant or anything but the barbarity and uncompromising nature of their material shone through, as did the commanding stage presence of the frontman. We are told to raise our swords and this is a night of true steel, anyone waving plastic ones will probably be dismembered. As for Sufferer the likes of Hell’s Headbangers or Iron Bonehead surely calls.

We are Lured to Ethereal Altars by Craven Idol and there is instantly a massive leap in quality as they take off blackly thrashing like maniacs. This lot can play and do so with plenty of posturing as guitars duel and vokills harangue. Attacking from every angle the stage is a blur of motion and the audience are quick to bang heads and thrust fists in appreciation. This is vitriolic and conquering might and its impossible not to be swept along in the fervour of songs such as ‘A Ripping Strike’ There’s loads of axe histrionics before the song gallops away cleaving for hell and this is just what we need, an invigorating pick up stoking the fire in the very belly of the beast. There’s even a touch of crusty punk spewed out by the thick bass grooves. Only problem is that with just 30 minutes the set is over in a flash but Craven Idol left a bloody mark upon us all.

The Ocean are playing upstairs and smokers share the courtyard, not that many are out on their side. I would have loved to pop upstairs and catch a bit of Arabrot but alas there is no way through. No worry though down here we have epic Yorkshire doomlords Solstice who have come down the M1 in the other direction to serenade us. On paper this is a bit of a round peg in a square hole but with 1st album in 20 years ‘White Horse Hill’ destined for many end of year playlists expectation is high. It’s good to see Daryl Parson ex of The Enchanted in as new bassist, of the others, well Rich Walker should certainly need no introduction. The title song of the new disc is aired and the stage lights are up high, well this makes a change, a band not hiding from the light, great as far as photos are concerned. I don’t mind admitting that the classic traditionalism of Solstice is not exactly my bag but then again that’s part of the appeal and when you see a band giving their all and dripping with quality, playing in such a heartfelt and passionate way whose to complain. The audience does not seem alienated ever and everyone loses themselves, to some this is adoration bordering on rapture.

The big vocalist Paul Kearns seems to gain confidence as the set progresses and is belting out his parts in style, they are definitely the cleanest thing in this venue tonight. We shoot back decades and The Sleeping Tyrants is a classic that is full of flowing and weeping guitar lines, the old guard and fans lapping it up in particular. Solstice don’t particularly play short songs and again the set seems over far too quickly for many and I guess they will be able to play a bit more the next day as they have a free show at The Devonshire Arms too whilst they are down here. ‘Cimmerian Codex’ bears down with a thick stomp and leaden groove, time to lose ourselves one last time and sway in its hefty grip.

Solstice have cheekily left their mark in more ways than one in the form of their backdrop. There’s no time to take it down as Brazilian trio Mystifier do their best to get on in as timely a fashion as possible, curfew looming all too soon. We get there in the end and Beelzeebubth looms over the baying crowd, lording it up and asking the question whether we want new songs or the classics. Bit from column a and some from b would be the answer to that and as they fire into their dreadful vocations to the almighty Satanas we are flung straight into a pit of pure devilry. It’s gnarly as fuck and spurred on in macabre and fashion from keyboard, bassist, vocalist Diego’s evil cackles. Fists are raised and bumped, the band seem genuinely chuffed to be here and I believe due to ferry problems only made it with a while to spare. Grimly hailing Satan from every pore we are suitably deconsecrated by classic numbers like An Elizabethan Devil Worshipper’s Prayer Book. The fact that titles are a bit on the preposterous side matters not in the slightest, we get the message fully and bang heads in worship.

Another thing that matters not is the fact that the band also have not had anything in the way of new material for 17 years. That is about to change thanks to this new lease of life which sees them touring again. Season Of Mist will unleash the new album in 2019 and we get a cut from it now in the form of ‘Soultrap Sorcery Of Vengeance, damn its heavy too, the pit finally explodes and this tsunami of shredding rifferama seems guaranteed not to piss on the groups legacy in the slightest. As we are English it seems only right to get a song about our most evil emissary Aleister Crowley and after that the guitarist decides to give us one about himself and when you have decided to call yourself Beelzeebub why not? Things are getting all the more drunk, there’s even the odd crowd surfer whizzing over the top but time is unfortunately of the essence and rapidly running out. Spooky keyboards just seem to spur the violence on the floor and take us on a creepy and kooky dance macabre in style. The band just about make it to the end and indeed so do we and with Cursed Excruciation summoning the antichrist it’s time to flee as though our very souls depend on it, hell in the form of the underground awaits.

Review and photos Pete Woods