A perfect storm was created when they announced this show had sold out, but then to also open the doors at 17.30 seems a little crazy, there must be a good reason behind it though, and especially considering the gig was on a Saturday evening.

As I walked into the Ritz, the place is already healthily packed and there is a definite air of anticipation for the tantalising touring package that we will be subjected to tonight, the bill is diverse and each band is extreme in their own right, and true behemoths of their sub genres.

As the house lights dim, the stage is swathed in alternating red and blue light and the ambient black metallers from Washington stride out onto the stage to a healthy cheer. Wolves In The Throne Room are in town! The vocals are commanding and portray the role of ringmaster and conductor throughout, with the guitar work being intricate yet delicate. The drums are titanium and generate a full work out which sits in contrast to the beauty and splendour of McConnell on the keys. The set is accomplished and received well with the gathered hordes that stand before them and they may have even made a few new friends in the short set that they deliver here tonight.

Up next are the Gothenburg giants At The Gates, and they storm the stage with real purpose and menace. Lindberg is the leader of the pack and his vocals are powerful and majestic. He stalks the stage and orchestrates the audience with ease. Erlandsson is a master of his craft and a real animal tonight, giving no respite to his performance; he puts in a shift and half. The precision generated by Larsson and Stalhammar is mesmerising and is the true suturing to tonight’s colossal performance.

The swedes pull out the big guns tonight and concentrate the set around a limited few albums, but when they throw in classics such as ‘Slaughter Of The Soul’ and ‘Blinded By Fear’, it’s hard not to appreciate the enormity and relevance of At The Gates in today’s world.

Pretty much as soon as At The Gates clear the stage we are subjected to 30 minutes of children chanting demonic and satanic verses over the PA and a black curtain drops in front of the stage to shield us from the workings going on behind it to turn the stage round ready for Behemoth.

As the lights go out, black clad figures embrace the stage all adorned with masks to create an air of mystery and they then kick into ‘Wolves Of Siberia’ from their latest masterpiece ‘I Loved You At Your Darkest’. Smoke plumes and pyros are kicking off all over the stage and the band is delivering brutality and malevolence with every single chord. The masks come off and we get our glimpse of Nergal et al in all their splendour, corpse paint and all. The set is made up of a good cross reference of material from albums spanning their illustrious career, although it’s clearly ‘God = Dog’ and ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’ which get the loudest response from the massive gathering tonight, that’s not to say the other tracks aren’t received well by any means.  The band are powerful yet graceful and Nergal’s vocals are imposing and authoritative and manage to get each worshipper here tonight visibly preying to his altar.

Nergal dons a couple of guises through the set, from the raw black and corpse paint, to the intricately designed priests’ hat later in the set.  Inferno and Orion are worthy of specific praise too, with the bass line and drum work combining in harmony throughout the set to create a titanium carcass to which all other elements have been hung off.

As the final chords of Lucifer ring out, the band have truly put on a show of expert sinful and malevolent preaching tonight with each and every soul in this church loyally worshiping as one of the many disciples of Nergal et al.

(Review and Photos Phil Pountney)