I doubt I am the only person who has been patiently waiting for atmospheric Bavarian black metal troop Imperium Dekadenz to make it over to the UK. Finally they have, to play 2 shows, this and Atmosfest in Nottingham. That’s the good news but the bad is that apparently their merch had been sent out and was stuck in Wales so no buying the new album here tonight. No doubt the band are as peeved as the fans about that situation. Another casualty are Aklash who had been due to play but for some reason pulled out before the gig leaving three bands on the bill tonight.

First off Stahlsarg from Suffolk are no strangers and take to the stage with a full on brackish sound and a near punk etched backbone swaggering into the first song ‘Das Fallbeil,’ grimacing at those spread before them and looking hostile and war-man-like. With Destruction and Krieg lit up with spotlights either side of the stage and front weapon Eissturm corpse-painted and ghastly, dry ice spreads like gas and spills off the stage into the room creating a suitable atmosphere in the trenches. Violence and feral hostility are one part of the display but there is also plenty of parts here that simmer things down and allow the musicianship to sparkle. ‘Blonde Poison’ is a nasty enough tale in itself recounting a treacherous true-life event from WWII of a Jewish collaborator betraying her brethren to the Nazis. Full of spite and bitterness as well as a lethal groove it’s a lengthy and involving number with plenty going on in it and it gets those down the front banging away. Vocals are really on point craggy as the Frostbite Division paint their grim, forged in black odes of futility and destruction. Finishing with old favourite Damocles XIII it’s obvious why they have been popular guests at various underground European festivals and Stahlsarg are definitely flying the flag for proper grown-up UK BM.

Looking at the somewhat over the top costumes displayed by Welsh band Agrona I was not so sure that was strictly going to be the case here. New to me, I had noted that they had gone down well recently at Warhorns Festival but had yet to prove themselves to me. The symphonic intro strains came as no surprise to me and I am quickly put on edge by the swaggering roars of vocalist Taranis, the barked out delivery and chest-beating bravado all a bit theatrical. By comparison, the beauty to the beast that is Adara has a great voice when used. Her Daryl Hannah make up circa next-months Blade Runner is about to be history rather than futurist but her voice certainly struck with a witchy tempestuousness. I think I would have preferred this more without the male Behemoth like barks though and the clattering sound from the rest of the band was not particularly gelling either. There’s far too much in the way of stuff off stage propping it all up, there’s certainly enough people playing but where are the keyboards for instance? True the stage isn’t that big but.. It’s difficult to take it too seriously watching it in front of me although there is a lethal harshness displayed on a couple of tracks I have now listened to online it just didn’t come across well here tonight.

Onto headliners Imperium Dekadenz and the recording duo of Vespasian and Horaz naturally have to expand their line-up to play live. They also had to suffer a soundcheck in front of the audience here not that it bothered us particularly and it was obvious when they started playing properly. Instantly drenching in atmosphere as they gallop off there is also a sense of bare-chested bravado from some of the players. It’s gruff and at times rough but melodicism quickly shines through too and gets the audience which frankly should have been bigger getting into a fist-pumping fervour. The guttural German delivery works well on some songs and one can imagine this going down a huge storm on a festival stage at home turf. Still we gave it our best and the band seemed happy playing their first show on British soil, getting in just before Brexit could have catastrophic results on us seeing them here again.

Having not heard the new album yet it was probably songs such as the vitriolic ‘Pure Nocturnal Rome’ that particularly powered my senses and it was great to finally witness material like this live. The band seem well and truly into it and I am glad they are going to be playing in front of a sold-out audience in Nottingham making the trip all the more worthwhile. From new release ‘When We Are Forgotten’ we were rewarded with ‘Bis Ich Bin’ bringing that sense of decadence to proceedings before bursting into a fast-paced romp that took no prisoners and blistering through the venue. The huge drive gets heads whipping away in appreciation and the savagery of the song cleaves away actually getting people dancing down the front along to the beat. Songs are on the whole long and involving and even with an hour long set we were never going to get a huge amount here. Thankfully they dipped right back in time to some classic material such as ‘Schwarze Wälder’ from the first album. And the excellent ‘A Million Moons’ from ‘Procella Vadens’, the album that got me into them in the first place. All in all, a really good set and I was very pleased to finally catch the band live but just hope it’s not for the last time for them in England.

Pete Woods