Looking at this four artist line up one becomes instantly aware of how diverse the whole evening was going to be and indeed that is exactly what we got as the bands went from symphonic death metal to old school death metal, but sandwiched between was brutal death metal and black metal. With such an array of acts it is always possible that a revolving door of fans watch the style they want but tonight most people in attendance watched every band put on great performances that began with Italian symphonic death metallers Embryo. I saw Embryo back in 2015 at the Czech Metal Fest and was extremely impressed with their show to the point where I bought some of their merch, including a mug, at a very inexpensive price. How their brand of death metal would be received by a UK audience was questionable given the brutality of the line-up overall, as they hit the stage whilst an intro, “Solitaria 1519”, was playing then launched into “Leonardo” that follows it on their recent “A Step Beyond Divinity” release.
With plenty of energy their dulcet deathliness was easy on the ear as the keyboard backing added depth and texture to the sound mix. “Vanguard For The Blind” followed maintaining the furious riffing as I couldn’t understand what on earth the vocalist was wearing as quotes of Harry Potter and Ron Weasley came gushing from my comrades, and they had a point if truth be told. As the battering continued where an old school death metal tinge could be detected they stuck with their recent effort to play “The Same Difference” which I particularly enjoyed with keyboard intro, double kick rhythm and slight Gothic touches that reminded me of a very old act called Alastis from Switzerland back in the late 90s. “An Awkward Attempt” from the self-titled bombarded the audience with double bass as they appeared indifferent to the band’s music with only a handful of heads nodding here and there but as their set progressed and more people arrived that number increased when a new track was revealed, titled “Misguided Legacy”. The song invigorated the crowd with melodicism and that inherent catchiness that melodic death metal possesses as I retreated during their closer “No God Slave”, which was probably their heaviest tune, leaving those that watched with enough to check the band out.
Contrasting with the melodic strains of Embryo was brutal slammers Monument Of Misanthropy whose line-up consisted of members from Austria, France and the UK if I heard the vocalist correctly. No matter where they were from the increased in power and brutality was massive as they strode on stage amidst the dramatic intro piece and blasted into “Vegan Homicide” timed in by two snare taps, a feature that was present for all their songs. As the surge in intensity unfolded the band floored the audience with “Malformation” as I felt the guitar sound was a tad suffocated by the bulldozing bass and drums but as my ears adjusted to the mix I could hear it fully as they aired a new track, weirdly titled “Mysterious Hollywood Hat-Trick”, complete with its 4 snare taps start signalling the detonation, as this song was utterly ferocious. “Bring Me The Head Of LGG” continued to maim the crowd as the blast beat was insanely fast but when the band injected their piercing riff breaks that is what made their set incredibly intense. Playing the Morbid Angel cover of “Fall From Grace” was dutifully honoured and played flawlessly and will always hook in an audience but their own material was sufficient for that purpose as another excellent new song pulverised us called “Tales From The Vienna Woods”, a song about an Austrian serial killer which I’m assuming is Jack Unterweger. The tempo dynamics here were excellent swerving the track from speed workouts to more melodic strains as they closed with their namesake tune “Monument Of Misanthropy”, whereby I took the opportunity to find a seat whilst their remorseless sonic annihilation continued.
Offering a stark disparity in the evening’s deathly style was Norwegian black metallers Ragnarok who, adorned in suitable corpse paint, set about obliterating the now decent numbers in attendance. This was a masterclass in enraged wrathful black metal but what Ragnarok do so brilliantly is infect every song with really catchy riffs despite the speed as they opened with “Dominance & Submission” after a suitably dramatic intro. The band sliced into the crowd with razoring riffs inflicting sonic mutilation throughout their set as “In Nomine Satanas” followed where the barbaric demented vocals poured out scorn and malice. The injection of those catchy riffs came courtesy of thrash on “In Nomine Satanas” where the fluctuations in pace sent waves of momentum over the venue. “Chapel Of Shadows” continued their utterly savage set and I wondered whether they were playing a single song from each of their nine albums but alas they didn’t as a couple were omitted.
However “Blood Of Saints” subjected the audience to more insanely intense obsidian malfeasance as unfortunately there were issues with the drums, the kick drums predominantly, but the band continued professionally and the problem was soon rectified as they played a very old song “Pagan Land” which was superb with its caustic nihilism where the riffing drilled holes into the increasing hordes. Returning to the fantastic new album “Non Debellicata”, reviewed on the website by my shooter here, they detonated with “The Great Destroyer” all the while limiting any chat to ‘do you want to hear another song’. Of course we did as the impetus by now was rocketing along when the destructive “It’s War” was played with awesome its riff break and pummelling blast beat. They closed their magnificent set with “Blackdoor Miracle” as the crowd raised their horns in salute signalling the onslaught to come which arrived with unceremonious maniacal glee. This was a cool song, insanely fast but tempered with catchy riffing owing much to punk and straight metal at times and was a fine finale to their exceptional set.
With Ragnarok’s blistering black metal set, Monument Of Misanthropy’s brutalising death metal thuggery and Embryo’s symphonic deathly melodicism, it was down to the old school rear-guard to crank up the power and intensity which they did with such consummate prowess it was staggering to watch. There has always been a certain humility about Immolation who have been around in one incarnation or other for over 30 years and during that time they have delivered ten exceptional albums. Try and pick a weak album in their discography, you won’t find one, but fans of the band will have their my favourites like myself, as they nonchalantly walked on stage with no intro and blasted into “Destructive Currents” from their amazing “Atonement” release. The bituminous sound was focused by the dual axe attack delivery of Robert Vigna and Alex Bouks whose technical dexterity was unsurpassed during the evening.
Savaging the crowd with “Kingdom Of Conspiracy” the sound seemed to just encase you as Ross Dolan’s bass work threatened to cause sonic asphyxiation. Using the stage wisely so that the guys didn’t crash into each other, especially Dolan’s hair which is still the longest I’ve seen, except maybe Alex Krull. Pausing after “Father, You’re Not A Father” where the deluging double bass endangered the foundations of the building, Ross had a brief chat of the usual stuff before “Distorting Light” was thrust outwards like a tsunami as the dispassionate onslaught led straight into “Swarm Of Terror” before wielding the vicious “Into Everlasting Fire” from the band’s debut some 28 years ago. With audience chants of the band’s name there was more chat offering some respite as “World Agony” was a sinuous amorphous assault where ultra-deep guttural vocals captured an aura of grisly horror. With an extensive discography there was an extensive set list as “Spectacle Of Lies” continued the bombarding nihilism producing a sonic opacity that only Immolation can produce. “Burn With Jesus”, another old track, was nothing short of explosive as transport arrangements became impending and I left whilst they plunged into the cavernous destructiveness of “Lower” knowing that I had witnessed a fantastic evening of extreme metal.
WORDS: MARTIN HARRIS
PHOTOS: ANDY POUNTNEY