Underworld, London, UK - 21/5
support Immolation + De Profundis + Forsaken World
author EW date 29/09/12 venue Underworld, London, UK
After a recent drought of gigs that had been dragging on long enough after the usual sparse summer, the strong double-header that is Marduk and Immolation's tour across Europe marks the first of three gigs in three nights, providing the music equivalent of the London busses proverb and setting me going on an action packed weekend of rock and metal. Pairing a top drawer black metal act with an equally revered death metal one is a great idea and with London's show of the tour conveniently falling on a Saturday night it meant this show was spectacularly sold out over a week in advance, quite an achievement for two band's as extreme as these two. But before that, there were some support bands ready to whet our appetites for the main course.
The first of those was actually Dead Beyond Buried who unfortunately I could not arrive in time to see, so it fell to the young French act Forsaken World to open up proceedings for this review. Surprising this was to see them above London natives DBD, given their unestablished status and highly uninteresting sound borne from just one LP of 29 minutes released earlier this year, marking their whole appearance on such a popular tour an odd one. Mixing chugging palm-muted riffs with derivate melodic death inclinations is hardly a recipe for success in 2012, especially when being played to an unmoved audience eagerly awaiting much more, so it was no surprise that Forsaken World's reception was muted during, and after, their 30 minute set. Still, this did not stop a few people around me enjoying a good headbang to their music (or maybe they were just warming up for the latter acts?) but the lack of experience and songwriting chops present in the band causing most 'riffs' to be of the performance level even I could attain meant I was more than ready for the next course even before this starter was finished.
Why London's own De Profundis are not yet a band to strike awe into the hearts of extreme metal fans everywhere still surprises me given the consistency and brilliance of their last two albums, especially this year's "The Emptiness Within", but performances like this will help in making that a formality. Their heavily layered and textured songs mark them out as a band hellbent on individuality, while the fluidity found in the likes of "Delirium" and "Twisted Landscapes" suggests a band still capable of penning genuine, progressive songs. Mixing jazzy interludes, ala Atheist, with hard driving riffs and sweeping solos aplenty, De Profundis really show themselves to be a band full of competent musicians, but it is the bass skills of Arran McSporran which deserve the greatest plaudits. So often is the bass merely an underlying sonic boom in extreme metal lacking any sort of finesse, McSporran makes the most of a great Underworld sound to provide a template on which the songs never sit still in a manner similar to Mastodon's superb rhythm section. Craig Land on vocals by comparison looks to raise himself to his colleague's levels of performance through a theatrical performance forged from the depths of his lyrics, not withstanding the varying styles of vocal he injects into each and every song. Served as another reminder of their searing potential, De Profundis may not yet have the immediacy of an Atheist in the progressive extreme metal world but as possessors of a unique and lively sound there is not much to argue against them.
With the audience seemingly doubling in count in anticipation of Immolation's return to the capital it was always going to be an intense and crushing set in more ways than one. The sound of Immolation is an instantly recognisable one, more so than arguably any other of the old DM guard, which for the uninitiated is a very heavy, complex arrangement of dark staccato-driven riffs served with crushing accuracy and Ross Dolan's guttural viciously anti-religious lyrics all combining for one unholy union of everything that is archetype death metal. This description is apt both on record and live, for the moderate speed of "Close to a World Below", "Majesty and Decay" and "No Jesus, No Beast" (by death metal standards) makes for easier recognition of songs live and in turn notching up the enjoyment factor considerably against the all-common white noise blur of most live death metal.
The cheery and good-natured persona of Ross Dolan between songs makes for an ever interesting contrast to his mid-song being, but it is guitarists Robert Vigna and Bill Taylor which are the musical highlight. Movement around the stage is minimal but with the kind of intricacy which abounds in their instruments is testament to the skill required to perform at this level of the genre. The lack of visual gimmickry or stageshow in the case of Immolation's live shows seems somewhat understandable when studying the band members, for it is not far wrong to claim this experiences as witnessing the performance of masters at work.
Different in so many ways are Swedish titans Marduk, who as a collective employ the extreme coldness of persona one is used to with black metal acts but in vocalist Mortuus, a man who could not more represent the antithesis to how the mainstream views it's frontmen - nihilistic, cold, calculating and resolutely demonic - he is in essence the natural fit to a band who were hardly known for their pleasance or subtlety before his acceptance into the band in 2004. Still, the man is by no means uncomfortable on stage as his enthusiasm takes him all over the limited space available and through the continual pouring of water over his head his features slowly become more human as the corpsepaint fades away, an interesting insight into someone I've never seen in image sans paint.
Since Mortuus' introduction into the band they have hit a creative purple patch by mixing up the speed and been recognised as having a more credible anti-religious stance within their albums than prior, but for their live show a good deal of this was lost to the effects their unceasing assault still has on any PA brave enough to fight it. The sole guitar of Morgan Hakansson should have made this easier but with such a battering ram of a drum assault, it meant we were sadly lacking the riffy punch that in my eyes makes Taake a much greater live success.
A mix of old and new material, highlighted with "Serpent Sermon", "Slay the Nazarene" and closing classic "Panzer Division Marduk" still generated a very positive reception from the attending masses but based on their ability to so accurately perform songs of such brutal complexity there was only one winner tonight.