“We were here to check out Decapitated and we happened to have a bunch of amps and stuff with us, so we thought we’d play you a few songs,” declares Desecration [2/5] vocalist and guitarist Ollie Jones as his band take to the stage. He’s joking but, based on tonight’s performance, it doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. In the band’s defence, this is in a large part due to the murky sound that barely escapes the speakers – but the main problem is that the Welsh trio’s set is so quintessentially meat and potatoes that it would fail to impress at a Sunday roast, let alone in front of a crowd of baying metalheads. The sound is (partly) fixed halfway through but it doesn’t disguise the dodgy vocals or the fact that this performance is less dynamic than the graphics of the Atari 2600 console, nor that 20 years in the business have failed to instigate any form of evolution or maturation of sound. To their credit, their thrashy death metal assault is infallibly precise, but the most enjoyable part of their performance is when they slow things down and lock into a pounding groove.
Aborted [4/5] have no such problems engaging a restless crowd, and their performance tonight is absolutely explosive from start to finish – so much so that it would make atom bombs blush with shame. Like Desecration, they offer little in the way of variation – but what they lack in sing-along melodies and acoustic-led ditties, they more than make up for in sheer amounts of palpable energy. It’s a great opportunity to air material from their acclaimed new album, Global Flatline (which you can read about here), and songs such as the blistering title track and the destructive ‘Coronary Reconstruction’ are received with the same enthusiastic reactions as those that have been staple set pieces for the past ten years. In a convenient (and rather underhanded) turn of events, the sound system demons that afflicted tonight’s openers seem to have been suddenly vanquished. It means that the destructive energy fills every corner of the room, along with the crowd, which has grown significantly. There’s a strong apocalyptic vibe to Aborted‘s latest album and it resonates in every note played tonight.
On taking to the stage Decapitated [4/5] waste no time in proving that they are tonight’s champions, as far as the crowd is concerned at least. Ripping into set opener ‘The Knife’, they may not possess the immediate energy and bludgeoning power of Aborted, but their technical accuracy is equally astonishing. Frontman Rafal “Rasta” Piotrowski absolutely owns the crowd, leering over them, pumping his fist and even diving head-first into the throng at one point, only to be held aloft and passed around the room before being deposited back onto the stage, immediately destroying any remaining doubts as to whether he’s the right man for the job.
Rather surprisingly, precisely 50% of the material aired tonight is from the band’s latest album, Carnival is Forever. This is a bold statement, and one that demonstrates the band’s confidence in their new songs in a manner that no amount of self-conviction exuded in press interviews could ever convey. It’s also a very risky move, but one that evidently pays off as the audience bellow the words back towards the stage, rogue crowd members clambering up, only to be playfully tossed back like fish into the sea by the band’s imposing, dreadlocked singer. When that rhythm section of ‘Spheres of Madness’ finally kicks in, the performance reaches its inevitable apex as the floor turns into a whirling mass of bodies. It’s the perfect conclusion to the evening, which makes it even more of a welcome surprise when they tear into ‘The First Damned’, before the house lights go up for the last time.
All photos by Christopher Humphrey