Doom Over London
@ The Dome and Boston Music Room; Tufnell Park, London
April 4th 2015
Words by Ann Sulaiman
Five years down the line, Doom Over London has already become an established festival in the capital. Despite competition overseas from the likes of Inferno and Roadburn, a great deal of the London scene turned up at The Dome and Boston Music Room for an all day treat of doom metal. From traditional doom to its extreme off-shoots, which even saw death metal heavyweights Asphyx onboard as headliners; this was the most varied line up in the festival’s history to date.
The Boston Music Room opened the show with “experimental” band Khost. While their disconcerting style of electronic drone with down tuned guitars did peak people’s interest, the short time slot that Khost found themselves in following soundcheck wasn’t enough to highlight what they could do.
Crypt Lurker, on the other hand, had the advantage of being upstairs on The Dome’s larger stage. Not only did this suit their ensemble better (pitch black with candlelight), it allowed them to play to a bigger crowd. Their style of slow, eery blasts and graveled growls brought welcomed intensity into the start of the festival. It also didn’t hurt that they won people over, by covering Beherit’s ‘The Gate of Nanna’.
After this, it was time for Uncoffined to play downstairs. Having played London last year as support for Hooded Menace; the prospect of hearing their unearthly slowed -down death metal live again was exciting. However, it was about ten minutes into their set, when they encountered technical difficulties with the drum kit and sound engineering. The band thus cut their time short, but not without performing three of their intended four songs, including ‘Ritual Death and Funeral Rites’.
Up in The Dome, it was Serpent Venom‘s turn to play, which they did in the rocking spirit of doom’s earlier days. Jiving around amid fuzzy bass lines and low guitars, singer Gaz wailed as his peers pranced along the stage. This made it interesting to hear him howl on ‘The Penance You Pay’ and ‘Pilgrims of The Sun’, since the dancing made these songs seem even groovier live.
Back in The Boston Music Room, more rock ‘n’ roll doom was waiting when Witchsorrow raised their fists to the crowd in heavy metal solidarity, before throwing themselves right into the music. Despite the technical issues from earlier making his singing less audible, frontman Necroskull used his charisma to help keep everyone engaged with his band’s heady hooks and jaunty guitars. Towards the end, the entire audience were chanting along the chorus to ‘God Curse Us’.
Next came the turn of Belgian/British outfit Death Penalty, who kept up the traditional doom vibes in The Dome. Lead singer Michelle Nocon took a while to loosen up onstage, before raising her notes higher for the rest of the set. This was how their song ‘She Is A Witch’ was able to make such a strong impression on the crowd, in addition to the nature of its meatier riffs and solo making it ideal as a closing track.
Soon, The Dome was ready to host one of the main attractions of the day, melodic doom Swedes Isole. Though delayed for a few minutes by soundcheck, frontman Crister Olsson and co-guitarist Daniel Bryntse were laid back, and joked around with some onlookers as well as each other. Their good humour carried on throughout the actual performance, as they focused on songs from their previous (rather than recent) album, such as ‘Dead To Me’ and ‘The Lake’. Though clearly different to the rest of the festival bill, Isole’s sweeping rhythms and pensive atmosphere were still well-received by the crowd.
Following last minute changes to said bill, where Isole’s countrymen Draconian unexpectedly dropped out; atmospheric black metal-based Fen later took over the main stage. On paper, their addition to the festival was somewhat jarring due to closer ties with the English black metal scene than to doom. However, the band’s use of sonic buzzing and rock melodies made them accessible enough for doomheads. ‘Our Names Written In Embers (Part 1 & 2)’ and ‘Consequenc’ swam throughout The Dome, while ‘Menhir – Supplicant’ slowly blasted by the end.
Ten minutes to 10 o’clock, and at last headliners Asphyx were up onstage. Though some would have scratched their heads as to what an old school death metal band was doing at a doom festival, the fact that Asphyx have always incorporated doom into their sound and lyrics (‘We Doom You To Death’ being an apt example) made them eligible enough to join the line up.
Cheerily greeting everyone in the venue, lead man Martin van Drunen showed himself to be a pleasant sort of personality, before launching into his trademark, agonised growls on each song. Classic material ‘The Rack’, ‘Bismarck’ and ‘Vermin’ pummelled from the stage with intense aggression, as welcomed by the crowd as it was by a few people who saw an opportunity to mosh around by the front. Heads banged furiously, hair whipped spedily and closing track ‘Deathhammer’ fed the eager buzz in the room. That van Drunen didn’t refrain from smacking hands with his established fan base just cemented this excitement for his band, though he made it a point to openly thank Doom Over London for making this happen.