@ The Black Heart
16th December 2017
Review & Photography by
Thomas James Henry Saunders
A good number of people are already scattered across the small space of the Black Heart as I enter for tonight’s Black metal activities. Anticipation feels high as Belgium Black Metal headliners Saille play their only UK appearance of the year, touring on the back of their newest full-length album Gnosis.
This is a band more used to a festival stage so the atmosphere is a keen one to see how they fayre in such relatively confined a space.
Starting off the noise tonight is London’s own Crimson Throne (3.5/5), a newcomer band to the scene but in no way sounding amateurish at all. They begin with a brooding atmosphere, facing away from the gathered crowd as they sink straight into their tracks. They were musically strong, hammering out a fast-paced, stripped black metal sound that fits their rather bleak physical effort.
Where they fall slightly is with presence, opting to play in near total darkness, keeping their back to the crowd for most of their 30 minute set and keeping crowd interaction to a bare minimum.
This is a band that let the music work by itself without feeling the need to emblazon it with any more than their technical skill, which to listen to, worked in a sense. However, there was no doubting their musical strength, keeping those who had gathered early on till the end of their set.
After pints are poured and the crowd lingers about the stage, Cheltenham’s Shadowflag (2.5/5) take to the stage for tonight’s performance.
They start strong, belting out a great, powerful sound, backed up by their use of dual vocalists JJ Flame & Gray Preston, using their different style of black metal vocals to add a depth to their sound that works well, especially so in such a small venue.
However, not all was well for their ill-fated set. Within the first song , they encountered problems with the laptop they use to add drum tracks, this being a band without a live drummer.
After no less than 6 attempted restarts throughout the two songs they were able to conjure, they ultimately made the choice to cut their set short and call it a day. They were in good humour throughout, however, turning what could have been tremendously uneasy into something much more jovial, if no less frustrating.
After contacting the band, I got their perspective on the subject:
Unfortunately, we experienced a problem with the venue’s sound system rather than the laptop. We are truly sorry to everyone who came to see us and was disappointed that we had to cut the set short. We hope that they come to our headline tour next year so we can make up for this.
Certainly, Shadowflag are a band to catch again, when they’re not at the mercy of technology that is.
Having the mid-band break being earlier than anticipated, band members and friends alike took to changing the equipment and props added for tonight’s next band of the night. Hailing from nearby Suffolk, Stahlsarg (5/5) take to the stage in dramatic fashion in the form of flanked banners depicting ruined pillars, smoke machines and self-supplied spot-lights.
This is a band that basks in live performance and takes no time in becoming intimate with the crowd, of which has grown substantially as Stahlsarg begin their assault on the senses. Vocalist and Guitarist Eissturm Warms to the crowd as they warm to his mix of natural scream, witty charisma and infectious smile between thunderous tracks.
Whilst founding member and guitarist Krieg menaces the stage in full glory, making use of the sharp light of the spotlights against his grim corpse paint to glare out upon the surging crowd. clearly enjoying the theatrical nature of his stage character.
As Stahlsarg Play their immaculate set tonight to great reception, the crowd finally breaks out in action. With fans head-banging along to entire tracks and even mosh-pits opening up, despite the tiny floor space of the Black Heart.
As they finish their set there are sweaty with glee after a great set, backed up by their strong stage presence and charisma.
As the lights dim for the final act of tonight, the crowds gather once more as the lights turn crimson for Belgium Black metallers Saille (4.5/5) descend upon the night.
They break straight into the slow, heavy churn of ‘Emerald’ from the opening track of their 2014 release ‘Eldritch’, a song that explodes into a roar, showing at once their immense technical skill and live prowess.
Vocalist Xavier De Schuyter leads the pack with his stylistic, pained vocals that pierce through the wall of sound that emanates impressively from the band at large.
They go straight into the second track from the same album ‘Walpurgis’, a blisteringly fast and ferocious track, during which the band really fall into their own sense of presence.
They do suffer slightly at the scale of the venue I felt However, This being a band so used to larger stages they are ill-adjusted and are forcibly crammed together on stage, at times visibly wishing they had space to roam freely.
They are sincere in sound as they are sincere in charisma, enjoying the little interaction they are able to obtain.
The crowd are noticeably thinner for this final act, with less enthusiasm, at least in the first 20 minutes of impeccable black metal than the previous act.
It is during ‘Prometheus’, from 2017 album Gnosis that the crowd finally unwind and show themselves to be enjoying the powerful sound of these seasoned black metallers.
As Saille leave the stage the crowd chat and pump fists at what has been a great night of strong sounding blackened metal from first to the last band. A great night indeed was had.
Intro / Emerald
Haunter Of The Quark