@ Relentless Garage, London
7th November 2011
Review and Photos by Michelle Murphy
The roaming mini-festivals have become increasingly popular and tonight, Neckbreakers Ball hits London. Like the recent Heidenfest, it covers half of Europe over the course of a month!
Sadly, the first time Neckbreakers Ball comes to London there is disappointment in the air. Selling out massive venues around Europe it was originally supposed to be held at HMV Forum, with a 2,350 capacity, however, closer to the event the venue was changed to the remarkably smaller Relentless Garage with a 600 capacity – and even then it wasn’t full!
It’s a shame that fans cry out when tours don’t come to the UK, and then when they do they don’t bother turning up. Another disappointment came when Death Angel announced they had to withdraw.
Omnium Gatherum kick started the night at the painfully early time of 4.45pm.
The venue was shamefully empty, only playing to around 80 people, but this was to be expected really as most people haven’t finished work yet and the late venue change had people arriving at the wrong place! This was a major downer for me as Ominuim Gatherum really do deserve a large crowd and was one of the main reasons I came tonight.
Omnuim Gatherum biggest tour to date, they wasted no time in launching into fierce death metal with breathtaking melodies and progressive originality. The vocal styles vary from deep death growls to clean vocals. OG is one for people in the metal field looking for something different but still catchy.
The enthusiastic 6 piece band had great stage performance, furiously headbanging and engaging with the crowd, which went down really well and within 10 minutes had the room moshing, quite a feat judging by the early start.
Despite being plagued by sound problems, OG put on a great set, mostly consisting of songs from their new critically acclaimed “New World Shadows” album. Crowd pleasers included the title track of the album “New World Shadows” and “Deep Cold”, proving they could slow it down without losing the heaviness.
Being a photographer, I also have to mention the absolute non-existent stage lights.
The lighting engineer must have fallen asleep as the first 4 bands were playing in almost darkness.
Gurd were up next with their no nonsense thrash!
It’s been 13 years since they last played in the UK and they gave a fairly enjoyable set. They didn’t play a bad song but wasn’t really memorable and failed to live up to the rest of the bands.
Gurd played a wide selection of songs going back to the 1996 to the new album “Never Fail” and you would struggle to see the difference in the music, the formula remaining the same throughout.
The audience reception was good and Gurd gave an excellent performance with plenty of banter and enthusiasm.
As soon as Varg took to the stage you instantly thought “Turisas clones” with their red and black face paint and outfits.
Frontman Freki took to the stage claiming there here to play Viking metal and they did this loud and crude, but with plenty of catchy folkey melodies.
In the over saturated folk-metal genre they are one of the better ones, although tonight’s performance seemed to lack the power and passion I was expecting.
They had a large crowd but they didn’t really get into it, there were a few people trying to headbang, but it fazed out soon enough. It wasn’t until they announced their cover of Rammsteins Links 2-3-4 that they sat up and took notice. A good solid cover which wasn’t as militaristic as the original, Varg put their interpretation on it.
The set finished with “Wolfskult” the title track from their new album. This stood out from the others and arguably the best song they played in the set which had the crowd chanting along, fists and horns held high in the air.
Denmark’s Mercenary put in a great performance delivering a solid and tight set. The set consisted mostly of tracks taken from their new album “Metamorphosis” which acts as the transition between the old line-up and style and its new version.
Pedersen promised Mercenary will return to the UK soon and it will include some old songs as well as the new, but tonight was about promoting the album. Mercenary have undergone quite a few changes in their 20 years, when I last caught them there were 6 members while tonight only 4 took to the stage.
The most notable change however is bassist René Pedersen now taking full lead vocal duties, whereas previously the higher end stuff was handled by the departed Mikkel Sandager. The guitarist Martin Buus put in some excellent lead work, his solos were spotless and rich with emotion.
You would only have to look at the crowd to know that the next band up was going to be well received, Eluveitie tshirts were aplenty!
The Garage has a small stage at the best of times, but when 8 musicians, complete with their bagpipes, violins, flutes and hurdy gurdies, cram onto it you just had to laugh, they literally couldn’t move. Chrigel Glannzmann exclaiming, “Jesus Christ, this is probably one of the smallest stages we’ve ever played on, but it’s still great to be back in London.”
Eluveitie merged folk metal with melodic death metal with powerful aggression. They have created a truly unique sound by incorporating instruments normally found in an orchestra rather than in metal, but it works!
When you expect a twin guitar attack you get flutes and bagpipes. The iconic “Inis Mona” was played early on, which set the tone of their set – the crowd loving every second, singing along pumping their fists.
Eluveitie played most of their hits from their back catalogue with “Your Gaulish War” and “The Song of Life” and sounding superb.
Glannzmann demanded a circle pit announcing “This isn’t called Neckbreakers Ball for no reason” as they launched into “Kingdom Come Undone” the fans adhered to instruction.
Even though there wasn’t any room to move on the stage, the band had great stage presence. Their set closed with Tegernakô and it was evident from a few people leaving at this point that the Swiss band were marginally the biggest draw of the evening.
Headliners Dark Tranquillity came on with projectors beaming images onto the screen behind which made a nice change than the normal band logo backdrop.
Frontman Michael Stanne burst on with boundless energy, charging around the stage with purpose and whipping the crowd into a frenzy.
Unrelentless throughout, he interacted with the fans perfectly, even crowd surfacing while grunting out the lyrics during “The Treason Wall”
While Dark Tranquillity are excellent on record, their live performance is really something else. The atmosphere during their set was immense, Stanne keeping the audience on their toes as he tore up the stage while Martin Henriksson enthralled us with the technical mastery, reinforced by the thunderous percussion. “Zero Distance” was performed to its video which was a nice touch.
The set focused on the newer material. Only two songs were played from the albums that precede Damage Done, “The wonders at your feet” and “The sun fired blanks”.
I was a little disappointed by the lack of songs from “The Gallery” album as these songs are always timeless however, while one may be more inclined towards their earlier work DT represents that rarest of rare forms: a band able to change without loss, to maintain quality and integrity across decades of evolution!