PRIMORDIAL @ O2 Islington Academy

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Primordial @ O2 Islington Academy

5th May 2012

Review by Paul James

Photography by Andre Purvis

There’s a palpable air of excitement outside the Islington academy tonight and to be fair who couldn’t be excited by such a great line-up? Having heard very good things about Winterfylleth and Hell in previous weeks and being a long time Primordial fan even I’ll admit to being a little excited!


Grabbing a drink and securing a good standing point to wait until Winterfylleth hit the stage, it looks like a good mix of young first time fans, to seasoned metal heads turning up – by the time they walk out on stage the room is already half full and ready for their Anglo Saxon heritage driven black metal assault.

Though certainly not dressed in the typical black metal garb, appearances can be deceiving as they burst into opening number “Mam Tor (The Shivering Mountain)” with only a shout of “C’mon London” and a huge wall of sound.

It takes a little while before the guitars have managed to even out in the mix (Mainly drowned out by Nick Wallwork’s heavy bass tone) when it all comes together, the sound is highly impressive – “The Fields of Reckoning” being a particular highlight with its triumphant melodic passages, it certainly gets fists raised from the crowd.  

It is quickly followed by new track “Void of Light” from the forthcoming album “The Threnody of Triumph” and if it’s anything to go by, the rest of the album will be quite spectacular!


Rounding off the set with the clean vocal harmonies of both Chris & Nick on the closer of 2010’s “The Mercian Sphere” Defending the Realm gets the Manchester black metallers a wave of applause and appreciation from the London crowd.

Set list:

Mam Tor (The Shivering Mountain)

The Ghost Of Heritage

The Wayfarer Pt 1 – The Solitary One Waits For Grace

The Fields Of Reckoning

Void Of Light

Defending The Realm

Next up are Hell and as the stained glass backdrops are revealed and the faux torches are “lit” there’s a definite sense of theatre in the air!

The room is packed out by the time the opening tape begins and it’s all systems go as they race into a thunderous rendition of “Let Battle Commence” quickly followed by the single “On earth as it is in hell”  to rapturous applause from the London crowd.

As things slow for the intro of “Plague and Fyre” you get a real impression of just how much effort Hell put into their stage show, with vocalist David Bower donning a plague doctor mask and robes and with a bell in hand he cries “Bring out your dead!” in a chilling tone, before brother and guitarist Kev Bower unleashes the opening solo and proceeds headfirst into the thrashing riffs contained within.

It’s fantastic to see the sheer energy Hell have in the live setting, it puts many younger bands to shame! David Bower treads the boards like a pantomime villain and is always charismatic and engaging, whilst bassist Tony Speakman headbangs continuously and pulls grim faces with every ounce of energy alongside the great guitar work of Andy Sneap and Kev Bower, not to mention the tight and precise drumming of Tim Bowler.  

Some certain highlights were the fantastic renditions of “The Oppressors” & “Macbeth” with the former showing exactly why everyone should raving about David’s fantastic voice and stage presence as one lucky fan in front of me receives the flogging whip that he used to flog himself during!

David quickly dons a priest’s outfit for last number “Save us from those who would save us” and encourages the congregation to join him in the final sermon of the set and upon its close, there seems to be no-one not applauding or without a smile on their faces – a band with a very bright future indeed!

Set list:

Let Battle Commence

On Earth As It Is In Hell

Plague And Fyre

The Quest

The Oppressors  

The Devil’s Deadly Weapon


Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us

And finally we come to Primordial, and instead of the constant Soundgarden soundtrack we’ve been listening to throughout the evening it is instead replaced by slowly building ambient music to create atmosphere before the Irish folk metallers step out to a veritable sea of devil horns and cheers.

Opening with “Lain with the Wolf” from 2011’s Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand, Primordial are literally enchanting this evening, A.A. Nemtheanga’s powerful vocals booming across the pa as well as the twin guitar attack of Ciáran MacUiliam and Micheál Ó Floinn  as the band blazes through a slew of songs including the excellent “Autumn’s Ablaze” whilst “No Grave Deep Enough” shows exactly why Primordial are such respected songwriters in the current scene, it’s catchy riffs and vocals are almost infectious.

Pausing to dedicate the song “Bloodied Yet Unbowed” to the fans for their support over the last 20+ years, it’s clear to see that there is a special connection between a band like Primordial and the fans, it’s incredibly difficult to look around the audience and not see people singing along passionately to every word – especially with tracks like “As Rome Burns” with it’s now fan favourite “Sing, sing, sing to the slaves, as Rome burns” midsection – Alan encourages crowd participation at all times and the atmosphere it creates is tremendous.

After a fantastic performance of newer track “The Mouth of Judas” which gives us a chance to hear more of Pól MacAmlaigh’s bass lines throughout its slow and melancholy grooves, credit where it’s due to Simon Ó Laoghaire as well, keeping great time with all the complex drum work.

There isn’t one song in the set list you get the impression is misplaced or could be changed for another – though my only gripe is that it would have been good to have heard more from the earlier works, the set seems a little heavy with tracks from the last 3 albums.

(In fact this is practically the entire set!)

It’s also a shame that because of the ridiculous curfew at Islington Academy, two tracks were dropped from the set list – though who can really complain when classic tracks such as “The Coffin Ships” & “Empire Falls” close out the set with some of the biggest sing-along moments of the evening.  


Set list:

Lain With The Wolf

Autumn’s Ablaze

No Grave Deep Enough

Gallows Hymn

Bloodied Yet Unbowed

As Rome Burns

The Mouth Of Judas

Heathen Tribes

The Coffin Ships

Empire Falls

Overall a great show by all the bands involved, Winterfylleth are well worth watching, a good prospect for the future & Hell will go down in my books as one of my favourite live bands of the last few years! Here’s hoping Primordial get the set time they deserve on the next show!