Spread the metal:

Metal Hammer Halloween Party

@ O2 Academy Islington, London

29th October 2012

Review by Rhiannon Marley

Photography by Michelle Murphy

When corpse paint, fake blood and gruesome fancy-dress come up in conversation, two things spring to mind: the set of a Watain gig, or Halloween. But it’s the time of year for the latter, and horn-wielding giants Metal Hammer are throwing all this and more at a sonic carnival of celebration!

Entrance on the door is only £3.50 tonight and with a slew of funky bands, a free shot on arrival and all proceeds going to Childline and Health Partnership Nepal, there’s no way of losing. After getting inside and passing half the Hammer crew dressed as pirates, I’m given a USB key for the promotion of documentary series Metal Evolution, which Hammer is presently backing with gusto.

Characters are as abundant as the cheap alcohol: the Scream movie killer sails past, followed by the spouses of both Frankenstein and Dracula, while Pinhead looks on, pint in hand.

To top it off, the night is being filmed by the Grim Reaper. I’d feel slightly under-dressed, were it not for a few pairs of Converse and anoraks peppered around.

And British hard rockers HEAVEN’S BASEMENT (3.5/5) do nothing to shorten the spectacle. Erupting onto the stage in luminous Sergeant Pepper gear, bandanas and glittery face-paint, the quartet channel the spirit of old-school rock n’ roll with bluesy hooks and dynamic presence.

Singer Aaron Buchanan is the offspring of Marc Bolan, Robert Plant and Justin Hawkins: all curly tresses and flowery shirts, stamping around with a severe bout of Servitus Dance and metrosexual pomp. The Page/Plant vibe is distinctly extended, as blonde Buchanan and brunette guitarist Sid Glover do back-to-back strutting, before Buchanan takes his trousers off for the final song.

Around me, goths and cowboys throw the horn, while winged fairies bop. New material is test-driven to great success – even the security guard is nodding along.

It’s a breath of fresh air to see a looser, wilder cut next to the technical polish of today’s heavier acts. Heaven’s Basement put the fun, showmanship and irreverence back into the rock of 2012: deliciously camp, noisy and no fucks given.

Californian spellbinders HUNTRESS (4/5) turn a darker corner on their first ever London jaunt. Strong melodic riffs are underpinned by thrashy, doomy rhythms, as cloak-clad wailer Jill Janus blows the roof off with her four-octave soprano range.

She demonically stalks the stage, saucer-eyed: Kreator’s Mille Petrozza in Stevie Nicks’ garb, as women in the audience scan her warily with all the hallmarks of uncertainty. But Janus isn’t merely a gimmick of peroxide buffness; her voice is incredible, seamlessly switching from throaty death-rasps to vibrato-soaked belts, which, although not of a tone for everyone, are jaw-dropping in power.

With their brand of reindeer antlers and pagan moons wrapped in neon smoke, Huntress are seasoned performers: musically imperious and visually arresting.

Whatever your thoughts on female-fronted metal, you’d have to have had your lugholes cut off to not appreciate the talent and skill of this lot. And as the whiff of shampoo and abandonment hits my nostrils, I might as well look to the head-bashing crowd for confirmation of excellence.

If you thought things were getting a little serious, London’s self-confessed ‘middle finger metallers’ THE DEFILED (3.5/5) kick shit up a shade. Flouncing into view to Hendrix’s ‘Foxxy Lady’, the boys are dolled in drag and flinging water, like the cast of Rocky Horror in a super-soaker showdown.

Bringing metalcore, death-growls and punk pandemonium in fishnets, younger onlookers go bananas in the pit, while older, harder metallers look suitably unimpressed, as slicked fringes bounce to new songs. All are moved by their thunderous energy, though.

Singer Stitch D and keyboardist The AvD debate how many ‘pinters’ each are in dresses, as AvD deep-throats his mic with the moniker ‘No Morals’ slung across his instrument, shortly before smashing it to splinters. One or two people complain in earshot about his antics and the lack of technicality; it’s pretty intense here, but they’re missing the point; it’s Halloween, and we’re here for a party!

In this instance, the idea is to stuff the music, and get with the vibe, and with the biggest racket delivered on legs that one of Rod Stewart’s squeezes would be proud of, The Defiled throw a chaotic banquet of fun – wigs and all.

The dead arise for the ‘Best Dressed’ competition: zombies, devils, goblins and ghouls go head-to-head and drum the feel-good spookiness.

After whistles and claps for what looks like Mortiis’ undiscovered father, Sheffield rockers BLACK SPIDERS (9/10) take the reins. By this point, the room is heaving; many have turned out for Black Spiders alone, and as they launch into 2011’s ‘Si, El Diablo’, it’s not hard to see why.

Their reputation as one of the best current party bands precedes them. It’s a set laced with cuts from debut album Sons of the North, as they throw 4 new numbers to the fist-pumping lions, alongside stomping anthem ‘Just Like A Woman’.

A flurry of beards, Voodoo corpse paint and chunky blues riffs later, and nearby skinny jeans and Creeper shoes make way for leathers and patched denims.

The full-bodied, muscular rock of England’s contribution to Southern groove sees the gents work the crowd like pros; despite being only 4 years old, a foetus in the lifespan of a band, they whip a battle-chant frenzy of ‘Fuck You, Black Spiders!’ Hammer editors Alex Milas and Vanessa Thorpe look suitably impressed, singing and grinning over the balcony above.

As the pit gets crazier, someone throws the horn about 2 centimetres from my face! It’s great to see that hip-gyrating goodness and the essence of rock n’ roll still gets all from 20 to 60-somethings a-flutter; there’s not one still body in the house, as crowd-surfing and the odd crushing make for an explosive finale.

Surrounded by spilled liquid, two Flash Gordon costumes and the occasional tooth, I’ve been witness to one of the ripest live acts of unadulterated, balls-out groove that the UK has to offer tonight.

Considering I now have the after-party to attend, DJ-ed by none other than the Hammer crew themselves, I think it’s fair to say one thing: the premier defenders of the faith in metal media sure as hell know how to have a good time!