Primordial @ O2 Academy Islington , February 7th, 2015

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Primordial @ O2 Academy Islington
February 7th, 2015

By Ann Sulaiman (reviewer) and Ashlinn Nash (photography)

Almost four years since their last visit, “dark metal” band Primordial returned to the O2 Islington for the London part of their UK mini-tour. While Winterfylleth were again on tow, a couple of newer faces came along this time around, namely Swedish traditional metallers Portrait and fellow Irishmen Malthusian. Though an early curfew (venue rules and restrictions on Saturday night) meant that everything would have be over by 10pm, word about an afterparty at The Dev meant that more fun would be waiting around the corner.

The evening began around 5 o’clock, with newcomers Malthusian. Despite having only a demo release under their belt, the band’s limit of three songs was more than enough, since everything filled up their half hour set time. Considering the nature of their brand of extreme music – that vein of black metal which needs you to sit down and listen (or at least stand there, squeezing invisible oranges) – this was pretty much expected.

Malthusian
Malthusian

‘Wrath///Plague Spore’, ‘The Mother’s Blade’ and ‘Hallucinogen’ each fell in crushing downpours, while the crowd stood silently in kvlt appreciation.

Malthusian
Malthusian

While a stark contrast musically to countrymen Primordial and even the English Winterfylleth, it showed that the London audience weren’t averse to a slice of the black metal underground.
When Portrait came on, however, the mood switched up tempo: clad in leather and studs, the band came on to a small round of excited applause from the front row. Traditional heavy metal packs a faster pace than some of the genre’s more recent off-shoots, and as such Portrait didn’t waste any time standing still on stage, preferring to prance and rock out under whinnying guitar melodies and frontman Per’s soaring soprano.

Portrait
Portrait

While a sore throat (and technical issues) meant that the group weren’t fully at the top of their game, Portrait still gave their all to unleash the passion of heavy metal into the venue. ‘Bloodbath’, ‘Consecration’ and ‘Beware The Demons’ were a decent taste of their overall discography for the crowd, while their cover of fellow Swedes RAM – with the song ‘Blessed To Be Cursed’ – hammered further what they aimed to do as a band. Even if their choice of singing was met with some drunken derision from a couple of people in the audience, afterwards.

Portrait
Portrait

Soon it was time for that fan-favourite Winterfylleth to make an appearance, and the contrast couldn’t have been any more different between their set and Portrait’s. Unlike the enjoyable scene from the latter, Chris Naughton and friends just walked onto the stage and stood there for the entirety of their hour long set.

Truth be told, despite their growth in popularity over the last few years, especially since hey last toured with Primordial in the UK; Winterfylleth’s hold over the audience remains something of an enigma. Themes of English heritage may appeal even to their many European fans, and their form of “introverted” black metal may be well played enough to stir their admirers to moments of utter bliss, yet none of this detracts from the fact that they are not a visually interesting band in person.

Long hair and leather may not necessarily work for everyone, but the quartet’s tightly cropped hair and slightly sullen faces do not exactly appeal for a live performance. At least for this reporter, it’s like watching intense, thoughtful music come from run-of-the-mill football fans at the pub.

primordial
primordial

Which isn’t to write them off entirely, as the crowd was moved to immense cries of praise and chanting for the band. Even Primordial’s frontman Alan Averill showed his support, when he joined in the backing vocals for ‘The Swart Raven’.

 

Following sound check and a eerily haunting play of Liam Whedon’s ‘Dark Horse On The Wind’, that powerful classic of modern Irish music; Primordial finally arrived, corpse-painted lead singer and all, to raucous cheers throughout the venue.

With a new album in tow, it was only natural that the headliners began with the title track, ‘Where Greater Men Have Fallen’. While a fitting choice, due to the direct nature and accessibility of its songwriting which are ideal for a live environment; the less bombastic tone of the song compared to previous set openers like ‘No Grave Deep Enough’ (thankfully included later tonight) meant that not all of Primordial’s powerful aggression was felt.

primordial
primordial

Ironically, given the technical sound problems since Portrait and Alan’s currently tired, ill state at the time, the lack of full power was likely inevitable. At the same time, despite not being able to engage as closely with the front row audience as he had on previous shows; Averill and his cohorts still delivered their all to the O2 Academy. Raw emotion is one of the driving forces behind the band, and so they made sure not to skimp out on this, especially in encouraging everyone to pump their fists into the air for ‘Babel’s Tower’ and ‘As Rome Burns’.

However, Primordial’s own relative surge in popularity over the years meant that younger people – namely below the age of twenty or twenty-five – are discovering their music. Said younger people, who often come without any knowledge whatsoever of heavy metal etiquette let alone how to behave at a Primordial concert; have it in their minds that the rule is to slam dance and mosh along to as many songs as they can. This led to not only inappropriate moshing for a band whose sound isn’t actually “moshable” material, owing to their roots in black metal and classic heavy metal; it resulted in inappropriate moshing for that’s band’s more emotional fare, namely ‘The Coffin Ships’, written in ode to the victims of The Irish Famine.

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