Belphegor + Possessed
@ Islington Academy, London
13th December, 2016
Review by Jarod Lawley
Photography by Graham Hilling
With two legends of extreme metal on a co-headlining tour over Europe, what could be heavier?
It promised to be a great night as one of the last metal gigs before Christmas took place.
Some confusion over the doors time meant that at the advertising opening time of 6.30pm first act of the night Sariola had all but finished their set!
I was disappointed not to catch a preview of the female fronted extreme metallers, but nevertheless, with four bands to go there was still plenty of time to get my metal fix!
And it came shortly with From Hell!
The Bay Area horror metallers are a concept band who take influence from all corners of metal. Despite obviously not taking themselves too seriously, they sounded as tight and professional as any opening act around!
Frontman Sinn was a great entertainer, looking like he just stepped off set filming for Game of Thrones. It was disappointing to see the rest of the band dressed more modestly in just jeans and t shirts however.
Regardless, they all rocked out with huge grins and obviously loved every minute of their time performing before the London crowd.
It’s a shame that more hadn’t arrived in time for their set, as this band deserved a bigger audience to listen to their hilariously titled tracks such as ‘Nun with a Gun’.
They closed with a cover by Sinn’s ‘biggest influence’. When the drum introduction kicked off King Diamond’s ‘Welcome Home’, I was impressed at the vocalist’s ambition in trying to pull this one off live!
Did he? Well not really, but the whole band displayed a passion for metal and gave the crowd something familiar to headband to – which is always great.
During the turnaround time, the room filled up a lot more and a group of fans congregated near the front for occult black metallers Absu.
Their set was one of two halves. For the opening numbers, vocalist Proscriptor McGovern played drums too, leaving it up to the guitarist and bassist to entertain the crowd.
And they did, with flashy rockstar moves and black metal garments that may have been, erm, shrunk in the wash?
Things really kicked off however when the frontman stepped out from behind the kit and another member took his place.
Still keeping on his headset style mic however, he was free to roam the stage (whilst dodging the drum kit awkwardly placed in the middle) and gesticulate through the lyrics wildly.
The band’s passion for their evil art is obvious, and the crowd responded perfectly. I didn’t know the Texan band had such a following here in the UK, but mosh pits were stirred up and chants were raised along with the songs’ most memorable guitar riffs.
By the end of their set, showman Proscriptor McGovern looked on top of the world, with his arms stretched out to the adoring crowd. Possessed had a lot to top!
But with their legendary status and back catalogue of crushing, classic death metal, it was no competition.
Despite some early technical problems causing a delay of vocalist Jeff Becerra’s entrance to the stage, the band didn’t need to work hard as they launched into ‘Pentagram’ from their classic debut ‘Seven Churches’.
The security guards had their work cut out, with crowd surfers hurling themselves over the barrier one after another. They band grinned as the atmosphere of an old school death metal show was created inside the 800 capacity club.
Possessed played a fairly diverse set, even treating us to a new song from an upcoming album, however it was for classics such as ‘The Exorcist’ that the biggest cheers were raised.
By the end of the hour it was clear why Possessed remain godfathers of the genre to this day, hindered by nothing and still sounding as savage as ever!
After such riotous reception, Belphegor need to be on top form to maintain the energy.
I wish they had watched Possessed’s set beforehand to get them pumped to be on stage, as tonight the Austrians totally lacked the drive to tear the place apart.
A combination of a poorly paced set-list and depleted enthusiasm from front man Helmuth left me bored by the performance.
Their dry ice, backdrop and stage outfits, not to mention the rotting specimens on stage all looked evil, but the band’s own delivery was totally lack-lustre.
This was the fourth time I’ve seen Belphegor and by far the worst. The band seemed to have lost their enthusiasm for their own music and that was reflected by a more relaxed audience response.
On this co-headling tour, the band took turns to play last, but if Belphegor played like this in every city , then Possessed should have topped the bill every night in my opinion.
It only asserts their position as death metal kings when they come top Absu’s electric performance with such ease. I hope to see them again if they return to London after releasing some new material!