Kreator + Sepultura + Soilwork + Aborted
@ O2 Forum Kentish Town, London
March 2, 2017
Review by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
Photography by Michelle Murphy
Little could have prepared the hordes queuing up outside the beautiful Roman O2 Forum in Kentish Town last Thursday, for the extreme feat of aggression and relentless power they were about to witness. In my concert-attending career, few gigs remain as memorable in terms of punch, energy, and skilled musicianship as Kreator’s stop in London on the Gods of Violence tour on March 2. With their newest effort Gods of Violence still steaming hot, an album manifesting the fact that at least some of the classic thrash metal bands of the 80s still packs a good punch, the additional bands in the line-up that night seemed nothing but a gigantic bonus, promising an even more eventful evening.
Brazilian thrash titans Sepultura, also with a new album under their belt, completed the old-school part of the line-up, whereas Swedish melodeath act Soilwork and Belgian death metallers Aborted surely attracted the younger audiences for this feast of extreme metal music. There was obviously a vast age range represented amongst the fans present outside, all eagerly anticipating the show as the doors opened at 17:30.
Metal-Rules also had the chance to chat with Kreator guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö prior to the show, which can be read HERE.
The stunningly decorated interior of the O2 Forum provided a wonderful setting as the ground floor’s capacity was slowly but surely becoming occupied in the half hour following the door times. At 18:10, the lights go out and a soothing piano piece sounds over the PA as the fans enthusiastically cheer, knowing that it’s time for Aborted. The Belgian technical death metal group, having released their 9th record Retrogore last year, soon take the stage and commence their set shortly after.
“London, what the fuck is up?” frontman Sven “Svencho” de Caluwé asks, before commanding us all to “move [our] fucking ass” as they kick into their second song, “Cavernous Banquet”. Their short-and-sweet 30-minute set is nicely comprised of both old and new material, with the main focus naturally being on Retrogore, from which we receive four songs. A not-so-subtle hint towards the orange man in the White House is given when “Meticulous Invagination” is introduced as a song about “grabbing people by the pussy!”
The band takes advantage of the small space they have been allocated at the front of the stage, actively moving around and headbanging together along with a clearly loyal fan base in the crowd. The stage is fittingly coated in red lights, nicely accompanying the hard-hitting riffs and brutal blast beats so evidently present throughout all of their set. The sound is pleasurably loud enough, and mixed with a balanced, crisp tone making every note and pinch harmonic clearly heard.
Axemen Mendel bij de Leij and Ian Jekelis, both wielding their chosen instruments with meticulous precision, take turns serving us a solid dose of vicious riffs and ferocious shredding, with a pleasant touch of melodicism to it. De Caluwé proves to have an incredible connection with the crowd, and as their stage time is nearing its end, the moshpit on the ground floor is still going strong during every musical piece performed. The impressive tightness of their performance is reiterated throughout, and while most the songs carry the same general structure and feel to them, what is more likely a symptom of the genre itself does not take away from the overall quality of their set.
As their time runs out, De Caluwé thanks us all for coming out so early and asks if we’re ready for the other bands. The massive roar of cheering he gets in return confirms this, and in a final effort to release yet even more energy, a wall of death is gesticulated for as their last song “Bit by Bit” is announced. “This is our last song, when it starts; kill everyone!” are the instructions we are given, and judging by the chaotic mass of people clashing into each other as the song commences, the audience take it on as their duty to deliver one last bit of appreciation to the Belgians for their strong set kicking off the night.
When the band leaves the stage, we are hit with a rather odd musical contrast as Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” instantly sounds over the PA, which proved to only be one of many odd song choices in between the sets. Perhaps it was for the best that we were provided with a change of style contrasting the rather brutal music on display otherwise that night, although this eventually changed later, which is elaborated on further down.
1. Divine Impediment
2. Cadaverous Banquet
3. Meticulous Invagination
5. Coffin Upon Coffin
6. Termination Redux
7. Threading On Vermillion Deception (intro)
8. Bit by Bit
Swedish melodic death metallers Soilwork take the stage merely 20 minutes later, to an audience already fully fired up and sweaty from the group exercise that was Aborted’s set. The six piece enters in a similar fashion as their predecessors, while a pre-recorded piano track plays, before instantly kicking into their own merciless melodeath. The title track off their latest album, 2015s The Ride Majestic, serves as a worthy opener to their 35 minutes of melodic madness.
“Are you with us, London?” frontman Björn “Speed” Strid wants to know, as “Nerve” off 2005s Stabbing the Drama begins. The tempo has already slowed down a fair bit since the Belgians left, although moshpits do appear along with the occasional crowd surfer. Unfortunately, some initial sound issues (which eventually got resolved) left the vocals mixed a little low, while one guitar and (surprisingly enough) the drums sound a little muffled and drowned. Sven Karlsson is the night’s only keyboardist, and executes his role flawlessly, his instrument adding a nice brush of melodicism to balance the out the more extreme theme of the night.
2001s “Bastard Chain” showed off a nothing short of impressive twin guitar solo, and “The Living Infinite I” brought the bands more progressive side into the spotlight. A rather amusing séance takes place as two people in the audience are appointed ‘captains’, responsible for getting the crowd involved in the mosh pit. One of the captains, as pointed out by Strid several times, was clad in a unicorn costume, adding somewhat of a humorous touch to the whole thing.
The Swedes speed through their set, eventually announcing they have time for one more song. “Thank you so much for the hospitality London, we shall return,” Strid promises, before “Stabbing the Drama” becomes their last effort for the night.
Although evidently well received by the crowd, the seemingly limitless amounts of energy spilled during Aborted appear to be somewhat forgotten, perhaps saved for the two awaiting giants later that night. All in all, Soilwork gave a pleasant display of showmanship and musicianship, leaving us all eagerly anticipating what was coming up.
1. The Ride Majestic
3. Rise Above the Sentiment
4. Bastard Chain
5. The Living Infinite I
6. Two Lives Worth of Reckoning
7. Late For the Kill, Early for the Slaughter
8. Stabbing the Drama
As the clock is nearing 20:00, the time is nigh for seemingly the first definite highlight for many of the older members of the audience; the Brazilian thrash metal machine Sepultura. With their most recent album Machine Messiah out, the live compatibility of the new material was to be proven. As we are given five songs fresh off that record, it would be a criminal understatement to say that the Brazilians didn’t prove exactly this, and more.
The lights go out and the audience immediately erupts into a sound wall of cheering, while “Sepultura” is being passionately chanted all over. Drummer Eloy Casagrande takes the stage, soon followed by the three other members. As the band kicks into their first song, the smoking hot “I Am the Enemy”, a staggering amount of sheer aggression and raw, passionate energy is instantly unleashed both on stage and in the crowd alike. The crisp and heavy guitar tone of guitarist Andreas Kisser successfully apes the sound of their studio works, as he strums his guitar harder than anyone else that night. Vocalist Derrick Green jumps from one side of the stage to the other, and bassist Paulo Jr. holds down his bass duties meticulously.
Another new song, “Phantom Self”, is played following “I Am the Enemy”, and the energy unleashed during Aborted and which later perished during Soilwork is definitely back in the Forum. The first semi-classic tune comes in the form of 1998s “Choke”, as the crowd claps along to the threatening war drums in the intro, and later spits out the simple chorus at every opportunity given. The band’s name is by this point instantly chanted with great passion following every song, and the Portuguese word for ‘grave’ rings throughout the roman interior of the Forum.
The drums sound massive, thankfully enough for a band whose music is largely driven by heavy percussion. Green joins in with Casagrande and drums along on his own drum at the front of the stage several times. Their traditionally Brazilian inspired instrumental parts are striking, and provide a much-needed diversion from the generic sound of countless crossover thrash metal bands these days.
“London! Thank you for having us again, it’s great to be here,” Green smilingly announces following “Desperate Cry”. “We have a new album out, and we’re gonna play a few songs from it now! This one is called ‘Alethea’” he proclaims. The song provides a short lived a change of pace, and works rather well live, if one is to judge by the enthusiasm witnessed in the ground floor. Yet, nothing overcomes the cheerfulness and euphoric vivacity unleashed when “Inner Self” from Beneath the Remains is announced. Although the songs off Machine Messiah work rather well, it’s evident that the old material is by far the most well received segments of their set.
Green takes up his drumming duties again as the timeless iconic drum intro to “Refuse/Resist” sees the crowd jumping along to what’s unquestionably one of the great thrash metal classics of the 90s. The crowd unsurprisingly nails the singing of the simple two-word chorus, as the chaos (A.D.?) continues.
The madness doesn’t stop there, as Green announces “I want you all to fucking arise!”, leaving no doubt which song is next. The once conformed rows in front of the stage have long ago been blended together to an unrecognizable mass of moving individuals as the iconic title track off 1991’s Arise commences. The last four songs are certainly the strongest consecutive tunes in their set. Beer glasses are flying, crowd surfers emerge left and right, and heads are collectively banging everywhere as the Forum is transformed into an arena of madness.
The crowd claps and jumps along to yet another iconic intro, as the iconic war drums signalling “Rahatamatta” commences. Kisser assumes his second vocalist duties, as the verse bounces back and forth between him and Green. The song flows straight into “Roots Bloody Roots”, and as the band finish, Green shouts “you guys are the fucking best, thank you London!” After what cannot be described as less than a spectacular performance, little doubt was left on whether Sepultura are still going as strong as 25 years ago, even in the absence of the Cavalera brothers.
1. I Am the Enemy
2. Phantom Self
4. Desperate Cry
6. Sworn Oath
7. Inner Self
8. Resistant Parasites
12. Roots Bloody Roots
In the half hour following Sepultura’s set (a very long half hour that is), the anticipation builds up amongst the audience as the stage is transformed to a theatre worthy of the Teutonic thrash metal giants Kreator. Perhaps it’s purposefully done that it’s now Maiden, Priest, Helloween and Metallica that rings over the PA, rather than Michael Jackson. It clearly fires up the audience more so than the rather unorthodox song choices earlier in the night, culminating in an enthusiastic singalong to “Run to the Hills”.
The lights go out at 21:30, and soon the timeless instrumental “Choir of the Damned” can be heard. Masked and hooded henchmen light torches on each side of the stage, and as the final tone of the intro track to the Pleasure to Kill album rings, the Germans and Finn take the stage to massive cheers. Guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö initiates the intro to “Hordes of Chaos (A Necrologue for the Elite)”, a fitting salute to the fans who made it out that night. Confetti engulfs the room as frontman Mille Petrozza tears into the main riff, and the energy is as high as ever throughout all of the song. Confetti is still floating around in the air as the crowd joins Petrozza in his lines: “everyone against everyone, chaos!” and even people on the balconies are restlessly participating.
The crowd doesn’t get any quieter as the iconic late-90s classic “Phobia” begins. Bassist Christian “Speesy” Giesler ascends the platform behind Jürgen “Ventor” Reil’s drum set waving his hands to the beat, demonstrating extremely effective use of a simple theatrical effect. The sound is as tight and crisp as one could expect, despite Petrozza’s guitar at times sounding a little low. Smoke shoots up in front of the stage during the chorus, and there is little chit-chat as we are presented with the night’s first track off Gods of Violence.
Church bells toll and “Satan is Real”, a track that shows off Petrozza’s recent penchant for cheesy song writing, becomes the first of six songs from Gods of Violence that night. The backdrop is lit up with red light, revealing a skull-wearing god of violence, and the song’s music video is played on screens on both sides of the stage. Yli-Sirniö doesn’t miss a single note as he flawlessly executes the guitar solo, and Giesler strides around in his ‘Satan is Real’ shirt.
The stage goes dark as the band leaves, and the classically inspired acoustic guitar intro to the most recent title track sounds over the PA. Yli-Sirniö eventually takes the stage, playing along with the acoustic intro before Petrozza returns shouting “we shall kill!” as the rest of the band joins in. Another manifestation of how well their new material works live, so submerged is Petrozza in his moving around and headbanging that he has to rush back to the microphone, after having forgotten to start singing the second verse. The Coma of Souls-classic “People of the Lie” from 1990 gives a nice break from the newer material.
“London, this one goes out to all the old-school thrashers out there,” Petrozza shouts out following the song, announcing what would have been the totally unexpected “Total Death” if I hadn’t snooped around setlist.fm beforehand. A real treat for the old-school fans, the song gives a nice hint of the sheer aggression that dominated their earlier years of the band, before adopting a more melodic-friendly sound.
The instrumental “Mars Mantra” from 2012’s Phantom Antichrist plays over the PA as the band leaves the stage again, only soon to return tearing into the title track off that album.
“Fallen Brother”, another Gods of Violence track, pays homage to fallen stars of rock and metal, before the band prompts the crowd to create “the biggest circle pit possible!” What cannot be described as anything but the perfect live song, “Enemy of God” off the 2005 album by the same name needs speeds the tempo up immensely again, encapsulating the venue with energy clearly about the reach its climax.
As “Apocalypticon”, the instrumental intro track off the latest album sounds, the masked henchmen take the stage again, drumming along on each side before the band kicks off “World War Now”. The somewhat unorthodox and anthem-y “Hail to the Hordes” is a nice change of pace, with images of fans being displayed on the screens on stage. There is a steady flow of crowd surfers.
The man of the night himself stands in the middle of the stage shouting as the crowd repeatedly chants “Kreator”. Petrozza stands speechless and eventually utters “you’re fucking great, thank you!” He starts talking about the bands history with London, and how their UK fans have been with them through bad and good times, before announcing “we will always be with you in times of extreme aggression!” Another blast from the past, the title track from their 1989 landmark Extreme Aggression blows us all away, perhaps even as much as it did to those lucky enough to hear it for the first time back in 1989.
“Civilization Collapse”, another Phantom Antichrist-track ends their regular set, only after another circle pit is called upon, naturally. As the stage goes dark and the band leaves, the instrumental “The Patriarch” signals the eminent “Violent Revolution” as the first encore. Whereas some bands only reserve the encores for their most known songs, Kreator spreads them out throughout the whole setlist. As Petrozza starts waving a big flag, there is no doubt that it is “time to raise the flag of hate!”
This song, rapidly followed by 1986s “Under the Guillotine” surely brought a lot of old-school fans back in time to when they still had long hair and weren’t working 9-5 office jobs, and to round it all off, “Pleasure to Kill” becomes the ultimate finale as Kreator gives the crowd one final chance to go nuts before curfew. Upon finishing the song, Petrozza holds his guitar high up in the air, before unsurprisingly proclaiming that “the Kreator will return!”
Choir of the Damned (tape)
1. Hordes of Chaos ((A Necrologue for the Elite)
3. Satan is Real
4. Gods of Violence
5. People of the Lie
6. Total Death
Mars Mantra (tape)
8. Phantom Antichrist
9. Fallen Brother
10. Army of Storms (intro)
11. Enemy of God
13. From Flood Into Fire
14. World War Now
15. Hail to the Hordes
16. Extreme Aggressions
17. Civilization Collapse
The Patriarch (tape)
18. Violent Revolution
19. Flag of Hate/Under the Guillotine
20. Pleasure to Kill