The Dome + Boston Music Rooms, Tufnell Park, London
13-14 May 2017
Review by Demitri Levantis
Photos by Inty Malcolm & Miguel de Melo
The extremes of metal, particularly Black and Death, are collectively deemed ideal for indoor performances. It’s not always the type of music that sounds best in a open field full of boozed up metalheads – so every now and again we see a good old indoor festival pop up in some of the world’s finest cities.
And the quaint city of London has just that: Incineration Festival. An indoor two day fest that I’d say is on a near parallel with Oslo’s Inferno Festival.
Having started in 2014, Incineration has gone from strength to strength, and this year the fest took place at the Dome and Boston Music Rooms, Tufnell Park. A venue that has seen the likes of many Black/Death Metal veterans like Emperor and Enslaved perform over the years, so here we all were again, ready for another two day metal onslaught.
Saturday 13 May
Opening the weekend’s fun were a home grown group all the way from Yorkshire. Sathamel, having been on the road for nearly five years delivering beautiful occult themed Black Metal to the masses took to the stage. And within seconds I knew this band were going to blow the crowd away with some extremely memorable tunes
The screamed vocals and guitars clung together like a limpet to a rock and the blistering drums hammered home the message that UK Black Metal is not mellowing today, nor will it anytime soon. Sathamel represent some of the finest raw talent to have played famous fests like the Blackwood Gathering, and now they bring that talent here to London.
Each track was delightfully received by the crowd and many people were left fired up for the rest of the day, so an excellent choice for a festival opener there. [4/5]
And continuing the showcase of some excellent UK talent were the Suffolk outfit: Stahlsarg who came on the Dome stage next. They, alongside bands like Eastern Front, have brought topics of modern warfare and history into the canon of modern Black Metal, with focuses on historical engagements and extreme violence, as well as military themed band uniforms.
Drums were no too far away from comparison with a machine gun and the vocalist sounded like he had a bayonet in his guts – a truly fine combination to give the crowd an audible impression of what a vast battlefield might sound like if you ever found yourself in one.
The sound on this stage had boded well for Stahlsarg and for the predecessor, so this left me thinking I was at a festival which has mastered its organisation and found the right people to give a great day of music. As well as booking great bands like Stahlsarg. [3/5]
But in every collection of bands on show for a weekend, there’s always that one which doesn’t seem to be on top of its game. Shrines, another UK band who fuse Progressive Black and Death Metal were the first band I encountered on the Boston Music Room stage. And unfortunately, their sound really didn’t seem to hit it for me.
I could see the guys were giving it their best and the sound engineering wasn’t to blame, but the expression of the notes and cries, screams and growls from the band just weren’t there for me. The rest of the crowd seemed to be taken by the band but it all got too much for me and I had to walk away this time.
Sorry Shrines, this critic really isn’t that fond of your tunes but please keep up with making your music. [1/5]
So back upstairs it was to the Dome stage and there before us was a fine showcase of Doom Metal fused with some Death. The King Is Blind, another home grown group had the crowd wrapped around their little fingers in a trance that only the drones of Doom Metal can offer.
We were treated to some excellent growling and the chords of guitars being twanged and shredded by some well learned musicians. This was another strong personal discovery of the festival because I’d never seen this band live before and I came away impressed by their dark and brutal output.
Very nice job. [3.5/5]
Then it was time for the overseas talent to show its colours.
First up was the French veteran outfit: Temple of Baal, named after one of the seven princes of hell.
Nineteen years on the road certainly haven’t made this band wane or mellow in its output of satanic Black Metal grinds and screams as this group had all you’d want from a European outfit that has been there right from the word go.
The group played a wide range of tracks from across their five studio outings and had a truly sinister appearance on stage that told me this was one truly dark band who put the darkness into the most horrifying of Metal genres.
One damn fine exhibit of French talent, merci beaucoup Temple of Baal. [4/5]
Then there was another French speaking band to take the audience by storm. Lelahell, all the way from the north African nation of Algeria took to the Boston Music Rooms.
At first I was a little sceptical about their Death Metal vibes, but slowly and surely I was won over by the band packing quite a punch into their philosophically themed repertoire.
They didn’t have as much stage presence as I felt the other bands I’d enjoyed, but there was a lot of potential to be seen in this group.
Keep it up Lelahell, you’re putting Algeria on the Metal map as you’re the first band I’ve come across from said country. [3.5/5]
That band might have been the first good new discovery of the festival, but one was blown away and mesmerised beyond comparison by what came next in the Dome.
All the way from the Czech Republic was a group of Black Metal musicians who were not so much performing a concert as conducting a black mass.
Cult of Fire, on stage clad in black robes and hoods reminiscent of the Spanish Capirote monks were eye catching the moment I walked into the room. On stage as well as epic blending guitars that conjured a flowing river of noise, there was incense burning and images of what you’d think at first were Orthodox saints, but thinking back now they must have been more occult themed.
This is one esoteric band with an eclectic taste in presentation and delivery of their music. I’d say Cult of Fire helped popularise the Atmospheric Black Metal genre in Europe when they first appeared and I had them down as a band quite like Caladan Brood or Wolves in the Throne Room without the droning guitar scratches.
There they were belting out chimes and blasts of Metal that one could only liken to a choir of undead monks calling for the fallen souls to arise and reap vengeance on the living.
Mind blowing is an understatement with Cult of Fire. They must be seen to be believed. [4.5/5]
It was then time for a short break and in discussing the day’s output with friends, it was collectively agreed that Cult of Fire were the crowd favourite of the day.
And I have to agree, that whilst the bands that followed were good, they didn’t quite stick in my head as the Czech contingent.
Up next on the Dome stage were another veteran of the UK Black Metal scene. Akercocke, back on the road after reuniting the previous year were here to play a nice array of satanic progressions from the metal underground.
I’d say this band were the best group of Bloodstock last year and they’d blown me away at Damnation too. But here at Incineration, they felt like more of a band who managed to hype up the crowd regardless of however much substance they had on offer.
They weren’t bad in the slightest, I had a damn good time watching the London outfit charge through their studio albums and have a good mosh pit going throughout the whole time there. The energy was alive and white hot and the musicianship nothing short of excellence. A very good time. [4/5]
Marguerite & Gretchen
The Dark Inside
Enraptured by Evil
A Skin for Dancing In
Son of the Morning
As the Dome stage was being prepared for the headliner it was time to go back downstairs and check out the last Boston band of the day.
A Forest of Stars, another home grown group from the faraway land of Yorkshire were ready and waiting to go – all suited up like some 19th century minstrels who’d gathered together for an evening of storytelling that wouldn’t have looked out of place at The Last Tuesday Society.
I’ve come to enjoy this band as part of the Atmospheric Black Metal movement and they fuse in a nice blend of folk and electronics to their output.
And when they began I could tell this band were trying their hardest to give 110%, but this was another classic moment of the sound engineering failing to deliver the audio required for this sort of act.
I’ll commend the effort put in by the vocalists and I loved the violins and flutes that blended the songs together as well as the use of percussion programming and acoustic drums, but I think the sound had had it for the day.
This wasn’t a bad performance at all, I just felt I wasn’t hearing as good a performance as I have when watching the band perform live on YouTube. Keep up the good work guys, this was just a bad piece of engineering that let you down. [3/5]
So day one was almost over, but now it was time for the headliner. A band composed of men way into their fifties and who’d laid the framework for Black Metal and Thrash Metal in their 36 years on the road.
Sodom – one of the big three of Teutonic Thrash Metal and who put Germany on the Extreme Metal map arrived to give us a rendition of their violent repertoire.
I was very pleased to hear all the classics: ‘Agent Orange, ‘The Saw is the Law’, and the best cover of 60s hit ‘Surfin’ Bird’ I’ve ever heard.
Sodom were one of the first Metal bands I ever listened to, so I was pleased to see them for the first time ever. It was excellent to see that they had the same energy as their contemporaries Kreator and Destruction when it came to performing and I feel they still packed the same punch as when they first started out.
The crowd agreed too and there was many a fine pit going, reflecting the fast, violent nature of the songs and their topics. A very good end to one very enjoyable day. [4/5]
In War and Pieces
Sodomy and Lust
Surfin’ Bird / The Saw is the Law
Outbreak of Evil
Tired and Red
City of God
Day one of Incineration was over, and the final showdown was about to begin.
Sunday 14 May
So the first day of Incineration 2017 had boded very well with an impressive set of bands from home and abroad performing with much aplomb.
And without further ado the London metal scene once again congregated at the Dome and Boston Music Rooms for another full day of performances.
First to take to the stage were the UK’s own Reign of Erebus, a band who helped fashion the ‘Gothic Black Metal’ subgenre back in the 90s and had reformed in recent years delivering a much more raw and vicious take on the genre.
And this performance was nothing short of brilliant with the band getting down to business the moment they took to the stage. Each member had a look of serious musicianship in their eyes and the guitars and drums melded together like a freshly brewed cask ale.
Impressive was a bit of an understatement as Reign of Erebus showed us their reign of audoible terror was far from over and I could see them going onto greater and better things fairly soon/ a marvellous festival opener. [4/5]
Prelude to Genocide
Desperation of the Divine
Funeral of the Nazarene
Frozen and Buried in Decadence
Stromwinds of Lucifer
Immediately afterwards a Death Metal band formed in the capital itself came onto the Boston Music Rooms stage playing a fairly decent taste of old school and fairly new DM.
Many critics, myself included have regularly named Death Metal as a genre that has got up itself and become too commercial – especially with the atrocities of Deathcore. But here we had Anakim, a band who had a tightness that drew in a good range of blast beats and growled vocals that I could compare to Chris Barnes or even the genre godfather, Chuck Shuldiner.
It was great to see a band so versed in the old and giving it some new sound with some fairly technical song arrangements so Anakim were very impressive. [3/5]
Now it was time for some of the finest UK Black Metal to make their first move of the day. The Infernal Sea, whom I felt roared high and mighty above the crowd like a terrifying tempest that claims the lives and existence of everything in its path.
I felt swept off my feet by the group who have gone from strength to strength in their career, with a magnificent performance at Damnation Festival last November, and whilst I don’t recall any new material being showcased, I felt this was one band who have definitely found themselves and can only get better.
The Infernal Sea had the crowd in their grasp and didn’t let us go until we reached the new shores of the next performance. [3.5/5]
And what a performance the next band was.
Yesterday’s best new discovery for me was Cult of Fire, especially their ability to have the audience enticed right from the word go with their outlandish stage shows. Now it was time for some home blood to have that honour.
Nahemia, a band who opened their set with a sound bite of a World War One battle and who came onstage wearing bullet belts and barbed wire. This band stood out from other war themed bands because I can’t recall that many UK bands focusing on the Great War.
And one Great War was raged by Nahemia. The horror of the trenches and any modern battlefield echoed forth as the drums sounded like nothing short of a pillbox and the vocalist sounded like he’d had his guts disembowelled with a bayonet (strangely I think he had one on his belt too).
The war paint was also on point to give off the impression of some resurrected troops and the stories of how war claims everything in its path rang free.
I was blown away by this band and I certainly hope they play London again very soon. [4.5/5]
Blast of Steel
Nightfall of Blackstorm
Staying at the Boston stage, up next was another sophomore piece of home grown talent I’d seen on several occasions such as the New Blood stage at Bloodstock and supporting the likes of Hecate Enthroned.
Vehement, all the way from Eastbourne arrived and gave a pretty strong rendition of their take on the BM sound.
And quite a good sound it was, all the right shrieks and growls were a fun accomplice to the amazement that had just graced the stage with Nahemia, so I felt the addition of this band were a fine choice.
I don’t recall any slip-ups from Vehement and I felt they’ve been on the road long enough now to have fashioned their own sound so I came away pleased with the gig. [3.5/5]
And the theme of home grown talent taking to the Boston stage continued for next it was the turn of London group, Domitorem.
Having recently changed their name from Premature Birth and recording their debut single, ‘Funeral’, there was some excitement sensed from the crowd who gathered to watch the experienced members of the London scene as they began their full frontal assault of Black Metal mixed with Death Metal vibes and symphonics.
A very nice mix of a wide range of extreme metal here. Domitorem were clad in corpse paint with filthy clothes reminiscent of Dead, who used to bury his clothes before a Mayhem gig, and had acquired bone necklaces to give of a somewhat esoteric image of an occult and alchemy themed band.
This was nothing short of amazing as the songs were tight and delivered like a full on barrage of artillery landing precisely on target.
The only criticism I had was of the sound engineering. The keyboards weren’t as audible as the guitars and drums. But apart from that a very memorable time on stage. Keep up the good work, Domitorem. [4.5/5]
Mysteries of Seven
Begin, the Final Chant
So that was enough for the Black Metal for now, therefore it was time to witness something a little more horror themed and gory than the occult themed belters that had graced the waves so far.
Bringing a whole new theme to the Boston stage came Basement Torture Killings, a band obsessed with snuff films, serial killers and all things torture and murder related. It was quite reminiscent of classic bands like Carcass for the group came on in medical style wear with plenty of fake blood to complete the look.
Here we had a band obsessed with the destruction and decay of the human body and just how fascinating it is to take a look into what treacherous things human beings do to each other. There were a few gory novelty props being thrown around the audience who were getting into the very bloody Grindcore too.
But most of all I was impressed by the fairly new vocalist, Beryl (Millie Crampton). This lady heavily reminded me of former Cerebral Bore vocalist Simone Pluijmers and had the ideal growl spot on for this kind of band.
This has to be the first Brutal Death Metal band I’ve seen with a female vocalist so it was great to see Beryl showing the world that women can be just as brutal as their male counterparts.
One very memorable piece of brutality. [3.5/5]
Now it was time for the veterans of the Metal world to have their time of the day, for the twilight hours had now kicked in.
Following the dissolution of his last band, God Seed, the city of London awaited the appearance of Norwegian Black Metal elder: Gaahl – here to perform some of his classic numbers with his latest band, Gaahl’s Wyrd.
If you just pronounced that name as ‘weird’ there was certainly nothing weird about this band.
You could tell it was made up of men who have made a strong and decent living out of the most evil music ever concocted. The guitarists and drummer took to the stage opening with a ghoulish and whimsical intro before the man himself came to darken the place.
Gaahl has the ability to grab the entire crowd by the scruff of the neck and have you in a choke hold until the concert is over. He will look you deeply in the eye and make the devil horns with his hand in a horizontal manner that makes you feel like you’re being possessed by Satan.
Possession was on the agenda for Gaahl’s Wyrd had the music flowing like an endless vessel of black blood spewing onto the city of London to bring us out of the current situation of life to a whole new world of ideas and behaviour.
I felt there was a true feeling of devotion to the music and the ideas behind it from Gaahl, so here’s to a man who appears to treat his shows like an act of worship. This was one band worthy of some worship because they certainly did not disappoint. [4/5]
But with the next headliner, there were a few scores of disappointment from the word go.
Having come all the way from their native Switzerland to play the UK capital for the first time in several years, the experimental band Samael, had a few problems with the setup.
It was of no surprise to me that a band who pioneered the Industrial Black Metal sound, and were one of the first bands of the genre to incorporate electronic and industrial music into the their sound, had some fairly detailed stage sets, but it took over half an hour to put them together and the stage hands really didn’t seem able to solve the problem from where I stood.
Thankfully the setup was solved and the band came on about 20 minutes overdue, meaning the setlist had to be cut a little short.
But I’ll give Samael the benefit of the doubt as it wasn’t really their fault for being late. And they still came on, filled with all the energy industrial music can give to you and they were off on a good trip across their 30 year career.
Classics belted from the PA and I was impressed to see the percussionist doing as much work on the programming as well as playing acoustic drums. The guitar players were all having a fun time looking lovingly into the audience as the pits began to get brutal and frontman Vorph growled his way through track after track that almost all sounded completely different.
This was one eclectic band with a wide range of musical taste, but what struck me as odd here was the reactions from the fans. Electronic based music has never appeared to be the kind you can get a pit going to and there seemed a few irritating ‘superfans’ who kept crowd surfing and stage diving much to the annoyance of the security.
Here was another moment of the few ruining the show for the many as Samael is a band you could easily put on in a club like Reptile and people would dance along, but a mosh pit is a bit too out of the question. So a good band but ridiculous fanboying.
Please come back soon Samael, I’d like to see you all doing a bigger show like in an arena. [3.5/5]
So the day was almost over, but there was one more band to complete the lineup left.
A group who named themselves in memory of the year the Black Death hit their native land of Norway. A plague that tore up the whole of Europe and severely reduced the world’s population like wildfire.
And the sound of this band spread like a plague and like wildfire even before they even took to the stage.
During the setup, it was a delight to see Black Metal percussion god Frost (Satyricon) warm up his blasting on the drums, which came complete with his signature ornaments reminding the world of the Norwegian scene.
Then the lights dimmed and with very loud and energetic anticipation, 1349 came on stage and I knew a whole new set of holes were going to be ripped right through the capital with the onslaught this band had in store.
From the moment that first chord rang forthwith, 1349 got the crowd moshing and screaming with much delight as their contagious Black Metal vibes infested and converted us all to their incredible sound.
Black Metal is typically agreed to be played indoors and the past few times I’ve seen this band live have been in the open air. Those performances haven’t been bad, but I now know this is another band whom you have to see indoors to get the full on shock of the music.
And that music crunched my bones and made my ears burn with satanic delight as many classics like ‘Atomic Chapel’ and ‘Cauldron’ were sent over the PA system to make us all devoted to the greatest music ever once again.
This has to be one of the finest choices of festival headliners in all the years I’ve been coming to Incineration Festival. 1349 are now up there for me with bands like Unleashed and Impaled Nazarene who made this festival end on a truly high note. Incredible drums, guitars, tremolos and screams that took me from one level of ecstasy to another is how 1349 faired and I beg them to come to our shores again. [5/5]
Once more the city of London shines in full on putridity with another grand blast of amazingly evil music. It makes you feel proud to live in a place so rich in such incredible sounds when you have festivals like Incineration on your doorstep and they go from strength to strength each year.