Vader + Entombed A.D. + Hellavista + The Drowning
@ The Dome – London
5th November 2018
Review by: Beandog
Photography by: Inty Malcolm
Considering the rising price of beer in many London venues, it comes as no surprise to hear a group of metal fans outside The Dome tonight discussing strategies for sneaking their booze inside.
Nearby, gathered on the benches and sitting on curb-stones around the venue, others, not wanting to risk having their contraband confiscated, are enjoying a few pre-gig cans outdoors and getting a bit of a buzz on while they congregate and debate (among other things) their favourite Kreator albums.
Both groups signify the growing challenge of sustaining a night out in a bar where a pint will set you back almost six quid. With that being said, it IS encouraging to acknowledge that despite this, and even on a Monday night, the lure of premium heavy metal is still enough to entice people out of their homes.
I’m eager to get inside for the first of two support bands this evening, so I head for the queue and offer myself up for a pat down and bag check.
Upstairs, The Drowning are already part-way through a powerful opening set. The fact that the early start time means they are playing to a very sparse crowd does nothing to diminish their enthusiasm.
Instead they deliver a confident, muscular chug that traverses the valley between doom and death metal. It’s a crunchy marriage of guttural vocals and mournful guitars – not dissimilar to a band like Paradise Lost.
Those in the room are certainly giving it their attention. It’s just a shame that there aren’t quite enough folk indoors to give their music the rousing response it clearly deserves.
The room is still fairly empty when second support, Hellavista (from Austria) charge into their set. Initially, they seem a bit shaky and take a song and a half to hit their stride. But when they do, it’s good.
We are treated to a spirited set of groovy thrash that gradually draws people closer to the stage and inspires a few people to break the ice and bang their heads. Their frontman punctuates the space between the songs with some genuine gratitude for the opportunity to play to a London crowd.
He keeps the energy levels up, bounding among his bandmates and introducing the songs with an infectious zeal – “This song is about an elevator straight to Hell, we call it…. HELLAVATOR!”
Hellavista are a young band, but their music is a traditional throwback to late eighties/early nineties thrash. The guitars rattles along with the drums and occasionally break out into some deft soloing.
This is a celebration of everything that gets the blood pumping in heavy music, summarised perfectly by the singer as he introduces Attack Of The Demons with the proclamation, “Fuck Yeah! It’s going to be a great, metal evening!”
As if to emphasise this level of anticipation, the room gets very busy very quickly, filling up just in time for Entombed A.D’s intro tape. Beers are held aloft as the band walk on stage to the sound of a hearty cheer, erupting into a hero’s welcome when L.G. Petrov emerges with a raised fist and a joyous smile.
The band waste no time in launching into their set, which evokes an immediate response from the crowd. A lively pit opens up during the first moments of music and it remains viciously maintained by a loyal group of headbangers, eager to make every blast beat count.
Soon after the beginning of their performance, to Petrov’s bemusement, security rush into the front rows and pull a man from the crowd and eject him from the room. It’s unclear why, but when it happens again – to a different reveller further into the set, despite protests to security from the mosh pit – the vocalist rhetorically asks what the criteria for getting ejected from the venue is. Surely headbanging is still permitted at a heavy metal show?!!
The crowd’s response to the heavy-handed staff is to just turn things up to 11. Before long the gig has hit its maximum frenzy and security actually seem resigned to let people cut loose. Fans are clambering onto the stage, hugging the band and jumping back into the crowd.
One man repeatedly stands aloft on the edge of the stage, facing the band – hands held high in a Jesus Christ pose – before allowing himself to fall backwards into the arms waiting to catch him.
Amongst all this jubilant chaos, the band don’t miss a beat.
There has been much debate about whether this version of the Entombed line up is a legitimate one (the trademark on the name currently belongs to Petrov’s old bandmates – Alex Hellid, Nicke Andersson and Uffe Cederlund – Despite their relative inactivity with it, the vocalist has been forced to add the letters A & D to the bands name in order to continue touring and releasing music).
I’ll say no more about that other than to acknowledge it as a moot point. This incarnation of the band are firing on all cylinders and drawing from a string of classic songs.
Stranger Aeons, Revel In Flesh, Out of Hand and Left Hand Path are all included in the set – and crucially, they are being played with such credibility and ferocity that there can be no doubt L.G. and his bandmates have earned the right to exist as Entombed.
Their newer material is also given an airing. Songs like Dead Dawn induce just as much sweaty whiplash among the fans as the greatest hits.
Overall, it has been a triumphant set that appears to have been enjoyed by the band as passionately as it has by the crowd. Personally, I could’ve left the venue at this point and not felt short changed at all. However, there is still more to come…
Since their beginnings in 1983, Polish death-metallers, Vader have clocked up an impressive 35 years of service to heavy metal. During this time, they have released eleven albums and several EPs of brutally unforgiving music; each record pulled absolutely no punches. Tonight, their intention is to remind us of this via a celebratory retrospective of their career.
They start at the very start – crashing in with the laser-sharp one-two of Dark Age and Vicious Circle from their debut album. From the beginning, their performance carries a very different vibe from the one put across by their co-headliners.
Where Entombed A.D. were all boozy smiles and sweaty stage invasions – Vader play with a serious and clinical precision that is quite frankly, jaw-droppingly intense.
Drummer James Stewart is straight out of the traps like a blast beat machine. His powerful clatter drives the music forward and causes the crowd to react with another violent mosh pit.
This time around, any crowd surfers are prevented from reaching the front by a pair of eagle-eyed stagehands. The two men charged with the task of keeping fans at bay certainly have their work cut out for them.
Bodies relentlessly tumble to the front; fans reaching out for the lip of the stage hoping to pull themselves up and leap back into the pit. Every one of them is pushed back before they can make it to the performance area.
No doubt this has been requested by the band, who, to be fair, are playing with such complexity you can’t blame them for not wanting to get jostled around. Everything about them sounds meticulous and on point – their tone is absolutely crushing. Particularly impressive is frontman Peter Wiwczarek, who alternates the combination of tight rhythm guitar and guttural vocals with some searing leads.
Hardly stopping to take a breath, as it is pointed out by the frontman – the band “have a lot to get through”. They play as though they want to fit as much music into the show as possible. The first half of the set is a relentless torrent of fiery aggression. It isn’t until the comparative swagger of Kingdom, from the EP of the same name, that we get any deviation from the rapid tempo. Its marching stomp sounds all the more powerful set among the machine gun beats of other songs from across their career.
Vader seem entirely focused on maintaining the intensity. Those who aren’t throwing themselves around near the front are transfixed by the performers. Everyone seems compelled by the riffs and judging by the looks that get passed between friends, they are completely in awe of the savagery on display. It is a good night to be a fan of extreme music.
By the time the set reaches its breathless conclusion, Vader have taken us on a rich retrospective across their back catalogue. There has been very little variation in the material, but when it is presented as it has been tonight – with such unrelenting brutality – it remains thrilling throughout.
We are given an encore. Just one song – Sword Of The Witcher, which is delivered with as much potency as the main set. At the end, the band bid the crowd farewell and leave the stage to the sound of Star Wars’ Imperial March (naturally!).
Between them, the two headliners have summarised everything that is exciting about heavy metal music. The brutality and the power, but also the reckless fun that can be had when hearing riffs at volume. It’s been a memorable gig. One that I would rank among the best this year.