Retribution Alive: Dark Clouds Over Camden
@Black Heart/The Dev/The Lounge
September 6th – September 8th 2019
Review by Ambra Chilenwa
Photography by Joanna Kat (Day 1) and Paweł Dziepak (Day 2 & 3)
Editing by Johnny Wolf
Dark Clouds Over Camden took place in Camden for three interesting nights at three different venues, with Crest Of Darkness headlining at the Black Heart, Abduction headlining their London debut at the Dev and Hecate Enthroned finishing the night at the Lounge.
Our first opening set to perform on the weekend was three-piece black metal band Terra. Playing since 2013, they displayed a similar field to that of Wolves In The Throne Room and Dennis Mikula vocal styles by two of the vocalists – generating an ambiguous atmosphere and tormenting spirit. Their set was introduced by a 19 minute track called “Apotheosis”: the guitars were gratifying and the drums were in such motion behind the music, and both vocalists expressed intense and wintry vocal styles. The drummer paused for a small drum session that built up into a new guitar riff.
Following up was Stahlsarg, who are a blackened death group and travelled from Suffolk; as their set was about to begin, the vocalist proceeded to greet the crowd with little to no response in return as the venue was partially empty, but those who missed out did not get an opportunity to experience such magic. They introduced their set with “Burn and Destroy” – haunting, unforgettable riffs with breakdowns and high-pitched shrieking. During the following tracks, Jack “Destruction” Patch amazed everyone with his magnificent demonstration of how to make a bass produce a satisfying and fetching sound, blending with fast tremolo picking by Krieg. However, the only movement visible was by a photographer trying to capture every moment.
Their third song introduced a gradual, slow opening riff and later progressed to fiery solos and a pleasurable, blues-like bass session – everyone was experiencing commendable production by such intelligent songwriters. The guitarist had an image of his own as he made grasping, bewitching eye contact with members of the crowd, while displaying his gift to perform such fierce solos and rhythms. One crowd member was so close, documenting the performance on his device, he pushed the microphone boom forward, almost shoving the microphone into the vocalist’s mouth. More people began to headbang with the band and enjoy the music. Their penultimate track, “Frostbite Division”, brought back memories of Furia’s and Emperor’s cold, intense productions with a buoyant bass and a snowstorm-like atmosphere. Stahlsarg’s set was then finished with the closing track “Damocles XIII”, which produced a distorted, bass-heavy and groovy opening with breakdowns, and a blend of high-pitched and low vocals.
The band that was finally to complete the first day of Dark Clouds Over Camden was Crest of Darkness, whose vocalist came on stage wearing a long robe. Their opening track was almost unpleasant to the ears with very little bass and the quality sounded very limited and trapped. The vocalist later tried to compensate for the inconveniences by making facial expressions ready for photographers; while asking for more bass on the monitor it was overheard that “someone stepped on the power lead” from a staff member that climbed on stage to fix the problem while others joined along on stage adjusting wires and leads. As the technical situation began delaying the performance, Ingar Amlien apologised to the crowd and hoped that nobody cared about the technical difficulties as they were only playing for fans.
The second track continued and was introduced with Ingar spreading his arms; what set them apart from everyone was their visceral, lo-fi and nostalgic sound similar to very early first-wave black metal bands who were just emerging in Norway, where the band originate from. They continued to manage well with very little bass, which is something that should be commended and applauded. Soon after, Ingar kneeled down and plugged in his bass. He asked for an increase in bass on the monitor at least three and finally his beloved bass was revived.
The following song was opened with a bass line and proud eye contact at the crowd, attempting to get them more interactive. One of the members stood above the stage monitors as though he was in a fast and accelerating guitar solo position, but the track was way too slow and did not go well with the stance. As the performance continued, a handful of people began to leave, which did not show a very good sign while other members of the audience moved closer to the stage to the point where they were almost directly face-to-face with Ingar, leaving the back of the venue almost empty. Ingar has a very friendly and welcoming talking voice, which can make one sympathise with him and he deserved commendation for continuing on the performance and doing his best to give fans a memorable evening.
Riffs were scattered during the next song, musical elements of the band did not blend together satisfyingly and the sound crew were asked many times to increase the guitar on the monitor during the set of the song. After that was over, Ingar’s robe was taken off and underneath was leather clothing with bullet belts. He went to retrieve a skull from the back of the stage and awkwardly tripped when returning to the audience. A notable track played was named “Computerized” which had a white noise-like static opening. This was a rather dispersed tune and had a shaky, unstable sound. The band tried their hardest to continue entertaining and pleasing the crowd, but there was room for improvements that could have been made with their sound production.
Performing on Day 2 was Sanguinem, who are a very new band and were performing for the very first time, so there is not much to say about their background; their style was a combination of traditional heavy metal and death metal, along with a few chords and slides. Stage presence was minimal and crowd reaction was very quiet, producing a plain atmosphere. This could have been due to the fact that this was the first band performing for that night. Not much more can be criticised about this group’s performance as they lack experience however I’m sure they will receive all the best luck on future live concerts and use every form of critique as an opportunity for improvement.
The second band led a much a bigger crowd reaction and was a much more energetic set produced by Road Mutant, who are a UK crossover thrash 5-piece. Their outgoing energy created a pit referred to as the “red zone”. Their music could rewind your thoughts to the sound of Powertrip; they sent the Dev a scorching, astonishing crossover thrash barrage and each musical element of the band forwarded a sharp rhythmic collection of melodies. Their cadence and momentum shifted from classic Overkill style to slow tempos and heavy rhythms similar to the likes of Sleep. The riffs were also abrupt and displayed with a groove that continued skilfully with disintegrating solos.
From Hertfordshire were an independent melodic blackened death metal piece called Draugr, who pushed more limits by bringing together orchestral fashion and death-influenced textures; the imagery was very unique and stood out from everyone else. Their music can also be considered symphonic as well as melodic and their vocals had a range of sounds like a punk/hardcore-style. The riffs were melancholic and heavenly, and grasped on a lugubrious mixture of intensity and docile influences. An influence of Children of Bodom can be heard from a few tracks while at the same time merging their own original sound. This was a very accomplished performance and the crowd showed their interest; if you are curious about their sound then it is suggested to invest in them.
Travelling from Liverpool were a relatively new band called Marw, featuring a former member of Dragged Into Sunlight. The setting was dark, the imagery was simple and the vocals were harsh; this band created atmospheric black metal with droning guitars and ambience laying out numerous influences from Imperium Dekadenz. Viewers were more responsive than ever to experience this – there was barely any talking from the band nor introduction to each track which only impacted on their mysterious imagery. Every moment was unpredictable and cryptic, producing music that scorched through everybody’s ears with scalding depth and excitement from K. James. A truly spellbinding experience. The audience loved it so much, they were urging for at least one more song.
The Dev is a small (almost cramped) bar, which can create discomfort for those who are anxious in tight spaces. It can sometimes be very hard to move around, even during changeovers. The bar also has its stage directly next to one of the restrooms, where an unsettling smell can occasionally reach the concert-goers depending on how close one is to the stage, as many people noted that night. The next band to play after Mawr, although ten minutes after their scheduled time, were British death metal trio Suffering who displayed mid-tempo groove and extremely deep to demonic, unique growls almost similar to early Sepultura. The mood was upbeat and memorable with a positive audience reaction, along with fascinating solos.
They later began transitioning between death metal and a traditional metal sound – one memorable moment captured was a man, unsure if drunk, asking “what’s wrong with everyone?” as he attempted to get more of the Dev crowd moving. You can almost detect a hard rock influence in one of their tracks with an emphasised boogie guitar rhythm; the vocalist, Grey, also blended the set with a vocal style similar to Kurt Brecht and Mitch Dickinson as he introduced a grind, punk vocal range, which resulted in more people dancing along. You can also notice the immaculate talent of one of their guitarists who rocked a seven string guitar in style. The dropped open tuning and grinding tempos just kept coming, making such a great impression and rewarding themselves with water offered by one of the viewers. The scene was occasionally ruined by people pushing past the front to get to the restroom situated directly next to the stage, which did somewhat create a distraction for those trying to enjoy the performance.
One downside to the set was when the vocalist ended up forgetting parts of his lyrics but laughed it off and continued playing, which is commendable. Many signature vocal styles kept being introduced by that one vocalist; he continued showing the Dev his diverse vocal skills from the likes of John Tardy to Karl Willetts. It’s very certain that you cannot please everyone as you could overhear someone say, “…as if we needed another Obituary”. Other than that, the majority of the concert goers were very supportive towards the trio.
To complete the night at the Dev, although nearly 20 minutes past the scheduled time, was Abduction, summarising everything there is to love about UK black metal – what was notable from how they prepared their performance was their use of incense to anoint the stage and a Digital Delay pedal, which runs through a cable and enters the kill switch; this is designed to stop distortion and fuzzy noises from the guitars to provide a clean sound. The vocalist was in a long robe similar to what you’d see associated with Profanatica while the rest of the members wore black face-coverings one would commonly identify Mgla with.
After jokingly frightening everyone with loud guitar feedback, they eventually thanked everyone for the patience and commenced with their magic – this performance was very accommodating to listeners of Behexen and Uada. Eerie themes and music captured the Dev and absorbed everyone. The vocalist’s microphone recalled the obscure tone of Sargeist with layered construction and un-muted tremolo picking. They were so appreciated that the audience was begging for one more song, and that completed Day 2 of Dark Clouds Over Camden.
On our final night, we began with Cogas – London based blackened death metal, where each member almost had their own individual image and style of clothing. The vocalist was very energetic from the start and demanded everyone to be a part of his energetic eruption. However the music performed from the stage could not catch up with the dynamic stage presence from the vocalist. It was humdrum, unexciting and lacked significance. The amp didn’t seem like it wanted to co-operate at the beginning as it kept creating eerie feedback. The drummer seemed to be playing tracks of his own as there were moments you could notice out-of-place drumming. During one of the tracks, “Carrion”, the guitar seemed to have been going though difficulties of its own so the only thing you could hear was a drum session with faint bass in the backdrop.
It later turned out that the amp simply stopped working and other individuals got on stage to try and revive it, creating an awkward silence amongst everyone and also leading to a track having to be skipped. The set resumed immediately after the technical difficulties were resolved. Spawned were more eager riffs and lack of substance; there could be hope for more improvement in developing less generic and bland atmospheres in future shows but other than this, that is the first impression received.
Following up from the West Midlands and playing more blackened death metal were Christgrinder, who wore suits and ties to state their unique imagery. The performance was not just defined by its drum kicks and ground-shaking blastbeats: the riffs were dynamic and you could draw a combination of vocal styles from yelling, shrieking and growling. At one point during a track, the vocalist struggled to continue with vocals as his hair kept getting in his face, but everything was laughed off and carried on. The atmosphere got colder as the vocalist ripped out a page from the Bible, quoting Matthew 10:34 where Jesus says, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send [or bring] peace, but a sword” and throwing the rumpled page at the audience. The bassist was probably was one of the most dedicated out of the group as he was deeply into every track performed. With half an hour of great quality, this surely contented every listener in the Lounge. A destructive set and truly an upbeat choice of songs.
Thy Dying Light wasted no time and got straight to the message, as they condensed the atmosphere with a bitter and ghostly sound of Belgian black metal band Lycanthropy’s Spell. They had one of the most supportive crowds of the night, charging at everyone with dangerous riffs and blaring screams on their London debut. True black spirit and strength was demonstrated here with an earsplitting set of material and equipment that conquered the excitement of watching an interesting live scene. The scene was penetrated with enchanting rhythms, while grasping to a modern collection of imaginative and nostalgic black metal acts. The tracks blasted everyone into oblivion giving little caution, like an temblor in a current of aggression and fury. Much respect to such non-joking musicians.
As we’re almost near to the end, we had Formicarius make another good first impression, bringing on stage a harmonious keyboard player, along with a superb drummer and creating a fresh new atmosphere; they dedicated a song to a former band member who sadly passed away. Although there was a hint of death metal in their performance, and the band labels themselves at black metal, every element corresponded greatly with each other. It contained a Bal-Sagoth-like keyboard piece and later developed deeper into tunefulness; the vocalist has a harsh lead to his image and vocal style accompanied by tremolo-picking and harmonies.
On our final night of these fantastic three days, we finally have the UK masters of blackened death metal to set the night to rest – Hecate Enthroned. Not long into their set and someone was attempting to start the first mosh pit of the night; the crowd was scattered and hair was flying everywhere as they opened with “Revelations in Autumn Flame”. As the set continued, the band was encumbered with technical difficulties regarding drums, which left the vocalist Joe Stamps no choice but to keep the crowd entertained with a stand-up comedy session while the issues were being resolved.
After troubles were settled, he continued on showing off how high his vocals could reach and how memorable each member can make their tracks with the tempo they were displaying. The performance was so entertaining they had a mini-photoshoot with photographers while also entertaining the crowd with their skills. Joe, in a respectful manner, thanked every previous band that supported and later drew influences from Lord Belial on their following track, to which nobody could resist such perfection. Despite the great atmosphere of such an intelligent band, more technical difficulties decided to make their way in, which led the group to skip a track as they were wary of time on a Sunday evening.
Nonetheless, everyone continued to support the band from start to finish. They continued to express their exceptional path to their trait of melodic blackened death metal, while establishing their rarity. The crowd was not satisfied enough and they seemed to have forgotten that it was a Sunday night and begged for more. Hecate Enthroned didn’t want to disappoint them any longer after their recent technical difficulties, so they played an encore which later turned out to be an improvised track played for the first time and went unnoticed until mentioned. A great contribution from the UK black metal scene.