MTV Headbangers Ball 2019 (Kataklysm + Whitechapel + Fleshgod Apocalypse + Dyscarnate)
The Electric Ballroom, London
5th December 2019
Review by Kira Levine
Photography by Manu Volpina
The Electric Ballroom hosted MTV Headbangers Ball 2019 on the first Thursday in November in Camden, and featured four bands. First up were Dyscarnate, a death metal trio from Horsham, England.
“London, let’s go!” – guitarist-vocalist Tom Whitty boomed, before they commenced to play ‘Of Mice and Mountains’. The lyrics – such as “I feel no pain / I know no fear / and I see no god up here” were delivered in a ferocious manner, matching the brutality of the music. Throughout the breakdowns in this song, the standing space in the venue erupted into a frenzy of moshing bodies.
After an equally energetic reaction to ‘Cain Enable’, Whitty enthused: “Hell fucking yeah, it’s good to be back in London, thank you guys!”
Just ahead of song number four, Tom yelled “Let’s see those horns up! This one is ‘Traitors in the Palace’!” During the opening verses, both frontman Whitty and bassist Al Llewellyn growled the lyrics in unison, which gave the song a sinister feel from its start. This fourth performance from Dyscarnate had been the slowest of their set, though the simultaneous vocals – a technique utilised through much of the song – conveyed enough emotion to keep people moving.
‘In the Face of Armageddon’ followed swiftly after, picking up the speed and converting the concert-goers from rhythmically nodding their heads to head banging wildly. As ‘The Promethean’ was being played, drummer Matt Unsworth twirled his left drumstick around, directing the crowd to form a circle pit (which they instantly did). “Thank you! Thank you, London!” the frontman said as the band were applauded.
Before explaining that they had another song to play, the band made a shoutout to their tour-mates Fleshgod Apocalypse, Whitechapel, and Kataklysm, showing their appreciation of the three other acts and gratitude for being on the tour.
“We are Dyscarnate and ‘This Is Fire’!” was announced before the triad exploded into their final offering of the evening. Thunderous drumming from Unsworth set the beat for the outro to the song, commanding the crowd to transform into a moshpit one last time for the British band. “Hell fucking yeah!” Tom Whitty exclaimed. “We’ll see you again soon!” The guys from Dyscarnate made a lasting impression on their home turf, representing the United Kingdom on top form.
1. Of Mice and Mountains
2. Cain Enable
4. Traitors in the Palace
5. In the Face of Armageddon
6. Iron Strengthens Iron
7. The Promethean
8. This is Fire
Next on the bill were Italy’s Fleshgod Apocalypse, with their unique take on symphonic death metal. Classical could be heard in the background as they set up for their part of the show. Visual details included ornate gold mic stands and guitars what looked antiqued, which brought to mind classical string instruments used in their recordings such as violins, cellos, and double basses.
Opener ‘The Violation’ showcased some blisteringly fast drumming from David Folchitto in his joker-esque makeup. Francesco Paoli’s vocals both contrasted and complimented Paolo Rossi’s, providing a great balance of ferocity and melancholy.
‘Healing Through War’ saw pianist Francesco Ferrini get up momentarily to hype up the already active crowd even more, mouthing “Come on!” and throwing both his hands up in the air. A fantastic solo was performed by guitarist Fabio Bartoletti which earned him many screams of approval and wolf-whistles.
After ‘Epilogue’ – and with little encouragement from the lead vocalist – soprano Veronica Bordacchini was given her second ovation of the evening, the first being for her note-perfect vocal performance on ‘Monnalisa’. She curtsied in her trumpet-sleeved dress and bowed her crowned head to the audience in response, her smiling face painted with a strip of blue.
Right before ‘The Fool’ is played, Paoli asks “Are you guys tired?” receiving a unified “No!” from the guests. “So, you want more?” to which they replied with a mixture of cheers and yeses.
The second appearance from their album Agony, ‘The Egoism’ was greeted with a gigantic mosh pit throughout, with bassist-vocalist Rossi swinging his right hand from side-to-side for parts of it, as if he were conducting the crowd.
To many’s delight, it was announced that the band will play some more UK shows very soon, before stating their finale, ‘The Forsaking’, would be “dedicated to you!”, referring to the crowd as a whole. During Ferrini’s piano outro, Paoli, Rossi, and Bartoletti raised their guitars and bass as attendees raised their horns and made some noise for the band.
Not long after, founder and ex-lead guitarist Cristiano Trionfera joined them on stage at the end of the set. The majority of the crowd cheered and clapped, pleasantly surprised to see Riccardi reunited with his former bandmates on-stage.
A great display of the friendship between the current and founding members of Fleshgod Apocalypse. Definitely one of the most unforgettable moments of the evening.
Fleshgod Apocalypse setlist:
1. The Violation
2. Healing Through War
6. The Fool
7. The Egoism
8. The Forsaking
Deathcore outfit Whitechapel from Knoxville, Tennessee were the penultimate band to play on the night. They led their set with ‘Forgiveness Is Weakness’ from album The Valley, the aggression of the song matching the lively reaction from the crowd.
‘Third Depth’ saw several individuals hold their lighters up during its down-tempo introduction. Frontman Phil Bozeman alternated between clean vocals and death growls throughout the song, the two styles provoking people to switch between subdued nodding and full-on headbanging.
“Make some noise for Dyscarnate and Fleshgod Apocalypse!” to which the crowd roared. “You guys ready for Kataklysm tonight?” This question sparked some more roaring.
Their performance of ‘Our Endless War’ was dominated by Alex Rüdinger’s drumming from its onset and speedy vocal delivery at times from Bozeman, setting the pace of the mosh pit.
‘The Saw Is the Law’ had fans jumping up and down to its lively beginning and shouting along to the line “This is a way of life…!”, which is repeated throughout.
Much of Whitechapel’s set lacked variety in terms of the instrumentation (likely down to two-thirds of their setlist being selected from their latest release), therefore lot of the performances seemed very similar. However, the audience appeared to be having fun going absolutely mental during breakdowns and interacting with the band between songs.
1. Forgiveness Is Weakness
3. Black Bear
4. Third Depth
5. When a Demon Defiles a Witch
6. This Is Exile
7. Hickory Creek
8. Our Endless War
9. The Saw Is the Law
After a brief interval, it was time for headliners, Canadian melodic death metallers Kataklysm, to take over. The Juno award-winning band are the only band to play Headbangers Ball more than once. Lead vocalist Maurizio Iacono donned a t-shirt with the words “straight outta fucks” in capitals emblazoned on the front.
Kataklysm began with ‘Soul Destroyer’ and the room was instantly transformed as masses of people proceeded to move intensely to the track from 2015’s Of Ghosts And Gods. “England, let me hear you!” Maurizio shouted mid-song, which resulted in a mass singalong.
“Make some noise! Fuck yeah, you sick motherfuckers!” the frontman exclaimed between songs as the crowd cheered, many of their horns raised. “Holy fuck… you guys are like this on a Thursday? We gotta come on a Saturday!” he added, impressed with the fans’ passionate feedback.
‘The Black Sheep’ played host to Maurizio throwing his fist in the air towards the end of the track, chanting “Ey! Louder!” with the audience following his action and his command. “Fucking sick! This next song’s about cutting people’s fucking heads off!” the vocalist said, introducing ‘Guillotine’ to the ecstatic fanatics. One of the catchiest songs on the set due to Jean-François Dagenais’ infectious riffs, yet not lacking in heaviness thanks to Stéphane Barbe’s bass work.
Referring to ‘As I Slither’, Iacono commented “You guys made this song famous in places they don’t even listen to metal” before the band went on to play it. The Kataklysm frontman also expressed interest in playing Bloodstock again. “Don’t they like bands with balls?!” he joked – as they have not been part of the festival’s line-up since 2013 – and received a short burst of laughter in return.
The night also saw the live premiere of ‘The Last Breath I’ll Take Is Yours’. It sent the crowd crazy, with several falling over (before being swiftly helped up) when caught in the manic moshing. Maurizio gun signalled with both his hands, mimicking gunfire on Olivier Beaudoin’s last four drum beats of the song. The second song to make its live debut came in the form of ‘Marching Through Graveyards’.
We were asked by the vocalist to “make some noise” for Dyscarnate, who were described as “our very own”, his “brothers from Italy” Fleshgod Apocalypse, and also for their direct support Whitechapel, who received the loudest show of approval.
Iacono mentioned that Kataklysm had just finished a new album, produced by Colin Richardson. The frontman stressed that the producer is British, and went on to call him a legend. This was answered with a succession of applause. “Keep metal alive!” he added, before final track had been performed. Lyrics such as “I won’t miss you anyway” were snarled into the pit as individuals windmilled wildly to ‘Elevate’.
“Thank you, see you next time… we love you all!” Maurizio enthused before Kataklysm left the stage. We were left with sentimental words after such a relentlessly heavy set, which demonstrated how appreciated the fans attending Headbangers Ball really are. A great mix of songs from the death metal titan’s near thirty-year back catalogue.
1. Soul Destroyer
2. The Ambassador of Pain
3. Thy Serpents Tongue
4. The Black Sheep
6. As I Slither
8. The Last Breath I’ll Take Is Yours
9. Marching Through Graveyards
11. Crippled & Broken
12. Let Them Burn
13. In Shadows & Dust