MARDUK / ARCHGOAT / VALKYRJA / ATTIC - The Underworld, London 11.12.18

WILL HORSMAN

Never far from controversy, Swedish black metal act MARDUK caused quite a stir on the first leg of their UK tour in support of new album 'Viktoria'. For those who missed it, the scheduled gig at The Dome, Tufnell Park still went ahead but support band Infernal War were pulled from the line up just days before the gig after mounting pressure from various social media campaigns for the venue to boycott the gig entirely surrounding Infernal War’s deeply anti-semitic and far right lyrical content. The situation exacerbated by various news articles stating members of MARDUK had also purchased memorabilia online from a Swedish neo-Nazi organisation – something which the band denied. Hopefully, tonight goes without a hitch…

Standard London traffic meant I arrived at the venue 5 minutes into tonight’s opening set. I hope the band will forgive me for assuming their set hadn’t started on time as I made my way past the bar thinking that the venue was playing an old Mercyful Fate record. Heavy metal and all of it’s spawn are rife with influence and flattery within most new releases so it’s completely understandable that ATTIC has been influenced by King Diamond and probably the likes of Judas Priest, but you do have to wonder how far that vocal has been the subject of copyright…

If you shut your eyes you would honestly think it was King Diamond stood on the stage performing. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing either, I love that style of vocal and ATTIC are fucking awesome to boot – some of the guitar work is marvellous, dual guitar solos inter-woven between menacing riffs with drum fills that sound like actual thunder. I just hope that people can see beyond the obvious comparison and take ATTIC for what they are – possibly not the most original, but nevertheless a great band.

 

Attic are:

Meister Cagliostro: Vocals

Katte: Guitar

Rob: Guitar

Chris: Bass

JP: Drums

 

You can find them at:

https://www.facebook.com/atticfuneral

 

As soon as ATTIC start to clear the stage, a daunting bass-heavy backing track kicks in over the stereo and slowly builds for the entire 15-minutes of change over leading up to VALKYRJA’s set. As the lights drop, the backing track picks up and the band walk out. The set lacks momentum for the most part and something just doesn’t quite click between band and audience. That is until they play “Madness Redeemer” and the stage ironically, figuratively lights-up in the pitch black and the audience seem entranced by the opening riff and punishing double pedal. Whilst it’s a great moment, it’s also a shame because it highlights just how good this band can be but the rest of the set wasn’t up to the same standard. I really hope it was just a bad day and look forward to them coming back.

 

You can find Valkyrja at:

https://www.facebook.com/valkyrjaswe/

 

Whilst Scandinavia is intrinsically linked to black metal, Finland isn’t the first country that comes to mind when thinking of the genre. Regardless, hailing from Turku, Finland - brothers Lord Angelslayer and Ritual Butcherer created their own brand of the genre back in the early ’90s and, much to the delight of their fanbase, decided to reform and tour extensively from 2004 onwards. With lyrical content steeped in Left Hand Path philosophy, the music’s aggression has also lead the band to be hailed as very influential in the death metal scene which is no surprise when citing early Celtic Frost and Carcass records as inspiration.

With a large upside down cross painted on his forehead in black, Lord Angelslayer makes no interaction with the audience other than to introduce each song in his signature unintelligible growl – and what a growl it is. Those vocals are nothing short of impressive and it makes this whole performance feel less like your standard gig and more like a service or satanic sermon. Ritual Butcherer takes a break from shredding everyone’s faces off with his destructive riffs only to drink his beer and Goat Aggressor’s drum work could bring the pillars of this venue to the ground.

The whole performance is loud and aggressive but you can hear every little detail, the sound quality is absolutely incredible. For a genre whose trademark is deliberately appalling sound quality, this is sharper and clearer than most bands who have far less going on. Having played together longer than I’ve been alive, there is a certain level of expectation that they would be masters of their craft but ARCHGOAT really is up there with some of the best blackened death metal bands on the planet. Hearing the opening sample to ‘Messiah of Pigs’ scream over the PA is enough to make anyone feel uncomfortable but it’s all part of the performance. As the set comes to an end Lord Angelslayer slowly nods his head to the audience and beats his chest in appreciation. No thank you, no goodbye – it was perfect.

 

Archgoat are:

Lord Angelslayer – Vocals/Bass

Ritual Butcherer - Guitars

Goat Aggressor - Drums

 

You can find them at:

https://www.facebook.com/archgoat.official/

 

For those in attendance tonight who haven’t had their faces melted off already, the lights drop in anticipation for MARDUK to finish the job off…

Their intro-track lasts for the best part of 10 minutes with the entire pit plunged into darkness until the band walk out, the entire back line draped in cargo netting and Mortuus screams “PANZER DIVISION MARDUK” at the audience with them all screaming back almost on ceremony and they tear through the first two tracks from their 1999 album of the same name. Guitarist Morgan is right in everyone’s face throughout the set, effortlessly playing some of the fastest power chord changes I’ve ever seen.

The pedal doesn’t come off the proverbial metal for even a second during their set, blistering through the likes of ‘Of Hells Fire’ and ‘Burn My Coffin’ the performance is absolutely top draw. ‘Equestrian Bloodlust’  from their latest album fits in the set perfectly but as soon as they break into fan favourite ‘The Blond Beast’ the atmosphere completely changes – it’s as if the veil of grimace and misery purported by the baleful audience is accidentally dropped and the long black hair and beards are no longer banging but gleefully jumping around, dancing with their friends on this most joyful of occasions – the appearance of THAT disco beat. Usual service quickly resumes with ‘Into Utter Madness’ but the audience seem completely reinvigorated and the energy levels have completely picked up. Which makes for a bizarre end to the evening's proceedings as the band walk off having closed the set with ‘Wolves’ and a surprising number of the audience make their way out of the venue without returning for the encore of ‘The Black…’ perhaps unwittingly…Either way, it brings to an end an incredible evening of some of the best subterranean music on offer in the metal scene.

 

Marduk are:

Morgan – Guitar

Mortuus – Vocals

Devo – Bass

Widigs - Drums

 

You can find them at:

https://www.facebook.com/Mardukofficial/