One has to love a good metal concert. In fact, the heavier it is the more metal everything about the experience. The musicians are expectedly passionate about their trade but the fans, more so. Ankle length black hair, leather gear and denim jackets with a patchwork of album art from iconic records that shaped the genre, I found a long queue of fans lined up outside the O2 Academy in Islington. For those who haven’t been visited the venue, picture 300 metal heads in all shapes and sizes, leather studded attire and gothic looks that would give Manson a run for his money, waiting patiently in a shopping complex where the mothers congregate with their toddlers to discuss the goings on of the past 24 hours. It was an epic sight and surprising to so many passers-by who expected a certain level of rowdy from such characters.
All that serenity changed the minute One Machine took to the stage that evening. Dishing out a healthy dose of thrash metal, One Machine was clearly a band on the rise in the metal circuit. With a small fan base in the crowd, loyal since their inception around 2008, lead vocalist Chris Hawkins tried to get the mosh pit started early in the evening, albeit with little success with the majority of metal heads holding out for their acts of choice a.k.a. Vader and Overkill. Nonetheless, One Machine’s galloping double bass and high octave vocals sparked images of early Iron Maiden records which seemed to strike a chord with a fair few people in the crowd as evidenced by the numerous approving head nods and glances that old timers exchanged throughout their performance. In all, One Machine, being the opening band, may not have got the kind of encompassing approval they would be used to at one of their own shows but that didn’t stop the band from delivering a great performance and enjoying themselves on stage.
The opening act was the perfect warmup for the crowd so when Polish death metal legends Vader took to the stage, one could sense the anticipation and eagerness with which the crowd awaited their arrival. Vader, being old school ambassadors of the genre since the early 80’s, clearly had a sizeable fan following as they were greeted by loud cheers and whistles followed by a flurry of suggestions for what the fans wanted the hear first. Peter kicked off proceedings with a veteran growl asking if the crowd are ready to face the onslaught of what’s about to follow and right on cue, Spider’s guitar broke in with a dark distorted riff that paved the way for the drums and bass to kick in shortly thereafter. In keeping with the classic tenets of death metal, Vader’s sound was full of low tuned grizzly guitars, a bass deep enough to fill the Mariana trench and the gruff vocal lines that were symbolic of the imagery the genre paints. In fact, given how long Peter has been at the helm of this ship, it was amazing to see the energy and infallible execution he brought to a vocal style that is anything but gentle on the throat.
Vader delivered a mixed set with songs from their albums dating back to the early 90’s to their more recent album, Tibi Et Igni, from 2014. Their mix of songs played perfectly to the crowd – old grizzly metal heads in their sleeveless denim jackets along with newbie metal heads some of whom were attending their first metal concert. Three songs into the set, the floor of the Academy had turned from calm nodding fans into a full on swirling mosh pit. The double bass of the drums setting the pace for the intensity of the mosh, I recall having difficulty discerning the resonance of the drums in my chest from my own heartbeat. That intensity is what made Vader’s performance epic and when the feedback from Spider’s guitars rang out across the room just ahead of the encore; the mosh pit exploded into overdrive with every head at the Academy locked in an intense head bang to see out Vader’s set. And they did save the best for last; Helleluyah started out with a slow groove and seamlessly transitioned into a galloping riff before coming back to the signature slow groove which defined the song. Throw in Spiders face melting solo half way through the track and the crowd went wild with every head oscillating back and forth to the biting guitars and growling bass. Vader definitely lifted the crowd to the next level with their performance.
Wings / Go to Hell / Reborn in Flames / So this / Carnal
Triumph of Death / Come and See My Sacrifice / Cold Demons
Dark Age / Helleluyah!!! (God Is Dead)
Vader’s set created the platform for Overkill to fuel the frenzy the crowd had worked up over the past 45 minutes so when Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth took to the stage with his high pitched vocals, the intensity was 100 mph from the get go. The New Jersey based thrash quintet were the headliners for the night and had invited One Machine and Vader to play with them while in Europe. Overkill were extreme, passionate and totally engrossed in their music which was apparent from each of the band member’s faces at different times during the course of the gig. Bobby’s vocal range and commanding stage presence only fuelled the likes of D.D. and Dave to up their game and express themselves by head banging and taunting the crowd throughout the evening. The fans loved the emotion and expressiveness of the band once again leading to multiple mosh pits breaking out in different corners of the venue. After all, most of the fans at the concert were there to watch Overkill and when the headliners decided to turn the knob to 11, fans found themselves in a trance like state fixated on the crunching solos and screaming vocals. Playing almost 20 tracks that evening, Overkill were on fire by the end of the night sealing the evening with an encore that consisted of Elimination from The Years of Decay album and finally, a gut wrenching rendition of Fuck You to end the evening. To be honest, there isn’t an appropriate adjective to sum up what that did to the crowd but suffice it to say that the fans looked like they’d just completed the London Marathon by the time the music finished and they were making their way out of the venue.
All in all it was a great evening of thrash with some special memories and an awesome display of musicianship. Would highly recommend catching any of these acts if thrash is your thing but then again, if it is, y’all probably already knew that!
Armorist / Rotten to the Core / Electric Rattlesnake / Hello From the Gutter
Hammerhead / Feel the Fire / Blood and Iron / Coma
Infectious / Blood Money / Bare Bones / Nice Day… For a Funeral
Horrorscope / Thanx for Nothin’ / There’s No Tomorrow / Raise the Dead
Elimination / Fuck You (The Subhumans cover)