Cauchemar + Deceptor at The Unicorn, Camden Road, London; May 17th 2014

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It was a humid evening on Camden Road, when Québécois doom band Cauchemar came to London for the UK spot of their European tour. Sharing stage duties with English thrash outfit Deceptor, both names played a heady yet fast-paced night of metal.

Aside from minor confusion as to when the show would start, The Unicorn was a fitting site, owing to the stage’s small, intimate space at the back of the free entry pub.

 

Support came from the Sussex-based Riddles; a fresh-faced trio invested in not just the sound but the look of the 1970’s prog rock scene. From cheap, sci-fi sound effects to the bassist’s dark, mop-top hairstyle; the mood was set for their music.

True to the nature of much retro worship, a decent stream of rock ‘n’ roll played out through heavy drum intros and lengthy guitar and bass jams onstage. The boys knew how to play their tools of the trade, and didn’t waste any time in showing this off as loudly as possible.

Yet for all their musicianship, Riddles’ appeal wore off well before they could finish. Pushing aside that each song effectively bled into one another, making it hard to determine which numbers were just about to begin; the endless doodling onstage meant that the band were so self-absorbed that they failed to take into account that they were performing to a live audience, rather than just themselves. Even the few, overly enthusiastic (and possibly drunk) headbangers near the front gradually lost interest, due to such non-engagement with the crowd.

 

Afterwards, it was time for Cauchemar, one of the main draws of the night, to step up.
Despite the extra wait during a ten minute sound check, the audience happily greeted the band when they began to play.

In a genre saturated with youngsters invested in only mimicking heavy rock sounds of the 1960’s, Cauchemar are set in the occult roots of traditional, doom metal. Draped in a long. black hooded cloak and with lit candle to match, frontwoman Annick Giroux solemnly rose to her feet, preparing for what was to come.

Opening with earlier track ‘Magie Rouge‘, the group began with solid, lively riffs while Giroux’ voice came out in a smooth, ghostly tremor. This created a haunting yet energetic atmosphere, which built itself up throughout the show. Changes in musical arrangements can be a strong point in any musician’s instrumentation, and Cauchemar wisely put this to their advantage at The Unicorn by using each song to pick up speed. Following ‘Magie Rouge‘, the likes of ‘Les Ailes De La Mort‘, ‘Trois Mondes‘ and ‘Le Fantôme‘ made the set grow faster, harder and more enjoyably aggressive with their rhythms.

Overall, it was Cauchemar’s presence as a live, performing band which drew out head-bobbing enthusiasm from the crowd. Despite technical problems which made Annick Giroux’s voice the background to her bandmates’ instruments (a “happy accident” in the case of the opening number’s ghostly mood); the frontwoman fixed her eyes on her audience, and with inviting arm gestures, brought their attention closer into the music. Her moves onstage, from strumming air guitar to keeping her feet in tune with her band’s riffs, came together with the rest of the show to create a hypnotic experience.

 

If Cauchemar awakened metal-goers’ liveliness at The Unicorn, then final act, Deceptor, took it even further.

Beginning slowly, but then picking up pace through the track ‘To Know Infinity‘, Deceptor marked the night’s shift from heavy doom to speed and thrash metal. The crowd, now with noticeably more younger faces at the front, eagerly ate this up as they headbanged and fist pumped more furiously than previously. This worked entirely in the band’s favour, when they moved onto more aggressive notes (with the occasional, deep rasped vocals) in ‘Heatseeker‘, ‘Oracle‘ and ‘Kursk‘ to keep up momentum.
While the set time slot of forty to fifty minutes meant that Deceptor in turn couldn’t play more than eight songs, they were still able to pay tribute to one of their peers. In his banter with the crowd, frontman Paul Fulda declared that to honour Cauchemar who were from Canada, his own band shall cover Canadian thrashers Razor.

The euphoria at the back of The Unicorn was immense, thanks to the chemistry between this trio and their live audience. Though the space was too tight for a full-on moshpit to take place; the intimacy that it provided was high enough to allow a few individuals to safely crowd surf at the show with ease.

Eternal Khan – ‘A Primitive History’ EP, Self-released; 2013

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Just about a year after their demo, Rhode Island’s Eternal Khan make their EP debut with “A Primitive History”. Though released early in the band’s career, the record is not only a strong offering to the underground scene; it shows a sound which is confidently their own. Continue reading

Late, But Worth the Wait (or, Some Surprise albums of 2013)

Greetings, my metal brothers and sisters; I hope that you’re all well, and that your yule/Christmas/what have you was fun, and that you had a much better New Year’s Day than I did. Word of advice: always check the expiry date.

Nonetheless, it wouldn’t do to simply forego a “goodbye 2013″ post on Me(n)tal-Meltdown (even in February), before carrying on with the rest of the new year. While it is certainly tempting to write about musical highs (Carcass, definitely) and lows (the last Crystal Viper, this time), it’s far more rewarding to focus on but a few  – yes, a few – unexpected gems of the year that caught me by surprise.

Let’s do this alphabetically, shall we?
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De Profundis at the Black Heart, Camden, London; September 26th, 2013

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Tucked into an alleyway behind The World’s End, the Black Heart could be considered an elusive venue. Regardless, it’s steadily gaining a good reputation among the metal underground for its cleanliness and intimate spacing. This was the case on Thursday night, when Londoners De Profundis, Mørktår and Premature Birth came to play, with Chesham’s Primitive Graven Image in tow.

The venue’s relative newness naturally came with a few curious folks who knew little about the music they were to see, as evidenced by a few bouts of silly nu metal dancing and moshing, which were entirely out of place at an extreme/progressive metal show. Inevitably, this did little to dampen the spirit of  bands that delivered a full, fun night of music for most who were dedicated enough to listen.

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Live Radar – Black Magician

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At the start of the month, after a lengthy chest infection and bout of ‘flu (which had also kept me from updating this blog), I celebrated the end of my sickness by heading down to the Black Magician/Mourning Beloveth show, at the Relentless Garage in Camden. Seeing as how I deserved something to make up for the drudgery of being ill, I was determined not to miss out.

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Celtachor – ‘Nine Waves From the Shore’, Self-released; 2012

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A couple of years have passed since their last demo release and some line-up changes, and Dublin-based Celtachor have finally released their full-length debut, ‘Nine Waves From the Shore‘. While it doesn’t necessarily reinvent anything within the formula of extreme metal and Celtic folk melodies that’s been coming out of Ireland since the early 1990’s, the album in itself is testament to a young band becoming more focused and stronger in the early stages of their career. Continue reading

‘Live Evil: Angel Witch + Enforcer’ at The Temple, HMV Institute, Birmingham; November 9th, 2012

After waiting outside the HMV Institute on a cold, rainy Friday evening, and following a long queue mixed up with indie fans, metalheads were finally allowed inside to the venue’s top floor for some old school heavy metal and doom in the form of Age of Taurus, Enforcer and Angel Witch. Though not many people were present, owing to the scattered nature of the Birmingham scene, the show’s overarching atmosphere remained one of dedication to the heavy metal spirit. The numbers may have not been very strong, but the passion in the room was there from start to finish.

Without any announcements onstage save for the beginning of guitars playing, Age of Taurus opened the concert with their own style of traditional doom metal. Taking a musically “epic” approach to the crumbling riffs and groovy rhythms of their chosen genre, thanks to sweeping drum syncopation and guitarist Toby W. Wright’s grounded singing range. It’s more expected for traditional doom vocals to morph into horrified, low-tuned soars, and while Wright’s voice is much closer to the ground than the air, they still channel the blues rock-based patterns of singing so associated with the occult, horror film nature of the music. ‘Always in the Eye‘, ‘Unborn Destroyer‘ and ‘A Rush of Power‘ were amoung the songs on offer in this vein, before the band  soon finished with ‘The Bull and the Bear‘; a taster from their upcoming new album.

Less than an hour was afforded to the crowd, before Swedish speed/heavy metallers Enforcer came up to play. Despite the more gothic arrangement of black candles and gold-trimmed banners for their set, the group of fresh faced upstarts delivered a thoroughly energetic set which was a fitting contrast to the slower, lower sounds that preceded them.
Taking cues from the fast-paced notes of 1980’s rock ‘n’ roll and the heaviness of NWOBHM, frontman Olof Wikstrand and friends went straight into an outpour of free-ranged guitar solos and raw, intense singing and wails. It could have been the advantage of having youth on their side that Enforcer had played songs like ‘Black Angel‘, ‘Mistress of Hell‘ and the instrumental piece ‘Diamonds‘ with as much vigour as they did at the HMV Institute, yet it only added to the musical loyalty that was there. From the personal banter between the band and the impressive lack of tiredness from frantic instrumentation, which allowed them to slip quickly with ease into each track, it showed that these were young men who wore their hearts on their sleeves; the effect being that their joy also moved onto an audience which headbanged as furiously as they smiled. Even the much nerdier side of their music, namely through the action-inspired ‘Katana‘ was received as well as their darker, fantasy-based lyrical fare like ‘Mistress of Hell‘.

While Enforcer had brought a youthful kick to the show, main headliners Angel Witch brought the evening to a well-seasoned close with their old school, british heavy metal. Owing to the band’s role in the scene of NWOBHM which came to life around the late 1970’s – mid 1980’s, several of the audience came up to the front of the stage to watch their performance. Despite a recent line-up change for their current reformation, Angel Witch’s sounds stayed faithful and un-compromised to what can be heard on previous albums, largely thanks to original vocalist and founder Kevin Heybourne’s presence in the group.
The final hour and a half of the gig began with a introduction to Angel Witch’s sound from starting track ‘Atlantis‘, with its lively, dual guitar riffs and energetic pace. Though not entirely representative of the whole of the group’s sound, this choice of song helped give a good taste for newcomers of what to expect when followed by the more restrained and down-tuned ‘Dead Sea Scrolls‘. Though not a melodic rock band by any means, Angel Witch’s ability to switch within their own limits from a fast, “rocking out” mood to a more scenic atmosphere means that there is a good, auditorial shake up. Angel Witch weren’t as spunky as the younger Enforcer, but their musical stream’s shift in speed and strong performance meant that their traditional, old school sounds didn’t fall into monotony and – as was the case in Birmingham – the audiences attention were transfixed onto them.
While classic songs from the band’s back catalogue were being played out to an excited and expectant crowd; material from the newest album “As Above, So Below” were also given a live airing. In fairness, whenever an older band creates new music after many, many years, there is always the risk that their recent songwriting may fail to impress in a live setting, if not on record. However, since a number of the tracks on this record were written and then tried and tested live well before its current release in 2012, such a concern was thrown out the window. ‘Into the Dark‘ and ‘Guillotine‘ came out decently that night with their moments of zoned out, psychedelic rhythms and hard crushing notes.

The biggest drawback to the whole evening though, came not from either of the acts onstage but the venue’s initial schedule of a 10:00pm curfew. It made the show feel that it was ending much sooner than it had begun, but fortunately enough, there was enough time for Angel Witch to end with a live rendition of their self-titled song which was enjoyed not only for how well known it was, but also enabling the crowd to interact through the music by means of it being mandatory for them to sing along to the chorus.

On Steve Harris’ solo album ‘British Lion’… or British tryin’

Reuniting with former bandmates from 1992, Iron Maiden’s bassist Steve Harris released his long-awaited solo effort ‘British Lion’.

Normally when it comes to albums, the procedure at Me(n)tal-Meltdown is to give each record a thorough listen for a few times, before writing down a (mostly) fair review. In this case however, I decided to bite the bullet and give a mere first impressions version, to see what was putting off some people in cyberspace. So without further ado – here’s a First Impressions review of ‘British Lion’, brought to you by Me(n)tal-Meltdown (and Steve Harris and friends).

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Primordial ‘Redemption at The Puritan’s Hand’ UK Mini-tour; O2 Academy Islington, London, May 5th 2012

Primordial‘s two show trip in the UK came to a passionate conclusion at the O2 Academy in Islington. Though unfortunately cut short due to the venue franchise’s club night curfew, this restriction did little to deter the overwhelming rapport from an audience made up of loyal fans and relative newcomers alike; the latter mainly tagging along for Winterfylleth and Hell. Continue reading

Carpathia – ‘To Forever Sleep’, Self-released; 2012

 

Due to the occasional tendency of modern music to portray a churning mix of various styles, the use of layers can make it difficult to sort out by ear what direction a musician is heading towards. Even in the modern-day face of “alternative” music styles which include the term “progressive” as a self-descriptor, this can be an issue for young bands like Carpathia. Continue reading

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