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.
Mørktår, one of the newer upstarts in London’s black metal sector, opened on schedule with their starkly western European sound. Expectedly monotonous in rhythm; the band performed a decent set of frozen guitar staccato with stiff moments onstage. This in itself could be considered typical of the second wave black metal scene notoriously associated with Norway and Sweden; Mørktår still served as a good, interesting contrast to the rest of the night’s more energetic, livelier fare to come.
Though the response they gained from the audience was rather lukewarm, particularly as they had failed to heed the frontman’s calls to sing along, it stood that the band likely had the last laugh. By the time that their set had finished, one of the guitarists seemed to reward the unreceptive crowd with a turned back and raised middle finger.
Following them shortly were Premature Birth; a group of fresh faced youngsters prepared at once to give a performance of fast-paced, passionate death metal. Drawing in a larger audience, who consistently responded with a few enthusiastic hair whips and headbangs throughout the set, this band were a reminder that it is neither impossible nor improbable to show how much fun you’re having, when you play extreme metal. Especially as it was with this frenetic, youthful energy that saw the likes of, say, Cannibal Corpse and Immortal make themselves known.
In third place as opening act were Primitive Graven Image, the only band from outside of London, as well as the second black metal act of the night.
Their musical sound had a more “heated” atmosphere than their musical peers Mørktår, due to their chaotic riffs and varied tempo. However, the pressing observation was that following on from their set at Infernal Damnation IV a couple of years back; Primitive Graven Image had raised their game for the better as a live band. Obviously it helped that they had a stronger sound system which emphasized the natural flow of songs like ‘March of the Cattle‘ and ‘War ’til Death‘, since the absence of this can make even the most concise notes fall flat in a concert. Yet it showed that Primitive Graven Image had improved as musicians as well as stage personas, through a clear lack of pretension as much as an intense concentration on their music. Even interspersing clean vocals wasn’t out of place, in that unlike a number of British black metal bands of late, its role was neither novelty nor shoved in to grab the listener’s attention.
Finally, after a brief period of guitar and drum sound checks, came headliners De Profundis.
After a brief introduction of the band in their home town, frontman Craig Land began the set with ‘Silent Gods‘, from their previous album “The Emptiness Within”. While the record itself is certainly a step up in De Profundis’ own evolution, with its jaunty bass lines and tighter vein of melodic brutality making for a much meatier sound; the best way to experience and enjoy this group is live.
Though the inherent nature of heavy metal is to work as a live genre, this applies to De Profundis as the music gains an organic, bombastic atmosphere from such a setting. Guitarist Soikot Sengupta and bassist Arran McSporran were so immersed through their musicianship onstage that they showed an immediate chemistry with each other and newcomer Paul Nazarkardeh. It was as if he were a part of the band all along, rather than a live session guitarist for their UK mini-tour.
It was also in this spirit that De Profundis eventually treated the crowd to ‘Singularity‘; a new song from their impending album much closer to the harsher, violent death metal side of their sound. Considering the tone of the night had already been set up for this part of extreme metal, thanks to Premature Birth and even Primitive Graven Image; it was also fitting that the main act soon threw in a cover of Death’s ‘Crystal Mountain‘, from the “death with progressive metal” part of the Chuck Schuldiner era. Yet where Schuldiner had shouted (literally), Craig Land roared. It gave the song a more raw and rough edge, best appreciated when heard in person.
Even with the cumbersome setback from youngsters in the audience who chose to throwdown some ninja dance moves, the night continued tirelessly with an intense bound of musical enthusiasm. By the end of the show, however, the crowded room of the Black Heart called out for one more song before the night. Mercifully, De Profundis delivered by closing with ‘The Mourner‘; an earlier track from their back catalogue.
Photo © Natasha Xavier, 2013
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