Saturday saw the sun continue with its irregular, summer heat wave, which reached all the way into The Black Heart in Camden. Though the lack of proper ventilation and air conditioning made the place too uncomfortably warm for many, it was mercifully not so much that people couldn’t enjoy themselves for the half-day long album release party of Ipswich-based black metal band Eastern Front.
They were joined by the likes of death/black metal hybrid Sidious, Primitive Graven Image and even a special, rare (last minute) appearance from the Danish/London trio Sturmtiger, amongst others in the British black metal scene. While no one was spared from the sweltering conditions of the upstairs venue, everyone played a decent show.
The party began with sludge doom newcomers Jøtnarr. With their nonchalant banter between one another, and the knowledge that they had released their first demo last year, their short set came across as more open band rehearsal, than festival opening.
This was shortly made up for by the appearance of Sturmtiger. This trio were noted for not often playing live shows, yet from Saturday’s show alone, one would be forgiven for thinking the opposite from their effortless performance. The band’s “stripped down” style of death and black metal – centred on blast beats and bare riffs – was strong and tight, rising in musical intensity as they played songs from the first EP to their most recent demo.
Primitive Graven Image soon came up to the stage, with this their second London appearance since Incineration Fest back in May. The sound system at The Black Heart was functioning much better to their benefit at their previous performance, leaving the band to play a strong, live set.
As can be expected from Primitive Graven Image, songs like ‘March of The Cattle’ and ‘War ’til Death’ were played, along with a teaser from their most recent album. Yet while the music was good, the musicians themselves were tired from the summer heat. It is true that the group were typically decked up in corpse paint and leather vests, though this doesn’t remove the fact that even the stage itself couldn’t escape the influences of that weekend’s weather.
Following the fifteen minute break (though turning up ten minutes late), came another London band, Sidious. Though just the second lot of painted musicians by this point in the show, they were the first to bring an atmosphere onstage. Namely the musically foreboding start of their set, with its slow rise implying a great evil to come.
Not everyone in the crowd seemed to take notice however, as newcomers to the front suddenly picked that time to meet and greet their friends. Regardless, Sidious also drew in the most tightly packed audience of the event. Not many songs were played, yet the band transfixed people’s attention through their sinister, primeval sound. Along with frontman Isfeth’s deep, guttural voice, the melodies were arranged never strayed from that otherworldly aura. This was even during slightly catchy rhythms, since the bass line was low enough not to step out of tune.
Typically, all-day music shows can vary in degrees of musical intrigue, and this day at The Black Heart was no exception. Whereas the likes of Sturmtiger, Primitive Graven Image and Sidious were strong, the second to final supporting act The Infernal Sea were largely decent. They may have had a comparatively more “modern” spin on the accepted black metal sound by means of buzzed, droning guitars, yet this – along with their dark hoodies and plague doctor masks – was not exactly well-received by all. Even when the fast, bombastic pace of recent song ‘Into The Unknown’ came out to play, not much had necessarily seized the full interest of those watching.
The conventions of black metal were resumed, when Ethereal came on afterwards. Pushing aside the amusing likeness between two of its members with Primordial lead Nemtheanga (due to near-exact outfits, corpse paint and also being bald!) they made a much better impression on the audience. Lead singer Naut slunk down from the stage to interact with those standing nearby. Then, as the group moved on to the static, ominous notes that opened their song ‘Bloodstained Martyr’, a small, excited mosh pit began to form on the floor.
Closing the show, to a patient yet tired (and over-heated) audience, came evening headliners Eastern Front. Their outfits were thicker and presumably heavier than other bands that night, but stamina and a steady supply of water bottles kept them upright.
With one foot up on the balcony of the stage, band leader Nagent introduced himself and his cohorts, before they began with the title track of their new release, ‘Descent Into Genocide’. Black metal, as influenced by the Nordic second wave, is frosty in atmosphere, which befitted Eastern Front (with their main focus on World War two Russia) to heighten this in their sound. Static guitar rhythms and monotonic blast beats came together to effect a dramatic blizzard from the stage. Knowing how far the summer temperatures had come into the venue, this made for a welcome contrast between physical reality and mental fantasy.
As Eastern Front continued on with their set from the new album, throwing tracks like ‘Ghouls of Leningrad’ and ‘The Hanging of Faith’ into the fold, their effortless playing helped make theirs an especially solid performance. Spreading out his arms amidst a recorded, Russian wartime speech at one point; Nagent directly addressed the London crowd, before immediately launching into high, rasped vocals.
As headliners, the band ended the album release party with a solid performance; one which was well anticipated, following the overall well-played sets from their supporting cohorts for the day.
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