Review: Emily Castles
Photos: Artur Tarczewski
The metal hordes descend on Kentish Town this drizzly Saturday evening. The halls of the art deco O2 Forum are quickly flooded with beards and leather. Originally opened in the 1930s as a cinema, and later used as an Irish dance hall – the high ceilings are decorated in mock-Roman tapestries, with an imposing balcony looking over the vast empire. It’s an impressive space that fills up almost instantly – metalheads have never been so punctual.
Opening the stage bright and early this evening is Missouri-born black metallers Stormruler who, since forming in 2019, already have two full-length records under their studded belts. Conjuring up images of black magic and satanic ritual through haunting riffs and ferocious vocals, we kick off with a brilliant start.
Mancunian death metal trio, Ingested, quickly follow – frontman Jason Evans snarling: ‘We’re Ingested. Remember that name.’ Hot off the back of their latest album Ashes Lie Still – the band prove an impressive unit this evening, with high energy and fast riffs.
Switching moods, the glorious Dark Funeral take to the stage and deliver a dose of healthy blasphemy. ‘We are Dark Funeral, from Sweden.’ Well, where else, really? Frontman Heljarmadr looks like a gothic Karl Lagerfeld, with scraped back hair, dark sunglasses and black gloves. He looks ready to judge outfits at this year’s Met Gala.
This year marks 30 years since the band formed, last year releasing their seventh studio album, We Are the Apocalypse. Tonight’s set is bursting with a lot of ‘Hail Satans’ and features Heljarmadr waving a band-branded flag in a declaration of power and authority. They open with ‘Nosferatu’ from their latest album, before delving into the past with ‘The Secrets of the Black Arts’. They compliment the incredible line-up of bands on the tour, before saying they’re off and ‘everything needs to die.’
As the night grows darker, the room becomes hotter, sweatier and rowdier. The main course has arrived. Buffalo’s most prestigious death metaller’s storm the stage, George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher instantly setting the room alight with his infectious energy. The crowd explodes as Cannibal Corpse launch into ‘Scourge of Iron’, members of staff scrambling to the side barriers which have shifted a few feet under the weight of moshing bodies. Disappearing momentarily, he returns waving a stuffed toy in the air, exclaiming ‘We’ve got 23 of these on the bus – I don’t know how to get them home.’ It’s not entirely sure why he’s acquired so many, and the moment passes.
The set is filled with the quick, hard riffs that the New Yorkers have become renowned for – ploughing through the likes of ‘Evisceration Plague’, ‘Death Walking Terror’ and ‘Devoured by Vermin’, played out against a stream of enthusiastic crowd surfers. Fisher, with his un-humanly thick neck, challenges us to ‘keep up with him’ as he launches into the ultimate headbanging battle.
Safe to say, he wins – remarking ‘I’m 50 years old and I whipped all your asses.’ Concluding with ‘Hammer Smashed Face’, memorably popularised by Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura (because death metal and comedy go hand in hand, obviously), the night ends and fans are left with suitably shaken brains.