Review by Paul Castles, photos by Rich Thompson
It may have been the pull of two giants of the Polish metal scene that drew a healthy crowd to Nuneaton but first to set the glasses rattling behind the bar were the excellently named Israeli quartet Shredhead.
This was jagged edge stuff with a fiery frontman who was less than impressed from the early response he was getting from the Queen’s Hall earlybirds.
Having ripped through a bombastic opening few numbers of bludgeoning fury with spittle soaked venom, Aharon Ragoza tore a strip off the audience by saying that they did not shape up well compared to the previous night’s cross Channel date in Paris. Having got everyone’s back up with this verbal volley he then invited any dissenters to come and stick one on his chin! As his stage presence had about the same level of finesse as a Rottweiler at Crufts it came no surprise to see this invitation draw no takers. In fact Ragoza’s manic eyed glaze, topped with shaved head, makes him an ideal sparring partner for Meshuggah mouthpiece Jens Kidman. After a moment of reflection, Shredhead then picked up the pieces and blasted through another bone crunching track from new album Death Is Righteous.
Shredhead’s aural approach is to attempt to remove your organs as quickly as possible before rearranging them, probably not in the right order. For confirmation check out the cool video (especially if you’re a South Park fan) to their song ‘Walk With The Dead’. By the time the incendiary Israelis had completed their short and no so sweet set they had just about won over the Nuneaton faithful, getting a hearty cheer that their blood sweat and tears approach duly merited.
From an altogether different dimension are Hate. The Poles took to the stage dusted down with white facepaint as if having had an accident while trying to sieve icing sugar onto a sponge cake from a Mary Berry recipe book. Make no mistake though as there’s no soft middle when it comes to these prolific veterans of caustic black metal.
The term ‘eastern bloc’ is not so common today as during the height of the cold war in the 80s. But Hate’s diatribe of oppressing suffocation has its spiritual and emotional roots buried firmly in the pre-Solidarnosc era of their motherland. The emergence of the first of the evening’s two Polish acts also alerted us to the number of Polish people in the audience, a number of who were intent on whipping up a furious pit which showed no mercy or sympathy to anything that happened to get caught in the crossfire.
Responding to Hate’s throbbing tones, the Queen’s Hall quickly resembled chucking out time at a Castlemilk drinking den with bodies flying across the room before toppling like skittles. For those of us keen to also catch headliners Vader in preference to a trip to A&E, Hate were enjoyed from the comparatively safe confines of the bar although even here there were more spillages than a milk float being taken for a spin around the M25.
Much of Hate’s hour-long set came from latest album Crusade: Zero; a collection of blacker than burnt toast tracks, that left no doubt as to which line of the religious divide these Warsaw warriors are on. The dominant duo of Hate are singer/guitarist Atf Sinner and guitarist Destroyer and between them they pummelled their way through riffs heavier than a disused rail-track and with more bite than a cornered grizzly.
By the time Hate signed off the whole atmosphere inside the Queen’s Hall had been transformed from a pleasant gentleman’s drinking club to a steaming hellhole with flames practically charring the walls.
There was more plenty more Pole dancing, and not of the Legs11 variety, when Vader arrived, welcomed like conquering heroes. After a 30-year career (albeit with a fairly lengthy hiatus at one point) the ovation was not undeserved.
Vader’s month long Euro tour is under the banner of ‘Blitz: Europe in Fire’ and so as not to leave us in any doubt as to their determination to live up to this tag they followed opener ‘Abandon All Hope’ with ‘Go To Hell’. Vader’s venom is as deadly as a scorpion and the guitar battles on stage were fought with the conviction and dexterity of an Olympic fencer. Vader’s form may have taken on many shapes since their formation in 1984 but the current quartet, with Brit James Stewart on the drum stool, is a match for any that’s gone before.
Piotr Wiwczarek has conducted the Vader orchestra for 30 years and did so at the Queen’s Hall in the manner of a Roman emperor looking down on the baying mass of unhinged humanity. The indefatigable frontman has just released a biography, Total War, cataloguing his time with Vader. Sure to be an interesting page turner, although so far it’s only available in his native language.
Vader’s old school thrash is as addictive as ever and with the death metal threads woven into their fabric Vader remain a formidable force of metal. Of the songs from last year’s album, Tibi Et Igni, ‘Triumph Of Death’ drew the warmest response. Trawling back through the years with songs such as ‘Decapitated Saints’ and the high octane ‘Carnal’ Vader seamlessly pieced together a set of old and new songs, all pulsating with Polish power and purpose.
Ending with ‘Dark Age’ from their 1992 debut release The Ultimate Incantation, Vader vacated the stage, another battle most definitely won.
1. Abandon All Hope
2. Go To Hell
3. Come And See My Sacrifice
4. Silent Empire
6. Reborn In Flames
7. Decapitated Saints
8. Triumph Of Death
9. Where Angels Weep
13. Dark Age