Review: Emily Castles
We are in the middle of a bleak February, and not much can drag us out of our wintry slumber. But metalheads across London put down their hot water bottles and fluffy blankets to make the journey over to Camden’s Electric Ballroom for a night celebrating a certain legendary American death metal band.
As the crowd begins to pile in, we are first greeted by Celestial Sanctuary. Relatively new on the scene, the Cambridge-based group released their first full-length album ‘Soul Diminished’ in 2021, since releasing several further singles including the recent, and almighty, ‘Perpetual Annihilation’.
The band are an impressive force this evening, frontman Thomas Cronin gearing up the already-rowdy crowd, growling: ‘Are you ready for some death metal?’. At times, the fog machine seems to go a little rogue – leaving the crowd with not much to see other than a flash of a foot or a guitar peeping out from the haze. It definitely brought out the celestial in the set, that’s for sure.
By the time Conjurer take to the stage, the room is already bursting at the seams with fans pushing through the crowd, holding their beer over a sea of heads, for a better view near the front. They didn’t get too far… The boys from Rugby have been going for almost ten years – and have come a long way from playing the likes of Scruffy Murphy’s in Birmingham.
Now opening for one of the world’s greatest ever death metal crews, Conjurer explode onto the stage with every bit of energy they can muster. Doing what they do best, bass-player Conor Marshall (head-whirling king) ends up in the pit – guitar in hand, and frontman Dan Nightingale belts out his raw vocals – momentarily setting his mic to the side (because who needs that? Amateurs…). The band beautifully transitions and balances delicate, haunting interludes with brutalistic, ferocious assaults. By the end, we’re left exhausted.
Finally, we welcome the main meal to this glorious death feast. Obituary, one of America’s most influential and notorious death metal bands, have been flying the flag for almost 40 years. Having just released their eleventh assault on the world, Dying of Everything, the band show no sign of slowing down.
This one-off UK date, following a five-week US tour, sold out in the blink of an eye – and the Electric Ballroom has never felt so alive. Tonight, we are amongst legends. Kicking off with ‘Redneck Stomp’, the room is instantly set alight. Several tracks from the new album feature this evening, including ‘My Will to Live’ and ‘The Wrong Time’.
These new tracks are just as powerful and rattle the crowd just as hard as old favourites. Concluding the evening with ‘Slowly We Rot’, the crowd gives its last mosh pit (which considering how packed it is – is quite the task), and calls it a night – smug in the knowledge that they’ve been part of a truly death-ish evening.