Date: 2nd March , 2017
Review by Nathan Slack
Photography by Inty Malcolm
Here we are again! Another Headbangers Ball from metal record label, Nuclear Blast. Four incredible bands on one bill. No filler here, no warm-up or unknown oddity that no one gives a monkey about just four awesome bands showcasing what the label has to offer the ever adoring metal faithful. Last year we had Unearth, Kataklysm, Ensiferum and Iced Earth, today we have Tech Gore maestros Aborted opening up, then Sweden’s melodeath legends Soilwork, followed by Brazil’s most famous band, Sepultura sans Igor and Max followed by one of the most influential German metal bands ever, Kreator.
It’s an awesome lineup and I’m particularly looking forward to catching my first death metal band live.
It’s an early start for Aborted when they come on stage at 6:15 as more than a few fans are still probably fighting their way through the London Underground at rush hour.
The crowds pretty thin here as a result but thankfully I’ve been mooching around Camden since the mid afternoon visiting old haunts and prepping myself with a juicy burger.
I’m now ready for some heavy metal and a bit of a mosh but sadly the crowd for Aborted are happy to just nod their heads at some of the most extreme death metal around today.
Aborted ‘s latest album Retrogore is a fine example of technical death but sadly all that ingenuity is lost tonight as the sound system distorts the guitars which drown out the vocals, so all we hear is a muddy mess.
Such a shame.
The lead singer, Sven de Caluwé, looks frustrated onstage and I wonder if they made any new fans that night at all. I still love their albums and hope to catch them at a headline show soon where the sound guy actually has his act together. Give Retrogore a listen if you haven’t yet and bask in some rapid paced death metal.
Next up is Soilwork. Can’t say I’m that familiar with their discography other than Stabbing the Drama. The sound guy seems to have sorted himself out and the bands melodic elements come out clear and clean.
The crowd is getting thicker here and the band goes down really well, though I feel most are saving themselves for Sepultura and the headliners.
I’ve kinda pegged Soilwork in the same group as In Flames and if you read my earlier review of them when they played the O2 Arena back in January, you will know I didn’t have anything positive to say about them as I pretty much said they should pack it in and give up as they no longer seem relevant to the metal scene today.
Also implying that they should leave melodic death metal to bands like Insomnium, Be’lakor, Dark Tranquility and Omnium Gatherum who are pushing the genre into interesting places.
Having said that, Soilwork really impressed me tonight, their performance was really tight and they did themselves credit, finishing with “Stabbing the Drama“.
What can I say about Sepultura? Back in the day I was a bit of a grebo and I guess I still kinda am! In the 90’s, when I first got into metal I was listening to bands like Korn, Fear Factory, Coal Chamber, Deftones, Soulfly and yes, Sepultura.
Max had already buggered off at that point and put out Soulfly’s first album and I remember moshing my little heart out at the old Astoria to Roots back in 2000 or some such at a Soulfly show, but Sepultura was one band I never did manage to see live before now.
I’ve known people say that they have seen them live before, but without Max it’s not the same and what’s the point? Well if the crowds reaction is anything to go by, there still is a point and they are more than relevant.
Yes Max and Igor formed the band and they are missed but hey, go see them on their Roots tour, finally reunited and leave us to enjoy tonight’s performance. I certainly did!
The mosh pit went crazy to tracks off their new album, Machine Messiah and I have to admit that I really enjoyed their new material live.
A lot of people where here to see them and the mosh pit got pretty full on and kicked off from their first track and didn’t let up as they played more well known ‘Max’ era stuff like “Refuse/Resist”, “Arise”, “Rathamatta” and finally, rounding off a perfect set, “Roots, Bloody, Roots”.
Getting on a bit now so I take a bit of a breather after some hard moshing and grab a pint thinking I might hang back for Kreator as thrash has never been my thing and kinda passed me by.
I can’t deny what a positive influence Thrash has had on metal but I can’t help but feel that most of it sounds pretty dated now if I’m honest. So once again I’m asking myself if this band I’m about to see is still relevant to today’s metal scene and where it’s going.
With bands like Cattle Decapitation, Anaal Nathrak, and Meshuggah really pushing the boundaries of extreme fusion metal is a thrash band like Kreator still relevant? Well yes!
Ask a metal fan what thrash bands they still like today, most will say at least 2 of the Big 4 – Kreator and Sodom – and I can see why, as Kreator burst into their first song with a sudden gunshot spreading confetti across the crowd.
Me and my mate gave each other a look and promptly dragged each other back into the mosh pit as what I heard, I really liked. Like I said, I don’t like Thrash but I liked this. First 4 tracks where immense and they put on a great show playing at least 6 tracks off their new album, Gods of Violence.
Stand out track for me was Fallen Brother, a poignant tribute to the musicians that have sadly left us. Black and white images flash up on back drops and I recognise faces like David Bowie, Jonny Cash, Peter Steele and Janice Joplin.
Half way through we get some pyrotechnics and streamers and I have to admit to not having the stamina that I used to have. It’s been a great night and I’m knackered as we leave the crowd and head to the bar content to watch the rest of the headliners set recuperating with a beverage in hand.
Kreator sign off and I’m pretty impressed with them and their new material.
Oh go on then, I’ll give Thrash a go.
Consider my arm twisted….as well as slightly bruised.