Primordial + Winterfylleth + Portrait + Malthusian @ O2 Academy Islington, London

Date: 7th of February 2015
Review by Oliver Manso

Released on the 25th November 2014, Primordial’s “Where Greater Men Have Fallen” has generally received very positive reviews from the critics so far. A few months later, they went on tour in the UK to promote their eighth album along with their friends Winterfylleth and two other lesser-known bands: Portrait and Malthusian. This UK tour was quite poor for them in terms of gigs as it consisted of three dates only (Glasgow, Manchester and London), which was surprising given the renown of the two main acts and their respective labels (Metal Blade and Candlelight Records).

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Their last UK tour’s concert at the O2 Academy Islington in London was not as crowded as I would have expected. After reading Primordial’s last opus reviews, I thought it would be sold out but it wasn’t the case in the end. Maybe “Where Greater Men Have Fallen” has been overrated too much by the press… That was what I felt at the end of this gig.

Let’s start with Malthusian (3/5), hailing from Dublin like their headlining friends of Primordial. They can deeply thank the best Irish metal band (along with Cruachan) for having grabbed them for this tour. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been able to spread a little bit their name in the country.

Formed in 2012, they’ve only released one demo until now through the Irish extreme metal label Invictus Productions. It’s interesting to see that the bassist of old doom/death metal act Mourning Beloveth (who have a good fan base in the Doom scene) and Abaddon Incarnate’s drummer are also playing in that band. We’re clearly dealing with some experimented musicians, no novices here. Their live performance was solid, interesting but started to become tedious in the end due to their compositions’ length and repetitiveness.

Their mixture of black and death metal was original as it was often slow-paced by recurring Doom touches. The Mourning Beloveth influences were clearly felt throughout their set. Three long songs in total, each of them started to be very promising but turned progressively boring in the end. It was still a nice discovery.

Then came the Swedish Heavy metal warriors of Portrait (2.5/5). I was expecting a lot from them since I heard many of their songs and interviewed their guitarist and bassist just before the beginning of this gig. Despite the good quality of their works, their live performance was disappointing. Per Lengstedt’s vocals sound very good in their studio albums, there’s no doubt about it but I can guarantee it’s a different story on stage.

It seemed he was suffering and struggling in reaching his higher notes. His high-pitched vocals were far less brilliant than in their last two offerings “Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae” and “Crossroads” released by Metal Blade Records. After the first song, he declared that he had a sore throat. I don’t know if it was a good excuse but he failed anyway. Concerning the guitar solos, it was pretty much the same case.

They were not as nicely performed as they are in studio. That’s a problem they will have to correct for their future shows. That was a pity because I like their old-school heavy metal music, strongly influenced by the NWOBHM scene. A good part of the crowd was very enthusiastic towards their performance (with some crazy fanatics screaming behind my back) but unfortunately, I wasn’t so. Nevertheless, I hope I will see them in a better shape on stage in the future.

As soon as Winterfylleth (5/5) came on stage, I already knew it wouldn’t be a disappointment! Once again, they were incredible as always and they really deserved to headline this concert in my opinion. It was the third time I saw them after their fantastic shows at the Colchester Arts Centre church and at the Candlefest last year. Since the release of their first great album “The Ghost of Heritage” in 2008, I have always considered them as the worthy successors of Ukrainian legends Drudkh and Hate Forest musically speaking. Their atmospheric black metal art is enchanting, with those epic riffs and choirs reminding the ancient battles that occur on the Anglo-Saxon lands.

Winterfylleth’s music is an unforgettable journey through the majestic landscapes of the old Kingdom of England. Following the example of cult pagan black metallers Forefather (who have definitely influenced them regarding the lyrical themes), this Mancunian horde succeeded in incorporating their national pride and a kind of Anglo-Saxon pagan feeling into their compositions. That could be felt in Chris’ hateful vocals and their soaring melodies. Only great talented bands can achieve that and Winterfylleth belong to this category.

They have recently got the privilege of appearing on the front page of Terrorizer. Although I hate that magazine, I think they’ve entirely deserved this mark of recognition. By the way, the successor of Mark Wood (who left the band a few weeks before this tour) did very well and perhaps, he will become their new guitarist. That’s all I wish for him! It was simply amazing. I have nothing more to add.

The audience reacted very positively to their live performance but kept all its energy and passion for cult Irish Black/Celtic metallers Primordial (3.5/5). Nemtheanga’s charisma conquered the heart of the London crowd that night, communicating a lot with its fans. Everybody was totally captivated by their performance except me and maybe a few others who didn’t get what they expected.

Indeed, their setlist didn’t meet my expectations as I’m a big fan of their first four albums, especially “Imrama” which is a masterpiece of Folk/Atmospheric black metal (released in 1995 by the defunct legendary label Cacophonous Records). The problem was the following: they only played two classic songs from their great early years (“Gods to the Godless”, “Autumn’s Ablaze”) and the rest of their set was focused on their recent Metal Blade period that I don’t appreciate very much to be honest. Since they signed with this label, they changed their style of music and the quality of their releases dropped dramatically. It’s really sad to see that they don’t use their Irish folk instruments anymore and their old black metal roots have almost disappeared.

They now play a kind of melodic pagan metal (to attract a wider audience probably) that hasn’t got the charm, inspiration and genius of their first works. As a consequence, I was a little bit disappointed but I have to acknowledge the songs were performed very well.They’re experienced and know perfectly what they’re doing. That’s the reason why I fully understand the crowd’s enthusiasm in some way.

To conclude, I would like to highlight the fact that the two first opening acts had a few sound problems regarding the drums. I don’t know what happened there but those issues have been solved before Winterfylleth’s set fortunately.

For more complete video songs of Winterfylleth’s live performance in London, please check the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9xr7tapUUvL5dM9tEtZeTQ

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