12th February 2016
Review by Demitri Levantis
Hiding in plain sight is one thing the UK black metal outfit Dragged Into Sunlight are best known for – that and their bone crunching combination of black and doom metal which requires a sheer time commitment to thoroughly enjoy it.
And hiding some of the most underground music right in the heart of the city deemed the capital of the world when it comes the most trendy of things was another achievement made by the band when they played the Borderline in central London on Friday 12 February.
What a night, only yards away from the city’s centre point, we had a sold out show of hungry, brutal metalheads itching to start the weekend after a long hard time at work. The venue also seemed quite a reasonable size and dimension for such music as it was my first time there and it is quite similar to the Underworld in Camden.
First on the bill were the Death Metal/Hardcore band Venom Prison (3/5), all the way from South Wales. And although they weren’t a band who caught my attention, they did seem to come across as a crowd pleaser. The female fronted group certainly had been busy practising and most likely touring since the release of their first EP ‘The Primal Chaos’ last year – but I have to say the fusion of death metal and hardcore is something which has become so stale, any new band thinking of taking that route should abandon ship immediately.
Venom Prison were certainly tight and I was very impressed with how vocalist Larissa had complete control of the crowd who cheered well between songs – but this is a kind of music that does not bode well with my palette. I’ll give the band credit for gathering a hefty following and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they’ll release something wholly amazing one day, but for now the music did drag on a bit as I’m sick of hearing bands who rely so much on breakdowns and chugging guitars that are lost somewhere between doom metal and slam.
A worthwhile introduction nonetheless and something which made up a good atmosphere for the evening.
Following on from the death metal opener we had Dutch experimental black metal group Gnaw Their Tongues (4/5) to follow. The group had recently collaborated with the headliners on EP ‘NV’ released on Prosthetic Records last year.
I’d never heard anything from the Dutch group until now, and it was fascinating seeing a group consisting of two vocalists, a bass guitar and a laptop. I’ve seen many one-man-bands live with session musicians, but it was interesting seeing what a band who make all their music on a PC are like in a room full of fans.
Vocalist Mories was on point right from the start. For a man of his age, I was quite taken by how high pitched he could scream and growl along to the subversive roaring of the tracks which took on new routes every now and again. One minute all hell broke loose, the next we were drifting on a river of electronics where Salvador Dali would have felt much at home.
The crowd were swaying from side to side to the music and all eyes were fixed as we watched the band go about their business. It did feel as if we were watching a new release in the making. Maybe the whole thing was being recorded as a live album, but who knows.
Overall, Gnaw Their Tongues were quite impressive. Though as I see with a lot of experimental bands, I felt the tracks went on a little too long and I did lose my concentration a few times, nonetheless, this was some excellent work from Gnaw.
And finally, the time came to see the band who have been elusive enough in their 10 year career to keep the identities of ever musician in that band a secret. Dragged Into Sunlight (4.5/5) are the residents of black metal, and the only band I know of who play with their backs to the audience.
Though every now and again we had a masked member of the band face us, from behind a mike stand complete with a sheep skull and some burning candles around the stage. One thing Dragged are famous for is the droning whine of their guitars, coupled nicely with the precision blast beats of their drummer. And to be perfectly honest, the identity of a band member became all the more irrelevant as the set wore on, for a band should be all about the music, and Dragged Into Sunlight is an enigma of metal, therefore it ought to be what comes out of the amps that matters rather than who is playing it. I say this, for a few of my friends had commented on how they didn’t like the band playing with their backs to the audience. I guess it gives off some individuality and carries a reflection of black metal’s signature misanthropy.
But what a great start to the weekend this was. Every song blended into one another for there was no interaction with the audience, and I felt everyone around me wholly appreciated the band in every way possible. Dragged Into Sunlight lived up to their reputation as I was expecting. I was hooked from the word go and came out the venue that night knowing I’d seen a band with a heck of a lot of longevity, and they are always going to be something I’ll never fully understand, but will appreciate for all they have done for music.
It’s also the first black metal gig I’ve been to where there was no circle pit. You really made an impression Dragged Into Sunlight – a very good one which will last a long time.