Date: 6th July 2018
Review by: Beandog
It is hot, hot, HOT in London tonight!
I am making my way to the venue, picking out spots of shade on Tufnell Park Road so I can give myself a few moments of relief from the merciless heat!
Temperatures are sitting way up in the high twenties, my t shirt is sticking to my body and my brow seems to have a permanent flow of perspiration seeping down onto my face. These are the sort of conditions I’d expect INSIDE the venue, so it is with a sense of weary exasperation that I arrive at the Boston Music Rooms, rapidly expiring and anticipating my demise inside what will probably be a complete sweat box.
Thankfully, my relatively early arrival means the venue is not yet full and the space and shade I discover inside gives me a break from the July heat.
With a very welcome cold pint of beer in my hand I browse the merch’ stand and give some consideration to tonight’s line up. It is a strong offering.
Most will be making their way here for the majestic sounds of the American, New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal headliners, Visigoth.
Off the back of their 2018 release, Conqueror’s Oath and currently riding high on a healthy buzz, this evening’s performance will mark their live London debut.
The air of anticipation also extends to the supporting line up of bands, none of whom are locals. This leaves me with the impression the promoter has prioritised putting together a well-matched set of bands and given us Londoners a chance to check out a group of acts that are generally not readily available to us. It is a line up that completely justifies the price of a ticket.
Dream Troll from Leeds are up first. Taking the stage to an intro tape of electric disco music, there is a strong sense from the beginning that these boys have their tongues firmly wedged in their cheeks. It actually turns out that their jokey, casual demeanor is at odds with what turns out to be a technically impressive set of prog infused, trad’ metal. The band come across like a group of battle-vest wearing, boozy Dio fans who, on hearing progressive metal for the first time, glanced at each other with the emerging thought of giving it a go, before uttering the immortal line… “hold my pint!”
They pull it off too. There is a lot to enjoy about Dream Troll’s set. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and there is enough complex riffing and searing leads happening for the air guitars to come out early on in the night. A sizable crowd has already gathered and people are vocal with their support.
The regard held for Dream Troll has possibly been boosted by some unlikely support from Labour MP, Richard Burgon, who leapt to their defence last year over a lazy tabloid accusation that Dream Troll were Nazis (They are absolutely not). Perhaps even more unprecedented, Burgon has also given a very convincing performance as an narrator on the track, Mons Ominous from the newest album, The Knight Of Rebellion.
All that aside, Dream Troll have opened the show with style, and the crowd are suitably warmed up.
After a short break while the equipment is changed over, the opening bars of Arkham Witch‘s begins to emanate from the stage and lure people back inside from the beer garden,. There is a marked contrast between the enduring sunshine outside that has continued into the evening and the blunt, NWOBHM shaped riffs of Doom happening inside the venue right now. Arkham Witch from Keighley share two of their members with the highly regarded, The Lamp of Thoth and describe their sound as, “Old School Heavy Metal/Doom infused with Lovecraftian horror.” Their music completely lives up to this and evokes some keen headbanging from an attentive crowd. They also specify their penchant for “tales of mighty Barbarians and festering evil superstitions” and list their interests as “Ales, histories, wars, invocations and audible assaults” with a “drinking as fuck” added in for good measure.
Judging by the roars of appreciation from the crowd, I’d say it is a fair bet most in attendance share a similar set of pastimes.
This being the case, the room has filled quickly and there is a palpable sense of excitement. One of the great things about traditional heavy metal is it attracts passionate people who do not give a damn about what is fashionable, expected or in vogue. Instead, what takes priority is the celebration of loud, life affirming music that gives people an escape from the everyday grind. Arkham Witch use crunchy, riff-filled songs like Legions Of The Deep and Gods Of Storm And Thunder to ensure this energy is passed from the stage to the crowd, who in turn, send it right back at them in a perfect loop.
When Arkham Witch’s set comes to an end, the excitement in the room is such that people are hollering along to the music being played on the P.A. with as much enthusiasm as they have been giving to the bands. Iron Maiden’s Hallowed By Thy Name is given a rousing sing-a-long as people anticipate the arrival of the main event.
People don’t have to wait long. Headliner’s, Visigoth take to the stage shortly after beer glasses have been refilled and a few Dream Troll and Arkham Witch patches have been sold.
Still in their twenties, Visigoth are certainly the youngest of the bands on tonight’s bill. They arguably represent a growing resurgence of interest in the European style of melodic, history and fantasy themed heavy music that marries layered harmonised guitars with epic, operatic vocals.
To emphasise the point, frontman, Jake Rogers quite literally wears his NWOBHM influences on his sleeve via two long, studded, leather cuffs strapped onto each forearm. Anyone with a Judas Priest record in their collection will understand the aesthetic straight away, but if there were any potential doubts about where Visigoth are coming from, these are swept away as the band cascade in with the twin harmonies of opening song, Blood Sacrifice.
The cobwebs of jet lag briefly fog proceedings as Jake forgets his words during the first verses. It’s a point that would probably go unnoticed if the crowd weren’t dutifully singing along to every word. With good spirit, it’s laughed off and the band continue with another song from their debut album, Dungeon Master. Thankfully, Visigoth are otherwise completely on point. There seems to be a genuine excitement from the band about having the opportunity to play these songs to London crowd. Spirits are high and this is mirrored by the crowd who are giving each tune a rapturous reception.
Warrior Queen is an early highlight, and Hammerforged showcases everything that this band is built on. Proud, galloping riffs, and soaring vocals. When the chorus of “hear our voices” kicks in, it feels like everyone in attendance is joining in to make this a rousing rendition indeed.
The crowd’s enthusiasm is a notable triumph of this evening. Visigoth’s music contains enough vigour to stir up a rampant response that is maintained throughout highlights from Conqueror’s Oath like Traitor’s Gate and the swashbuckling, Steel and Silver.
By the time the band have finished the main set it is clear that this has been a successful debut in England’s capital. Before we disperse into the night, we are given an equally fervent encore and a final climactic run through The Revenant King accompanied by a sincere thank you for being a receptive crowd.
As I step out of the venue, into the thankfully cooled-off evening and walk towards the station with a newly purchased vinyl copy of Conquerors Oath under my arm, I am left thinking the most enjoyable thing about the gig has been the way everyone involved had stepped up and given it their all. No-one was phoning it in tonight. The support bands, the crowd and the headliners, all completely put as much energy and positivity as they could into the show and certainly made it one to remember.