14th December 2018
Review and videos by Demitri Levantis
For the second time in one week, Camden Town played host to some of Scandinavia’s finest metal minstrels. Having seen Marduk tear up the Underworld’s stage that Tuesday, tonight saw the debut show of a newer Swedish outfit: Gra.
Fronted by Heljarmadr, whom you may know as the vocalist of Dark Funeral, there was plenty of good Black Metal on offer for the revellers.
To begin with, the Black Heart was almost bare apart from the earliest folk who’d come to catch the opening act: Nonserviam.
That name alone summons a rush of associations, such as the omnipotent dislike of world religions in the Black Metal canon and one of the most memorable tunes from Greek band: Rotting Christ, so it was understandable to think this London outfit meant business.
Said business was taken care of quickly, for this almost all-female band launched into their audible attack on the venue nice and fast.
Whilst they weren’t raw in the style of groups like Sargeist or melodic like Naglfar, I’d say Nonserviam have dished out a very basic take on the UK Black Metal sound. Aggression, death, anger at all religions et al sprayed from vocalist Nadia’s mouth as this outfit showcased their talents.
Nonserviam stood out for me as a band who are defying a lot of gender stereotypes about metal and reassured me that women can be just as evil as men when it comes to music.
Though variety wise, Nonserviam played well but I wasn’t wowed by their output. By the time they’d come to the end of their set, more people were milling around the merch stall or chatting in anticipation of the next act, but one can’t recall most people being blown away by the opening act.
Not a terrible show Nonserviam, but not dire so keep it up.
The Black Heart had begun to swell with people, for now, the opening had occurred. The doors were well and truly open for the metal revellers to pack the place out.
There was still plenty of evil and audible debauchery to come and the next band gave us just that – one who came to form the last place you’d expect to find Black Metal.
Agrona, all the way from Cardiff were in town promoting their debut album ‘Realm of the Fallen,’ and just from the look of them, I felt Camden was in for a taste of the old school.
All six members ascended to the stage in leather battle armour, the kind you’d expect from acts like Behemoth or Dimmu Borgir, and their tunes were more than enough to say that Agrona might just ascend to those bands’ status one day.
Where do I begin, this was a putrid paradise of decibels, a finely crafted mix of clean and harsh vocals screaming about the darkest; most harrowing of topics and delivered at a flow of tremolo picking and precision blast beats that had me almost gawping in awe at their talent.
This wasn’t just another guitar band, they had synths and mildly symphonic tracks boosting their heftiness with memorable tune after memorable tune.
Wales has spawned a fair number of world famous bands over the years, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Agrona is one day up there as the guys who brought out the Blackest in the dragon’s land, and I was not alone in my appreciation for the venue was now gaining full capacity and the cheers of the crowd showed a fine level of appreciation.
You wowed more than just this critic, Agrona – hope you put Wales on the Black Metal map.
Everyone else around me was now in the party spirit as the crowd dispersed for more refreshment as the next band got ready.
It had been refreshing to have a golden nugget of Black Metal mined out of such a beautiful, faraway part of the country play, but now it was time for something closer to home, which a lot more people seemed happy for as people began piling in as Damim came on stage.
This was a Death Metal outfit from London, who’ve been around since the late 90s and have changed their name, so you’d expect them to be an experienced outfit.
You could tell from the moment they began that they knew what to do with nicely laden guitars and machine gun style drumming that blasted both the old and new school into London’s earholes.
Vocalist Nathanael Underwood looked like he was having quite a high time as his screams and growls came with extra psychotic appearing head bangs, so if this band likes to explore the inner turmoil of the mind and madness, he certainly was showcasing it well.
Damim wasn’t progressive in their output but not too simple either, this was a band who’ve been good at what they do for a long time, so they knew how to put on a show with lots of anger and viciousness.
Whilst the rest of the crowd were moving nicely to the tunes – not moshing but moving in appreciation – I have to say Damim were good but didn’t blow my mind, but that’s just one opinion and based on how much appreciation was cheered as they ended, we had a crowd pleaser.
The eleventh hour of the night was now drawing nigh, and the metal scene had well and truly flocked into the venue. I didn’t move from my spot for the final band and neither did the other kids around me. This is was what we’d waited all day for, another showcase of mighty fine Swedish Black Metal.
Gra (Swedish for grey) a band having crafted many raw and rich tunes about ancient Scandinavian folklore, spiritual practices, death and the ever-present darkness of life were ready to unleash their barrage on us. It was simply deadly what was thrown forth as it made the crowd go completely nuts.
Chainsaw style riffs ground into us as we headbanged hard and several blokes near the stage began a pit reflecting the violence of the Swedes’ repertoire.
Covered in corpse paint and wearing outfits you’d expect to see in a horror movie, Gra has a satisfying image that pleases many on numerous levels of metal and quirky obsessions.
If you love music about war and battles, then they had soundbites of a firing squad, acted out with some well-choreographed guitar movements. Suicide or the impending doom of what lies beyond this world was also covered, for Heljarmadr threw several nooses into the crowd for people to put on to accompany the band’s last few tunes.
In all, Gra can grab you by the scruff of the neck and drag you down a proverbial rabbit hole to a multiverse of madness, violence, degradation, horror and perverted spiritual practices. Take all those putrefying elements and put them to the greatest music ever concocted in a land rich in ancient mythologies and you have Gra.
Impressive was something of an understatement and it was fun seeing many people stick around after the show to thank the boys for such a fine gig. Hope you come to the UK again Gra, your performance was very much appreciated.