A Pale Horse Named Death + OHHMS @ The Underworld, London

Tuesday, 5th November 2019
Review by Kira Levine
Photography by Michelle Murphy

For the final leg of their Season Of The Dead tour, A Pale Horse Named Death played Camden’s Underworld. They are a New York doom metal band featuring former members of Type O Negative and Life Of Agony.

A Pale Horse Named Death

Kicking things off were special guests OHHMS, hailing from Canterbury, Kent, England. One of the guitarists sported a Darkthrone tee (with the words True Norwegian Black Metal emblazoned on the reverse side), which came as a surprise as their music is quite different.

Their opening song is energetic and loud for the most part, with a lot of tempo changes in its last half. The frontman is the most active on stage, very intriguing to watch. His vocals pack a punch too, although they were sometimes lost under the cacophony of instruments.

During a slow instrumental section, the bassist takes his shirt off for some reason or other. Shortly after vocals were re-introduced, the song picked up speed again and exploded into a lively number once more. “That was our first song,” the vocalist announced, to which some of the audience gasped in shock. It had clearly been mistaken for two separate tracks because it did not sound like one complete song and they had been performing for over twenty minutes already. Perhaps it would have fared better being played later in the set… last, even.

A catchier and much shorter track was performed next, which seemed to resonate well with the sparse crowd. By the end of the second song, fewer than twenty people were stood in front of the stage, while several other attendees opted to stand around the edges. Most of those standing in the centre nodded their heads, moderately appreciating what they were hearing.

The bassist’s guitar had been decorated with a multitude of stickers (the Ghostbusters logo identifiable as it is the largest), and a baby shoe dangled from the neck of the bass by its laces, swinging violently in pink as its owner played erratically.

Witnessing a British band supporting the headliners created a sense of familiarity, although they were a little underwhelming and slightly confusing. A fairly entertaining start to the evening.

Then came the time for A Pale Horse Named Death to take the stage. From the level of cheering and the venue being visibly fuller, it was clear to see that the level of excitement had reached its peak. Starting the set with tribal instrumental ‘The Woods’, the intro track to their latest release, ‘When The World Comes Undone’, they wasted no time beginning their set.

A Pale Horse Named Death

Guitarist / back up vocalist Joe Taylor wore a tee from Damnation Festival, a date they played in Leeds a few days prior. He occasionally leans over the edge of stage to strum in the excited faces of fans in the front row. 

After ‘Devil In The Closet’, and amidst applause, frontman Sal Abruscato addressed the audience: “Underworld, London! Thank you so much, man. We’re having a good time!” He also mentions that he recognises that it’s a Tuesday night and all us “Camden folk” have adult things to do, going on to say that he appreciated our attendance.

A Pale Horse Named Death

A Pale Horse Named Death

Another track from the latest album, ‘Love The Ones You Hate’ was up next. The audience really moved to this beat and infectious song, swaying and nodding to every note.

A Pale Horse Named Death

“You’re fucking right, man… give that man a cigar!” in response to an unintelligible shout from the audience between songs.

A Pale Horse Named Death

‘In The Sleeping Death’ had been the headliner’s fifth offering of the evening, from their sophomore album. Abruscato delivered the lyrics such as “With my broken heart / So sad I’ve got to go away / As I lay and take my last breath” in a mesmerising fashion, with a slow sneer that made sure that every word would be heard and felt.

A Pale Horse Named Death

Right before ‘Shallow Grave’, Sal explained that even though the lyrics were chosen to fit a guy’s perspective, it was not “on the men’s side or the women’s side” and that he is an “equal opportunity killer” that does not discriminate, which gained a few laughs. He went on to say that the track had been written about a woman, asking the ladies in the venue to feel free to change it to suit them.

A Pale Horse Named Death

“Hey, don’t distract my musicians!” Sal jokingly warned a member of the audience seen clinking beer bottles with Joe between the songs ‘Vultures’ and ‘Growing Old’.

A Pale Horse Named Death

Their “boyish-looking” tour manager Jay Smith received thanks for handling the band “like his own children” and driving them to each gig. Sal also mentioned that Jay once whispered “You smell like my father’s sex doll” in a girl’s ear. This filled the room with hysterical laughter.

A Pale Horse Named Death

After ‘Fell In My Hole’ an instrumental piece was played, which was received very well by the crowd, judging by the level of clapping. Sal explains that it’s “called Fucking Get High Together, or some shit” before asking: “You guys want us to keep playing?” He was answered with very enthusiastic cheers, but joked, “We gotta get to the airport…!”

A Pale Horse Named Death

A few attendees were in a trance-like state, with some closing their eyes, moving in time to slow yet heavy notes in ‘Pill Head’, its lyrical content appearing to have some sort of placebo effect on them.

A Pale Horse Named Death

“Alright, that was our last song”, Sal referred to ‘Splinters’, which is met with sounds of disappointment. “Joking!” he quickly retorts. A muffled “You’re not funny!” could be heard from an onlooker. “I heard that!” Sal retorted. “I am, I’m a funny motherfucker, with a big mouth… all the way from Brooklyn, New York!” to which many chuckled.

A Pale Horse Named Death

OHHMS are thanked and described as nice fellows before the band’s performance of ‘When Crows Descend Upon You’.

A Pale Horse Named Death

The night’s version of ‘Cracks In The Walls’ featured a spectacular extended outro played at the end of the song, slow yet very heavy. Johnny Kelly’s drumming truly shone here. The dimmed lights towards the end helped add atmosphere to the already dramatic music.

A Pale Horse Named Death

Moments before the final offering, Sal pointed out: “This will be the last song of the night on the last show of the tour!” prompting a mixture of cheers and surprised sounds just ahead of ‘Killer By Night’.

A Pale Horse Named Death

Before and after their performance, A Pale Horse Named Death took the time to take pictures with dedicated fans, even going as far as signing merchandise and items of memorabilia. This quintet are most definitely worthy of their title: The Brooklyn Lords Of Doom.

A Pale Horse Named Death setlist:

1. The Woods
2. To Die In Your Arms
3. Devil In The Closet
4. Love The Ones You Hate
5. In The Sleeping Death
6. Shallow Grave
7. Vultures
8. Growing Old
9. Fell In My Hole
[instrumental] 10. Pill Head
11. Splinters
12. When Crows Descend Upon You
13. Cracks In The Walls
14. Die Alone
15. Killer By Night

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