10th December 2019
Review by Demitri Levantis
The Underworld in Camden is a highly renowned venue to play for all areas of music, be that extreme music, club hits or the experimental. This night’s concert certainly fell into the latter as Dodheimsgard, one of the more experimental bands of the Norwegian black metal scene, paid another visit to the city.
Weird and wonderful was definitely afoot but first it was time for some hefty warm-ups.
First on the bill were Matterhorn, all the way from Switzerland. Despite the crowd being almost non-existent, these guys took to the stage showing they meant business.
Matterhorn’s sound raged from the PA system like a galloping stampede of wild boar on the American plains. A nice mix of old school speed metal riffs accompanied by galloping drums and the odd blast beat made up their output, with dark lyrics that wouldn’t go amiss on a Morbid record.
These guys were a back-to-basics band who pulled no punches in saying the old ways are still best for many in the current black metal scene. I was impressed at their precision and strength that did not wane given the minuscule crowd, which had barely begun to swell as Matterhorn’s set finished.
People had begun to pile into the venue by now and the bars were certainly busy by the time he second band of the night arrived. Blaze of Perdition, all the way from Lublin, Poland, with over 15 years of touring under their belt.
The time on the road for these blokes had definitely been good to them, for I could see in their stage presence they knew how to entice an audience, which now packed out around two-thirds of the standing area. Darkness and low fidelity rawness is how I would describe Blaze of Perdition. Their songs are somewhat progressive in length but they aren’t too experimental a band in the composition of their tracks.
Angry, raspy screeches and guttural growls bellowed from the amps as Blaze of Perdition tore through track after track about occultism, dark ideas and esoteric activity. It all seemed these guys couldn’t get any darker when all of a sudden they included a cover of Moonchild, the Gothic rock classic by Fields of the Nephilim. Speaking as a keen Fields fan, this put the band even higher on my appreciation levels, so this wasn’t a gig I’d forget in a hurry. A great surprise is always fun at a metal gig. Blaze of Perdition are precise and charismatic in all the ways a veteran black metal band can be, so a job well done.
Now it was time for the band who drew in the biggest crowd of the entire night: Bolzer, another Swiss act who, from this turnout, have developed quite a following in the UK scene.
The duo meant business from the word go: frontman KzR had the whole of the Underworld in the palm of his hand when he placed a ceremonial dish containing candles at the foot of his mic stand and began shredding and tremolo picking his way through tunes containing enough rituals and black magic to awaken the countless corpses that lie beneath London’s streets.
Each riff kept me and the crowd around me hooked as we looked up in awe at these two Swiss men who have managed to put the whole world that lies on the left-hand-path to music. Bolzer are not a band for the fainthearted and I am not just referring to the musicianship. Drummer HzR was nothing short of a master at his craft. Watching his hypnotic drumming made you feel like he was conducting a ritual to send you into the unknown, and it made the songs blend beautifully into one another.
Overall, this was the group most of the crowd had come out to see this evening, as the cheers were higher than everyone who had graced the stage so far and, sadly, a fair number did leave after Bolzer left the stage. A performance nothing short of perfect from these Swiss bards, nonetheless.
As said before, this was a night of experimentation, and so it was time for the headliners to wow the crowd with their weird and wonderful take on the black metal genre.
It’s cliché to say: ‘it has to be seen to be believed’, but this phrase applies wholly to Norwegian outfit Dodheimsgard. I would call them the band who delved into the experimentation world a long time ago but didn’t go as deep as their peers like Ulver. Dodheimsgard certainly wasn’t like the other black metal groups of the evening but had remembered their roots as they played tunes from all across their long and fruitful discography.
Fronted by a vocalist who’s best described as a shaman conducting a ritual with a surreal sense of humour, Dodheimsgard stood out from a lot of bands I’ve seen over the years. They carried a weighty, industrial-infused sound that made good use of keyboards and programming, and their stage costumes were not the kind you’d normally expect from a Norwegian band.
Whilst the crowd was smaller now, there was still a good pit going as Dodheimsgard crashed and jangled their way through catchy numbers, and frontman Vicotnik went about his business by entertaining the crowd with surreal antics and getting up to mischief like a schoolkid playing his first show.
They weren’t hilarious but had a weird undertone to their sound which I found very amusing. With the changing sound of each tune, Dodheimsgard was something else, so I have to say: check out these guys, as they put on a show to remember.
Dodheimsgard are not style-over-substance, as they have tackled plenty of legitimate themes like philosophy and satanism, but it’s nice to see a band who eschew the major clichés of their scene and retain their dignity within it.
A great night was had all round from all bands who graced the stage.