Live Review: Altar Of Plagues, Grumbling Fur, Necro Deathmort, Borderline London, 4th December 2011
Words and photos Antony Roberts
After watching Altar Of Plagues slay at Candlefest just a few weeks ago there was no way I was going to miss another chance to catch them again. With such an amazing debut album (White Tombs) it was with baited breath that the metal world awaited the sophomore effort Mammal to come out this year. Between the two gigs many Top XX albums of the year lists have come out from numerous blogs, sites and magazines and time and time again Mammal was right up there near the top of the lists. Having already seen them at the Underworld translate the sheer blackened battery studio work into a frankly electrifying live show I was eager to witness them again, this time around in the rather more intimate Borderline.
Arriving to the venue and with all the media and web hype over one of the year’s finest bands I expected a huge queue but the venue was extremely quiet with barely 40-50 people there. First support Necro Deathmort consisted of just 2 members. With a backing made up of laptops, and other electronic sampler and mixer things I have no clue about, I was very surprised when I heard they’d been announced for Roadburn 2012. Not the normal addition, but then Walter and team always like to throw some curve balls and are normally right on the money. Having heard the CD beforehand I have to say I wasn’t fully convinced and didn’t give it the proper listen it deserved. Fusing elements from all over it swings between ambient industrial to electronic drone, mixing in drum n bass/trip hop beats and even dub to bleak nightmare-ish soundscapes. Live they are an altogether completely different beast, coming across like some black metal, dub-drone hybrid. I stood there absolutely blown away with the sheer noise they created between just 2 of them. Having witnessed the destruction two piece electronically backed bands like Godflesh can do live I should have been more prepared but this was jaw dropping. Each song built up into a soundtrack piece with bassist AJ and guitarist Matt taking alternate moments to sing and scream through reverbed and delayed mics creating a blackened, dark and severely disturbing atmosphere. I’ve got a feeling Necro Deathmort are going to be a ‘marmite’ band and definitely split the metal community with their use of electronics but go see them live and judge for yourself, personally I thought final track The Heat Death of Everything was as dark and heavy as anything i’ve seen live this year.
The Ultimate Testament
Insecto! (new track)
Temple of Juno
The Heat Death of Everything
Next up the line up had somewhat changed with Haxan Cloak unable to make it and Alexander Tucker, well actually I’m not sure what happened. I was told Alexander Tucker was unable to play, but then Grumbling Fur played who Alexander Tucker is part of so your guess is as good as mine. Music like Grumbling Fur needs to be listened (read ‘absorbed’) at home on headphones, or in the seated comfort of an auditorium or concert hall. Whilst on another night and at a different venue I would have happily sat back and enjoyed their chilled tunes, sandwiched between Necro and Altar they were mismatched and out of place.
By the time Altar Of Plagues took to the stage the venue had filled up somewhat from it’s lack of early arrivals but was still surprisingly light on attendance. Perhaps it was the proximity to christmas, but more probable is underground fans were at The Grovesnor for the Black Death Assault all dayer with Craven Idol, Funeral Throne and many more. I can understand if you’ve seen a band recently and want to catch someone else but gigs damn it, they’re like buses and all that. It just sucks when two good ones are on in the same town on the same day…
Opening with ‘Earth (as a womb)’ the band stood heads down, rocking gently back and forth, calm and composed. The slow notes of the first guitar built a hushed intro, slowly joined by the second guitarists delayed notes, like the calm before the storm. When the song finally came crashing in all composure went out of the window, the entire band launched into movement, both guitarists lurching back and forth like men possessed, backed by an unrelenting wall of drums. Vocalist Dave stormed forward and letting forth an almighty roar, kick started members of the previously stagnant crowd into a sea of flailing hair, whilst the remaining audience stood transfixed. Moving straight into Earth II (As a furnace) they continued their take on black metal moving from quiet moments of shoe-gaze/post metal soundscapes into pure blackened battery. It’s this juxtaposition of calm and sheer malevolence that has earned them such high accolades on the media’s top album of the year lists. No-one else has come close to combining the two elements into such grandiose compositions, and live they just take it to the next level. The last half hour of their set featured a mind-blowing version of Atlantic Light from 2010’s ep Tides, which went into Feather And Bone from the aforementioned 2011 release Mammal. The band end up on their knees, twisting sounds through pedals whilst ritually rocking back and forth antlers in hand. When they finally finish it takes some time for the crowd to move, stood there in shock and awe at the sweat drenched performance the band just delivered. Not only have Altar of Plagues released one of the best metal albums of 2011, they are also delivering some of the best live performances seen this year.
‘Earth (as a Womb)’
‘Earth (as a Furnace)’
‘Feather and Bone’