Early 6 o clock doors meant I arrived late with Unfathomable Ruination already a song in and playing to a fairly empty venue as those with work/other commitments failed to make it across London for the early start to the Friday night shenanigans. Hats off to the band, they ploughed through their short set like the room is full and even with regular guitarist Daniel Herrara unable to play the band still sound tight, pounding through a slamming set with the position filled by Marek Golas of Lost Souls. The lack of bodies in the room is made up by the enthusiasm both on and off stage as a few lads decide to start a 3 man pit using the groovy guttural death as a soundtrack. Bassist Federico Benini windmills around on stage whilst 8 finger tapping up and down his entire fretboard likes he’s trying to break a speed typing record. A decent set from these London regulars, not even dampened by the early start.
By the time Benediction came on stage the venue had started filling up and Dave Hunt and company launch straight into “Nightfear” from 1993’s “Transcend The Rubicon. A main mic issue meant a brief restart but then they treated us to a set made up of classics. Following on from “Nothing On The Inside” Dave introduced the band, “Hello for those of you who don’t know us we’re benediction from Birmingham, we’re an old school death metal band only we never split up”. Yes there has been some line up changes over the years but as you’d expect from a band that been going since 1989 they put on a stellar and tight set and soon stepped things up a gear with the crowd: “My favourite thing is a washing machine, I particularly like spin cycles so basically if you don’t want to punch the person next to you move out of the way!”. Dave Hunt’s encouragement and “The Dreams You Dread” gets the audience splitting apart and said spin cycle opens up a pit from the stage all the way to the bar (which if you’ve been to the O2 Islington, you’ll know is sizeable!).
After a few more songs they finish up with the title track of 1994’s “The Grotesque” and as the final chords rung out they looked set to walk off but announced there had been some confusion. “It turns out we were so enthusiastic that we played all our songs too fast and finished but still got more time. Well if that’s the case we’ll carry on playing ’til they drag our cold bodies off the stage. Looks like there’s time for a bonus song okay?”. They finished up for a second time with “I Bow To None” leaving a sweaty crowd more than warmed up for the headliners. Let’s not make it so long until you come back down to London again eh Benediction?
It’s odd that Covenant came out in 1993 but this tour was being marketed as a 20 year anniversary tour. Perhaps they started it in 2013 and it’s taken this long to get the tour to England, who knows? Whatever the case no one can argue Morbid Angel’s Covenant was THE best selling death metal albums of 1993, shifting over 150,000 copies in the US alone in it’s year of release. A tour of this calibre, playing an album of that stature meant a lot of people were going to show up. The venue was stuffed with bodies and the stage was set following the excellent support, a huge logo backdrop, woodcut illustration side flags and a behemoth sized drum kit covered the stage. The lights dimmed and out came Mordid Angel and straight into “Rapture”. The front row erupted into a sea of hair as Vincent stood proudly spitting out the lyrics as everyone sang along. Morbid Angel were back! No time was lost as they jumped straight into “Pain Divine”, Azagthoth contorting himself over fretboard and a shitload of pedals, dive bombing in all directions to the ridiculously complicated solos. I could have watched just him all night long.
After finishing second song “Pain Divine” Dave Vincent stood with a beaming friendly smile to the crowd, at odds with the sonic death destruction that had just come from the stage, “Thank you my London friends for coming out, it’s good to see you again and we still live in a World of Shit”. Things slow down with said track and after a frankly lacklustre performance at bloodstock a few years ago it was with a wee smile I stood watching, the band were tight, the sound was superb and Morbid Angel were killing it. This was starting to shape up into the night I had hoped for.
Following on with “Lion’s Den”, then “Blood on my Hands” Dave asked the audience “how many saw them on the original Covenant tour?”. It was met with a surprisingly muted response, highlighting the young age of those in attendance, “So you were too young but your parents let you listen to us anyway, you’re welcome to Angel of Disease”. At this point an over enthusiastic and drunk fan (read complete prick) came bowling through the crowd and dived over the bar and started dancing around behind the pumps. The bar staff managed to push him to the end where he decided to get up and stage (bar) dive straight on to the heads of the oblivious fans facing the stage with their backs to the bar. In the process he smashed everyone’s drinks earthbound along with my glasses. After a blind minute on my knees I found them leaning against someone’s leg magically unscathed. Now sighted again I got up to see he’d been disposed of into the swirling pit of “Sworn to the Black” whilst Azagthoth was displaying a masterclass in fingerboard gymnastics.
“Nar Matturu” gave the audience and pit a brief respite before they finished the Covenant part of the setlist with “God of Emptiness”. At the start of this I am unsure what the sound engineer did but it was like he pressed a turbo enhance button, everything became clearer and more seperated out, the double bass thundered through as Vincent gave his best crooner impression asking us to “bow to me” and Azagthoth’s guitar sheared through with the backwards sounding riffs. The only thing off-putting to the whole song was Tim Yeung spinning his sticks in the air around his fingers after every snare hit like he was Tommy fucking Lee. Granted yes he a good drummer, but there’s no need to act like you’re auditioning for the Crue or Van Halen when you’re already in Morbid fucking Angel!
The end of the Covenant part of the set saw the band go through their extensive back catalogue. They started with “Where the slime lives” from the 1995 album “Domination”. I assumed with it being a Covenant tour they would keep it to the early classics from the Vincent era but no, next up was the beastly “Bil Ur Sag” from 1998 album “Formulas Fatal To the Flesh”, easily the best of their last 5 albums. They continued through making sure to play 1 song from each of the 7 albums released before and after Covenant but it’s the penultimate track “Immortal Rites” from “Altars of Madness” that raises the biggest, and at this point most drunk pit of the night. It’s moments like this I hate having a camera bag on me, every inch of my body wanted to dive into the rabid pit that was threatening to engulf most of the venue. They finished up with “Fall From Grace” and barely seconds passed of the last cymbal hit and the venue switched the main lights on and started blasting a CD over the PA giving no chance of an encore.
A stupendous night, let’s hope playing all this older material gives Trey some inspiration to write the come back album we all hope for, and an Altars of Madness 25th anniversary tour in 2015 (26th anniversary but if they can do it for Covenant…)!!
Massive thanks to Old Empire who put on Morbid Angel in London. Here are some shows they are putting on over the next 3 months possibly of interest to fans of Morbid Angel:
31st Dec 2014 Dead Congregation
29th Jan 2015 Inquisition
1st Feb 2015 Obituary
7th Feb 2015 Primordial
2nd Mar 2015 Death DTA
7th Mar 2015 Acherontas
17th Mar 2015 Hour of Penance