Extreme metal group Primordial came to the capital this Saturday in support of their new album Where Greater Men Have Fallen, bringing great support acts with them in the form of Malthusian and Winterfylleth, with Portrait as a late addition to the lineup.
I couldn’t have been more effusive in my praise for Malthusian’s MMXIII demo, with it’s cavernous dense sound it’s one of the best extreme metal releases of the decade so far, and there’s already a sizeable crowd gathered at 5:30 in the afternoon to see the openers. And they manage to recreate that twisted wall of sound live,the guitars and bass merging together to create a churning maelstrom of pummelling sound, with the pained shrieks and monstrous growls of the vocals adding to the fearsome atmosphere. With the frenzied drums barrelling their way over the top, driving the songs forward through the punishing wall of sound, the result is intensely heavy, and with the tight musicianship and great stage presence from all on stage their set is a brilliant one, jaw droppingly heavy and belying their opener status. Playing a show this good with just one three song EP under their belt, Malthusian are going to far.
From the moment they arrive on stage decked out in leather and spikes, it seems strange that Portrait are on this lineup. Their trad-metal sound may be laced with elements of both power and thrash metal, with more than a nod to the sound of Mercyful Fate, but their performance was unconvincing. Where Malthusian were beyond tight, Portrait seemed a mess, and with the combination of sloppy playing and over-enthusiasm, they sounded like they were playing over each other a good deal of the time. There were a few fun riffs throughout the performance, but Per’s falsettos got old fast, and they didn’t go down too well with this crowd, the band outstaying their welcome with a forty minute set.
With Winterfylleth’s constant touring and hard work and four albums under their belt in just 6 years, they’re fast becoming one of the top bands in the British black metal scene, and are relied upon to always put on a great performance – unsurprising then that they play a blinder here. Their passionate patriotic black metal is intensely heavy, and enthrallingly mesmerising all at once, icy cold tremolo riffs interspersing with warm melodies, and with vocalist/guitarist Chris’s fantastic screams they play a show with great energy and crystal clear sound. Primordial’s A.A. Nemtheanga joined them on choral vocals for a great rendition of The Svart Raven in one of the highlights of their set. They play so well that it’s hard to believe they’re not a headline act at this stage, before Chris announces their headline show at London’s Black Heart the next month, and on the strength of this performance it’s safe to say that tiny Camden venue is going to be packed.
Primordial’s set at Bloodstock 2014 was one of the highlight’s of the festival, and from the reaction of the crowd it’s safe to say their swift return to these shores was hugely anticiapted. Though the new album isn’t by any means the greatest in their catalogue, they bring an extra intensity to the songs when performed live that takes it to a much greater level than present on the album. With the album most represented in their set, they rattle through the songs with astonishing energy, with the hooded Nemtheanga’s crowd interaction and animated performance making it a great 90 minutes of folk infused extreme metal. With brilliant vocals and a heavy yet well crafted melodic sound they’re exciting from start to finish, but ramping it up at the end with a rousing performance of the crowd favourite and emotionally powerful The Coffin Ships, and carrying that energy into Wield Lightning to Split the Sun, and the inevitable closer Empire Falls. A fantastic set by a band who always deliver.
Overall it was a great night for extreme metal, with Malthusian, Winterfylleth and Primordial all putting on brilliant shows worthy of headliner status on their own.