Last night was a crowded one on London’s heavy metal calendar. With Overkill thrashing out their insane new album The Wings of War over at the O2 Islington Academy and our very own Crippled Black Phoenix tearing down The Underworld just a couple of minutes walk away, it was utterly phenomenal to see a legion of leather-clad defenders of the faith swarm in on the minuscule-but-mighty Dev for a night of unrivalled heaviness. As the beer flowed and the energy intensified the night came furiously alive with the majestic spectacle only a handful of bands could deliver.
London’s own behemoth of hard’n’heavy riffmongering Brule kickstarts the evening into overdrive with material bound for the debut album. After the unfortunate cancellation of their Bloodstock performance last year and the folding of dodgy label HeviSike Records their performance served as the perfect rebound, proving the hunger is more fervent than ever. ‘Black Wine’ and ‘Your Last Breathe’ sound as mighty as the much older ‘Devils Decay’ and though the crowd is still turning up at this point it’s an impressive display for those of us already in attendance. New member Josh Kemp settles in just fine and the jazzy fills from drummer Robert Wilson sound glorious against Alistair Riddell’s beastly riffs and Johnny Ogle’s kingly vocals. With such a solid performance and a warm reception there is no shadow of a doubt the album will be well received.
By the time Sanhedrin embark on the small stage the room is undeniably packed and slowly edging forward. Showcasing highlights from 2017’s A Funeral for the World and this years The Poisoner the music towers over the surprisingly empty stage and does a lot of the talking. Erica Stoltz is as fearsome as she is majestic in her performance and drummer Nathan Honor brandished a seemingly permanent smile as the band blitzed their way through a short but power-hungry set. The Dev is the perfect place to bask in their brand of old-school metal, where the music is as crunchy as the interior is intoxicating, and ‘classics’ ‘Massive Deceiver’ and ‘A Funeral for the World’ are met with much acclaim whilst the infernally catchy ‘The Getaway’ and ‘In From The Outside’ completely raise the roof of this tiny establishment. It’s all a little rougher, but metal like this was never meant to be polished and pristine: it’s all as leathery as the kutte on Jeremy Sosville’s back – the way it should be. The Poisoner cover artist was in tow too, which was pretty cool!
Gatekeeper, as far as all heavy metal goes, are on a whole different planet altogether. Even before the opening seconds of ‘Grey Maiden’ are played, sunglasses-clad vocalist Jean-Pierre Abboud goads the crowd with the charisma of a battle-hardened warrior and it never lets up for a second despite his mic’s volume all but disappeared by the second song. The twin-axe attack of Jeff Black and Adam Bergen (who fills in for an absent Kenny Kroecher splendidly) is nothing but sublime from start to finish, mercilessly shredding their way through East of Sun belters ‘Blade of Cimmeria’ and ‘Bell of Tarantia’ while the crowd are – to put it one way – simply loving it. A cover of Omen classic ‘Death Rider’ goes down just as well as Abboud’s crowd interaction as he commands us all to sing and scream with him. It’s a mind-blowing performance that will be hard to top as the year goes on, branded into our collective memories for an eternity. With talks of another visit to our shores in the future one can hardly wait – this is a band with the power to bring us all together and sing until our voiceboxes can sing no more. Closing out with ‘East of Sun’ I am frankly hungry for more!
A truly unforgettable experience, these are definitely the bands to watch out for as they go from strength to strength; as far as Gatekeeper are concerned such boundless eneergy is what the scene needs right now and they come armed with enough for several bands. As their name and power spreads, one can only see great things in the future.No I am not being sycophantic; frankly, they’re our generation’s trailblazers!
(Sadly no pictures for this, my phone died too early on).