As if the epic pairing of Septicflesh’s brimstone-scorched orchestrations together with the raggedly scabrous delights of Inquisition wasn’t a tantalising enough proposition already, UK support Stahlsbarg are a strikingly sinister additional bonus. Across madly accelerating stints of snaking, densely muscular groove and frostbitten tremolo that bears precious little resemblance to the gentle, rolling hills of their native Suffolk, theirs is a sound steeped in blackened, unmistakably Nordic tradition. Through exhilarating implosions of percussive battery and bloodcurdling shrieks, ‘Damocles XIII’ is gloriously rich in inky, Satyricon-flavoured groove in a piece that illustrates masterfully handled aggression and unearthly horror in equal measure.
Through deathly glimmers of monochrome stage lighting, Inquisition finally loom dimly into focus, plunging listeners headlong into a murkily impenetrable haze of ragged guitars and pummelling blasts. With caustic rasps of curiously hypnotic gargling slung diabolically low beneath a muddily indistinct cacophony of snares, it’s with unceremonious brutality and frenetic pacing that the corpse-painted Americans work their adrenaline-fuelled magic on the crowd. Steeped in coldly dissonant chord progressions whose turbulent throes writhe and unravel like restless spirits from the beyond, this is as grim and calculated an assault as any old school addict could wish for.
But from the moment Septicflesh’s insanely paced stints of bludgeoning hyperblasts and lacerating tremolo nimbly unfurl into a luscious tangle of sleekly textured fretwork, these Hellenic hell-raisers display an epic stage presence that’s utterly unrivalled in its immense, ingeniously crafted scope. With this in mind, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the already rather claustrophobic confines of the Underworld are now thick with the moist heat and associated aromas of a hundred or so wildly euphoric, beer-swilling fans. Propelled by tautly muscular spirals of distortion whose tensely suspenseful motions explode in a breakneck frenzy of blastbeats and blackly opulent orchestral flourishes, the madly energised dimensions of ‘Prototype’ make for wildly entertaining live carnage.
With the obvious absence of the prestigious philharmonic orchestra that’s famously graced every record since the unleashing of 2008 game-changer ‘Communion’, the classical dimensions of Septicflesh’s genre-defying sound are inevitably overshadowed in places. That said, the Greeks’ carefully considered piecing together of a highly aggressive, guitar-driven set list helps ensure a largely seamless and successful transition. Palpably bristling with thornily abrasive textures before swiftly engulfing the senses in a veritable cascade of blastbeating ultra-violence, fresh cut ‘Enemy of Truth’ finds the four-piece at the crowning pinnacle of their aggressive powers.
Elsewhere, the notably more complex and atmospheric ‘Prometheus’ sees frenetic flurries of strings whirl and glide airily atop a grandiose blackened core of churning aggression and horn-laden theatrics. With its spine-chilling swell of melancholic choirs and crushing slabs of riffage positively drenching the synapses with adrenaline, the crowd halts in their violent revelries for a few momentary seconds in silent awe of this epic and utterly exhilarating spectacle of a set.