If you’ve even the slightest dislike of crowded or uncomfortably confined spaces, The Underworld on this uncommonly hectic Tuesday night is most definitely not the place to be. Straining to contain what appears to be the entire population of the capital’s underground metal scene, every free inch of The Underworld’s murky, subterranean quarters is visibly heaving with a teeming mass of grizzled beards, band shirts and black leather. With the wetly pungent reek of flooded toilets hanging thick and humid in the air, fans push and jostle their way through the densely packed throngs as recent arrivals battle for a semi-decent view of the stage.
But from the moment Valkyrja let loose a frantic blizzard of bristling, thickly contorted riffage, any lingering sense of our earthly surroundings is instantly obliterated as we’re flung headlong into a coldly abrasive frenzy of aggression. Figures silhouetted pitch-black against a searing, white-hot flood of stage lighting, the deliciously energised feast of expansive riffage that follows thoroughly drenches the senses with adrenaline. With seething hordes of howling fans hanging on their every deathly, deliciously frostbitten note, it’s with seamless fluency that this brutally hostile display unravels in a luxuriant expanse of snaking fretwork that instantly recalls the progressive majesty of iconic fellow countrymen Watain.
With its dense layer upon layer of rasping tremolo carving bone-scraping accents of aggression beneath a scalding cacophony of screams, choice selections from new record ‘Throne Ablaze’ manipulate rock-infused trappings to electrifying effect. Indeed, from grandiose episodes of lusciously expansive riffage to dizzying peaks of face-melting shredding and pounding, punk-infused groove, the Swedes’ impressively varied musicianship is a visceral, richly absorbing pleasure to behold. Punctuated with explosive, strategically placed eruptions of battering blasts, theirs is a fine, deliciously feral horror show of a set.
Displaying significantly less nimble-fingered finesse and sonic variety, blackened aggressors Archgoat waste little time in frantically pummelling eardrums into submission. Through ceaselessly churning slabs of reverb and feral lashings of thrash, the Finns’ hulking, raggedly energised presence looms monstrously large throughout. Beneath a thick, murkily primitive blur of clanging snares and suffocatingly immense screams, ‘Hammer of Satan’ sees lurching, darkly abrasive grooves implode in a blistering orgy of barrelling aggression. With its thick and fast stints of tautly muscular thrash, crushing bass groove and insanely paced hyperblasts, this decidedly old school assault is guaranteed to satisfy staunchly traditionalist tastes while leaving more varied and adventurous palates decidedly unsated.
As Marduk finally emerge painted and pallidly cadaverous in a blaze of blinding stage lights, it's a matter of mere seconds before the already heaving venue is transformed into a turbulent sea of flailing, violently chaotic motion. Darkly caked in corpse-paint and hair dank and glistening with sweat, demonic frontman Mortuus easily dominates the stage with a propulsive, darkly gargling presence that sends great shockwaves of adrenaline through the wildly headbanging droves of fans gathered here tonight. Tautly underpinned by unrelenting wave upon wave of caustic barks and dry-lung snarls that leave the synapses tingling with aggression, ‘Werwolf’s’ deliciously feral blend of jarring blasts and lean, knife-edged tremolo is as tightly executed as it is bristling with hostility. Emerging out of an echoing cacophony of rasping snarls that positively ooze grave-scented horror and pestilence, it’s with devilish complexity and calculating precision that the twisted, tremolo-laden strains ‘The Levelling Dust’ abound with frostbitten majesty.
All bristling, darkly abrasive textures and airy flurries of scalpel-edged fretwork, ‘Equestrian Bloodlust’s’ deft balancing of blistering acceleration and impeccably engineered precision makes for one of various exhilarating highlights. Continuing in the relentlessly pulverising vein of nightmarish new album, ‘Viktoria’, ‘The Blond Beast’s’ pounding, industrial-strength disco groove sucks listeners in within seconds before unleashing a frosbitten deluge of gargling screams upon the unsuspecting listener. And as a final, nightmarish slew of bloodcurdling screams and lunging grooves accelerate into a bewildering frenzy of hyperblasting insanity, there’s no mistaking why these seasoned aggressors remain such a vital, irreplaceable presence among lovers of this most dark and desolate of arts.