In a frantic tsunami of densely chugging riffs and banshee shrieks, British extreme metal legends Akercocke are quick to ensnare the full, undivided focus of fans from the get-go. With ‘Horns of Baphomet’s’ lunging, serpentine contortions and tortured screams taking ample time to work their ritualistic magic before accelerating into a battering frenzy of staccato blasts, theirs is a deliciously sinister and abrasive presence. Bridging whiplash-inducing stints of aggression with blackly expansive melodic breaks that drip diabolical majesty, the tastefully titled ‘Of Menstrual Blood and Semen’ combines ripping aggression and slickly executed fretwork to varied, highly entertaining effect. Through murky layerings of droning ambient noise, nightmarish classic ‘Son of the Morning’ artfully blends bristling aggression and insanely complex riffage in a frenzied assault that’s awash with adrenaline and cinematic horror.
“The state of the world is going so well. The state of the gig is going so well,” quips Anaal Nathrakh main man Dave Hunt, his voice audibly dripping with sarcasm. Indeed, from broken microphones and persistent sound issues to aggressively militant security staff, there’s no shortage of obstacles conspiring against these genre-obliterating Brummies tonight. Yet, as a band notorious for sourcing inspiration from some of the most ghastly and unspeakable atrocities in human history, it would hardly be fitting or appropriate if Anaal Nathrakh’s awaited stint in the capital passed without incident or exception. And, testament to the band’s unwavering professionalism and steely resilience, the ever-unshakeable collective easily iron out these various technical glitches and deliver haunting, violently instinctive carnage on a scale that words fail to adequately do justice to.
Within seconds of its caustic, industrial noise-laden intro luring fans to the stage like moths to the proverbial flame, the pulverising, insanely paced throes of ‘Obscene As Cancer’ seize instant and violently arresting hold of the senses. From here, gargantuan slabs of sinewy, brimstone-scorched bass propel us, flailing and insensible, into a deranged climax of blastbeats crowned with a rabid cacophony of screams. Deftly intermingling these bloodcurdling accents with an epic wealth of frantically fluctuating operatic leads, the desperate, clawing anguish that inhabits Hunt’s every feral shriek and howling crescendo is a deeply disquieting marvel to behold.
With its exquisitely fine accents of tremolo oozing inky, Cradle of Filth-esque elegance atop a relentlessly bludgeoning backbone of hulking bass groove, ‘Monstrum In Animo’ forms yet another masterful straddling of intensely sinister atmospherics and unbridled brutality. Flailing and lurching about the stage like a man possessed by an ever-shifting host of restless spirits and diabolical entities, Hunt is a hugely versatile and instinctive showman. Pausing in his unrelenting repertoire only to introduce key song titles and banter amiably with the audience, the mere mention of the words ‘Hold Your Children Close and Pray for Oblivion’ sees the Garage instantly transformed into a turbulent sea of violently chaotic motion. Layering nimble lashings of tremolo atop a pummelling slew of bone-splintering bass groove, this dizzying adrenaline fest of a standout glimmers with perverse, post-apocalyptic beauty and frostbitten atmospheres colder than a coroner’s slab.
And from the frantic, insanely paced machine gun blasts and crippling, propulsive grooves of ‘Forward!’ to blackened classic ‘In The Constellation of the Black Widow’s’ ghoulish echoes of oblivion, theirs is a wildly entertaining and absorbing set. Midway through the pounding, rhythmic throes ‘Between Shit and Piss We Are Born’, however, an ugly altercation between a fan and a member of the venue security staff brings proceedings to a shockingly abrupt halt as frontman Dave calmly smooths over the situation, lifting the visibly distressed young man to the safety of the stage. With the imminent promise of an encore soon relieving the uncomfortably tense prevailing atmosphere, this awaited highlight too is then brusquely denied by management as Hunt finally confirms, “Curfew. That’s it apparently.” Then comes a quietly deflated silence as the house lights flicker on and tonight’s headlining act are forced to begin gathering up their gear before making a rushed and unceremonious exit from the stage. But however sour a note Nathrakh’s hugely anticipated London date may have concluded on, nothing can cheapen or detract from the utterly electrifying musicianship and presence Anaal Nathrakh have illustrated here tonight in spades.