The annual inferno of blackened brilliance that is Incineration is about to hit Camden on Saturday and no doubt, like us, you’re bouncing off the walls with excitement - but the sheer amount of eye-wateringly exceptional acts crammed into this single day can feel daunting even to the most obsessively well-informed of fanatical metal-heads.
But fear not, Dark Matter have got your leather-covered backs. We’ve sacrificed both sleep and sanity over the past few days to relentlessly trawl the dark corners of the internet, researching each band in meticulous detail to bring you the ultimate lowdown on the choicest gems of the festival. Use our snappy summaries to tailor your schedule and ensure your Incineration experience runs seamlessly.
SOUNDS LIKE: Emperor, Immortal, Darkthrone, Gorgoroth
STANDOUTS: 'Freezing Moon', 'Deathcrush', 'Pure Fucking Armageddon'
SIGNED WITH: Century Media
SEE THEM: From 8.30-10.30pm @ The Electric Ballroom
The founding fathers of Norwegian black metal, these absolute legends are on their way to the UK. Formed back in the 80s and mired in murder and madness, Mayhem’s intensely disturbing behaviour both on and off stage came to define an era. Dead’s suicide, Euronymous’ murder and the band members’ alleged association with church burnings and other blasphemous misdemeanours lit the fuse for an explosive, controversial movement whose ripples of disquiet can still be felt today. The very definition of angry young men, Mayhem’s raging rebellions have inspired a myriad diversity of follow-up acts and their influence can be felt wherever metal can be found.
It could be argued that it’s Mayhem’s notoriety that has kept them on everyone’s radar for so long, but that is to deny their sheer tenacity following such a turbulent history and the pure raw power of their music. Their most acclaimed releases, debut album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanus and EP Deathcrush are stone-cold classics of the genre and essential listening; the whetstones where the abrasive, biting distortions, caustic vocals and bleak, atmosphere-laden nightmare-scapes that typify the frostbitten black metal sound were sharpened into shape. Although their most recent offerings have strayed a tad wide of the mark, even their latest release, Ordo AD Chao, while perplexingly experimental, has an untethered wild beauty that is worthy of interest.
Despite no longer boasting the original line for obvious reasons, the band are still going strong today and captivating live audiences. For their most recent tours, Mayhem have dived back into their swampy, primordial beginnings and pulled out their acclaimed early masterpieces to showcase to their rapt audiences. With any luck, this will be the case at Incineration – so steel yourself for a journey into the sullied rotting heart of black metal. The Mayhem experience at its most true will plunge you headfirst into the most nebulous of black holes, overwhelming your senses with echoing riffs that reverberate like giant glaciers crashing together, excruciating, dirge-like chords and keening, hyena-like vocals that pierce to the marrow of the bone. Despite their many tempestuous years, Mayhem’s irresistible gravitational pull is still stronger than any empyrean event horizon and like the most terrifying of cosmic in-balances, once they have you in their icy grasp, Mayhem will freeze you to your very core.
SOUNDS LIKE: Rotting Christ, Satyricon, Dimmu Borgir
STANDOUTS: 'Anubis', 'Portrait of a Headless Man', 'Sangreal'
SIGNED WITH: Nuclear Blast Records
SEE THEM: 6.50-7.50pm @ The Electric Ballroom
Septicflesh stand out on the Incineration line-up simply for having one of the more legible logos, a clean, mystically-inspired design that catches the eye in a forest of spiky-lettered confusion. And if you’re yet to become acquainted with the glories of these symphonic death metal masters, we can assure you their music is just as striking and unique.
Septicflesh began life as a more typically death/doom metal outfit back in 1990. Having distinguished themselves early on with a jaggedly distinctive, weather-beaten style, these daring Greeks were not content to rest on their laurels and the desire to experiment was an itch they just had to scratch. A handful of underwhelming releases followed until Septicflesh eventually polished their roughened edges into the perfect, exquisitely-cut glittering dark jewel they are today.
By capturing the drama and intensity of classical music and utilising a highly instrumental style, Septicflesh have crafted their own evolved, completely original brand of symphonic metal. Recent albums Communion and Codex Omega epitomise their characteristic sweeping, epic approach, where mythic crescendos are played out against a theatrical backdrop of swarming, frantic strings, growling vocals, reverberating dusky chords and thistly riffs. The band have even jammed along with the Prague Philharmonic orchestra, a bold and audacious pairing that proved to be a match made in heaven.
Dark Matter last encountered Septicflesh at Bloodstock 2018. Despite the bright sunlight saturating the arena during their early afternoon performance, lead vocalist Spiros, like some infernal sorcerer, cast dizzying, hallucinatory waves of creeping black shadow over the rabidly excited crowd, his seductive, sombre tones summoning an illusory twilight that gloriously eclipsed most of the other acts of that day. Let’s pray to Satan and keep our fingers crossed that their Incineration set will be just as bewitchingly brilliant a sight to behold.
Photo by Špela Bergant: www.instagram.com/spela.bergant
SOUNDS LIKE: Second wave BM, progressive metal, horror movie soundtracks
STANDOUTS: 'Låt Oss Ta Allt Från Varandra', 'Jag Är Din Fiende', 'For the God Below'
SIGNED WITH: Season of Mist
SEE THEM: 3.50-4.40pm @ The Electric Ballroom
From public acts of grisly, blood-splattered self-mutilation and violence-inciting stage shows to angry, cuttingly acerbic comments on the manifold horrors of human existence, few artists capture the uncompromisingly abrasive spirit of extremity more utterly than Shining’s famously inflammatory frontman, Niklas Kvarforth. And while it’s easy to dismiss these GG Allin-esque antics as the stuff of mindless, attention-seeking shock rock, there’s no mistaking the raw and undiluted extremes of creativity oozing forth from every viciously energised inch of this inimitably blackened collective.
Spawned in 1997 when its then-adolescent creator was just 12 years old, it wasn’t long before Shining’s visceral, bile-spewing gospels of self-loathing and suicide began infecting morbidly-inclined minds across the globe, spreading with a virulence that saw its crowning pinnacle some ten years later with landmark opus ‘Halmstad’. From frantic episodes of scalding tremolo and tortured goblin shrieks through to luxuriant progressive breaks that audibly abound with tragedy and despair, it's little surprise that these ingenious, genre-transcending compositions find their origins in profoundly dark and disturbed psychological territories. And whether subjecting himself to violent physical torture in the recording studio or reliving past, irrevocably scarring personal trauma during the band’s famously cathartic stage shows, it seems there’s no limit to Kvarforth’s unrelenting dedication to his craft.
With Incineration 2019 marking the UK’s first, hugely anticipated live taste of 2018 masterwork ‘X – Varg Utan Flock’, fresh cuts from this mesmerising new opus are guaranteed to witness an electrifying, blackly absorbing debut. And be it in the bristling, frantically accelerating throes and vitriolic snarls of ‘Jag Ar Din Fiende’ or the bleakly beautiful, grief-stricken orchestrations of ‘Gyllene Portarnas Bro', this is an album tailor-made for intense and violently affecting entertainment.
“I do this for the love of trying to abuse other people, to hurt other people with my art,” Kvarforth explains. “And if it wasn’t for the genuine love of it, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. The feeling that I can cause distress through my art is a beautiful thing, a genuine passionate love.”
SOUNDS LIKE: A Forest of Stars, Wodensthrone, Wolves in the Throne Room, Primordial
STANDOUTS: 'Ensigns of Victory', 'The Shepherd', 'The Ghost of Heritage'
SIGNED WITH: Candlelight Records
SEE THEM: 2.40-3.20 @ The Electric Ballroom
Formed in 2007, Winterfylleth are relative newcomers to the black metal scene compared to many of the hoar frost-hardened veterans on the Incineration line-up, yet their haunting melodies harken back to an ancient past. A home-grown band from Manchester, Winterfylleth are ‘inspired by the history, heritage and landscapes of England’, their music evoking both the harmony and the discord that has shaped this emerald isle. While ‘Fylleth’s gently undulating chords, softly-plucked strings, tumbling riffs and folk-inspired rhythms evoke the untethered natural beauty of England - its fens and forests, wild moors and mountains - their raging vocals, crashing guitars and deranged drums hint at centuries-old tensions and the violent bloody events played out amidst these tranquil vistas.