Overkill / Destruction / Heathen / After All
3 March 2011
Islington Academy, London
Due on stage at 5.45pm, I wasn’t expecting to catch After All tonight. However, having ducked out of work early and been fortunate with transport connections, hearing the theme tune from The A Team as I dashed into the Islington Academy seemed highly appropriate.
The Belgium thrashers had failed to impress me on two previous encounters, but tonight they presented a different line up with Sammy Peleman on vocals and Frederik Vanmassenhove on bass. The band have recently released an EP, Becoming The Martyr, with three new tracks and two re-recorded tracks from their previous Cult Of Sin album. All five were aired tonight, with two further songs from the last full length release, therefore ignoring their first six albums.
With little room to move on stage, each member was confined to their designated spot, however frontman Peleman was the liveliest of the five piece. The singer certainly has a more versatile style to his predecessor Piet Focroul and could reach up to hit falsetto notes such as during Becoming The Martyr.
Whilst there was a definite improvement from After All, they still failed to excel beyond being “OK”, though the three men moshing to Betrayed By The Gods obviously felt otherwise.
After All setlist:
My Own Sacrifice / Devastation Done / End Of Your World / Becoming The Martyr / Demolition Course / Betrayed By The Gods / Timeless Machine
A rare UK show from Heathen was a major draw this evening and the venue had filled up nicely by the time they made a delayed entrance to the stage. Actually whilst the delay probably caused a song to be dropped from their set, it did mean Johan arrived in time to get in the photopit, hence that’s where our photos start.
Without an intro or fanfare, frontman David White simply asked the crowd, “Are you ready?”, then “Here we go” as Dying Season kick started the set and an instant mosh pit. Instantly it was apparent the faffing about was worth it as the sound was first class.
Controlled By Chaos continued without break with the crowd providing a “Hey, hey” chant across the opening riffs. Lee Altus doubles duty in Exodus and the guitar sound tonight had a familiar Holt like tone to them which was no bad thing. Another similarity to modern Exodus is the lengthiness of Heathen’s songs, which whilst allowing plenty of opportunity for solo trading between Altus and Kragen Lum, certainly ate away at the set time.
Many, including myself, thought White was joking when he declared that Heathen would only play new stuff tonight, but that’s exactly what happened. A delay due to a problem with Darren Minter’s snare prior to Arrows Of Agony provided an opportunity to tease the crowd with some old Heathen riffs. However, White was left to promise the band would return as No Stone Unturned was announced as the last song. Personally, whilst I enjoyed the song, given the set time I would have preferred the second half of this 11 minute plus opus to have been dropped in favour of a crowd pleasing oldie, however there’s no doubt that Heathen delivered tonight and certainly whet the crowd’s appetite for a return.
Dying Season / Controlled By Chaos / Arrows of Agony / No Stone Unturned
Given it was the first night of the Killfest tour, the lengthy breaks between bands could be rationalised in order to get things set up right. Certainly more practice was required for Destruction’s set up as compared to Heathen, the sound was weak.
New drummer Vaaver was first to take to the stage, standing behind his kit with his sticks aloft with the stage bathed in red light.Schmier and Mike Sifringer joined him as Destruction opened with Curse The Gods, which was plagued by a reoccurring hum.
The classic Mad Butcher followed with the hum suddenly appearing very loudly at its start and Schmier shooting some very annoyed looks at the road crew. The frontman was as usual using multiple microphone stands, sending Sifringer scurrying to the opposite side of the stage when the imposing bassist decided to switch.
In contrast to After All and Heathen, Destruction had also decided to play with darker lighting, predominantly red, the photographer’s most hated colour! Whilst this can provide a moody setting it was difficult to see the band at times.
A chant of DE-STRUC-TION, preceeded Bestial Invasion, with Schmier teasing the crowd into shouting the second word of the title. Unhappy with the response he quipped “We’re not in Birmingham, we’re in London tonight.” At this point the sound had started to settle, though I do still believe that Destruction packed a bigger punch in the days with a second guitar player, despite Sifringer being a six-string thrash legend.
Whilst Nailed To The Cross was a highlight towards the end of the set, all in all this was possibly the most disappointing set I’d seen from Destruction, though whilst conceding the sound had a major part in this, they were sandwiched between two incredibly good performances tonight.
Curse The Gods / Mad Butcher / Armageddonizer / Tears Of Blood / Thrash Till Death / D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N. / Bestial Invasion / Soul Collector / Hate Is My Fuel / Nailed To The Cross / The Butcher Strikes Back
Unlike a number of other thrash bands, Overkill refused to throw the towel in when the industry got tough.However, between a storming performance in 1993 at the Astoria in London and finally a 2002 show at the much smaller Camden Underworld, the UK was omitted from their European tour schedule. In recent years however, repeat visits have seen a resurgence in support for Overkill and tonight was sufficiently tightly packed with expectant thrashers.
It doesn’t hurt that 2010’s Ironbound is the band’s strongest album since, in my view, Horrorscope which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Overkill can therefore comfortably afford five numbers from their latest disc without a dip in the set’s quality. Meanwhile the two selections from Horrorscope come both as a surprise and delight. The response to Infectious had Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth declaring “It feels like 1985!”. Blood Money is an overlooked gem and its chorus caused an uncontrollable grin to appear across my face.
Blitz drew reference to the recent repeat visits noting “Four visits in three years, I should get a real job here.” Whilst the frontman’s core job may last 90mins a night, the energy he puts into the performance matches a standard eight hour shift.For a man in his early fifties that has suffered both a stroke and cancer, his physique is shockingly athletic. Typically with one foot on the monitors, Blitz rests the microphone across his leg in order to articulate the lyrics with his hands.
Fellow original member D.D. Verni is no slouch either and retains a cool demeanour with his low slung bass and high downward pointing microphone stand. Despite getting one of the loudest cheers during the band introductions, Blitz joked, “He’s really old, you gotta do it louder that that.”However, whilst attention is obviously directed to Blitz & D.D., the current line up has remained stable for some years, particularly the guitar pairing of Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer who were on equally impressive form tonight.
There’s always going to be some classic songs expected in an Overkill set and when Blitz declared “I know what London is”, it was no surprise to hear Rotten To The Core. The frontman checked his pulse after Hello From The Gutter, asking “Nobody’s f**king heart stopped did it?” and prior to Elimination he directed the crowd to “Thrash it up like it’s the 1980s”. The surging mosh had him declaring “Congratulations, the job is yours”.
My own personal highlight of the set had to be Deny The Cross which was simply immense.However, you knew as soon as the familiar bass riff of F**k You sounds the night was sadly drawing to a close.Overkill have yet to disappoint me in the live environment and tonight was right up at the top of my experiences.
The Green & Black / Rotten To The Core / Wrecking Crew / Infectious / Bring Me The Night / Bastard Nation / Hammerhead / Ironbound / Blood Money / Endless War / Hello From The Gutter / Give A Little / Necroshine / Old School / Deny The Cross / Elimination / F**k You