Angel Witch / Grand Magus / In Soltude
17 March 2012
The Garage, London
Fuelled by a few pints of Guinness to mark St Patrick’s Day, we entered the Garage at the ungodly hour of 6.30pm in anticipation of openers In Solitude. The Swedes have been garnering a lot of good press and it was easy to see why as they powered into We Were Never Here. Not allowing a few issues with Pelle Åhman’s microphone to blunt their attack, In Solitude tight performance and between song machinery noises formed a claustrophobic atmosphere not unlike the uneasy atmosphere fellow Swede’s Watain conjure.
Apparently the band had been for a meal right before the show and I had to question whether Pelle’s was in a skip out back. With his face and hands smeared with black and white make up, dishevelled hair and a dead fox round his neck the frontman careered around the stage fighting with his microphone stand. Around him the rest of the band simply lock in with hair flailing and guitar solos traded.
To Her Darkness stomping intro saw horns raised skywards as the growing crowd was easily won over. Often compared to Mercyful Fate, its true the band’s sound does hark back to the Danes mid 80s output, with Pelle’s vocal reminiscent of King Diamond’s mid range vocal.The lengthy On Burning Paths was an epic way to end an incredibly impressive set.
In Solitude setlist:
We Were Never Here / The World The Flesh The Devil / To Her Darkness / Witches Sabbath / On Burning Paths
Grand Magus’ biggest concern this evening was the loss of JB’s aviator shades with a fruitless trip up Holloway Road to find some replacements. If the frontman felt exposed, that was soon forgotten as a grin broke out across his face following the crowd’s huge cheer after opener Kingslayer. The partisan crowd are quick with the “Hey, hey” chants to the opening riff of Like The Oar Strikes The Water and Grand Magus can do little wrong tonight.
Christening us “London Vikings”, JB noted his surprise that we celebrated St Patrick’s day with a request to “Buy me a Guinness after the show!” The warm atmosphere was a stark contrast to the simmering evil of In Solitude, but equally effective.
There were no real surprises in a setlist cherry picking fan favourites such as Silver Into Steel and The Shadow Knows. Unsurprisingly then, the rhythm section of Fox and Seb link seamlessly as JB churned out timeless riffs. The biggest cheer of the night is reserved for closer Iron Will with Grand Magus delivering the goods yet again.
Grand Magus setlist:
Kingslayer / Like The Oar Strikes The Water / Silver Into Steel / I, The Jury / Wolf’s Return / The Shadow Knows / Hammer Of The North / Iron Will
Angel Witch certainly set themselves a challenge lining up such support acts, but there was no need to worry about them falling short tonight. Mainman Kevin Heybourne has assembled a solid line-up which seems to be putting Angel Witch back on the trajectory they should have followed after their 1980 debut. Just released new album As Above So Below is the true successor to the band’s self titled classic, with half the tracks dating back to prior to 1984 and the new material seeped in the band’s original sound.
The set features three songs from the new release, with opener Dead Sea Scrolls penned around 1983/4, Into The Dark older still and Guillotine actually originally intended to feature on the band’s debut album. Elsewhere it’s classics with eight out of ten of the debut aired.
Between songs, Heybourne is a man of few words but his voice and playing are undiminished by the passing years. The addition of Bill Steer may have raised both eyebrows and interest but Heybourne easily stands toe to toe with the, in comparison, youthful guitarist with the two combining with lush twin guitar work. Much credit for the band’s rejuvenation should be given to the rhythm section of Will Palmer and Andrew Prestidge who lay down a solid backbone this evening.
Personal highlights included Atlantis, Confused and the stomping Angel Of Death, after which Heybourne salutes the crowd with, “Thank you so much, you’ve been f**king excellent”. It’s not over yet however, with the band returning for Gorgon and the inevitable Angel Witch which was met with a massive cheer as Heybourne played the speedy introductory guitar line. The sing along was like being in a football crowd as pints and horns are raised high as the band depart.
Angel Witch setlist:
Dead Sea Scrolls
White Witch / Into the Dark / Atlantis / Sorcerers / Dr. Phibes / Confused / Baphomet / Guillotine / Free Man / Angel Of Death / Gorgon / Angel Witch