Enslaved / Winterfylleth / Ancient Ascendant
21 March 2013
Camden Underworld, London
Coming on earlier than we expected, first band Ancient Ascendant were already into opener Blood Calls as we made our way into the Underworld. The Reading based melodic death metal band put out the excellent Into The Dark EP last year which considerably upped their game on their previous releases. They continued to play the whole thing in sequence with highlight track Driven By The Dark up next. The song mixes killer groove riffs with old style Opeth progressive touches. Guitarist Nairman Poushin’s solos were particularly impressive, aided by an excellent sound mix. Under Ancient Stone wrapped up the EP playback, riddled with melodies the song was dedicated to Winterfylleth.
“You guys heard of a band called Bathory?” queried Alex Butler, before proceeding to run through said band’s Flash Of The Silver Hammer from their final Nordland II album. Ancient Ascendant had recorded this track for last year’s Voices To Valhalla tribute album and supporting Enslaved certainly seemed an appropriate setting for an airing. Having played all their latest recorded material, Ancient Ascendant wrapped up an enjoyable set by delving back to the track which was the first thing they ever recorded, The Path To Heaven.
Ancient Ascendant setlist:
Blood Calls / Driven By The Dark / Casting The Shroud Aside / Under Ancient Stone / Flash Of The Silver Hammer (Bathory cover) / The Path To Heaven
Unbelievably, aside from a brief sighting at Bloodstock, this was my first full experience of Winterfylleth live. The anticipation had to wait a little longer however, with the intro tape comically stopped with Simon Lucas’ drums not ready, Chris Naughton mocking the soundman with, “You can’t get the f**king staff these days!”
With the intro re-started, the band built into A Memorial with the accelerator plunged to the floor as sweeping chords filled the Underworld. A cry of “Yorkshire” from the crowd led Naughton to dedicate The Swart Raven “Specifically to West Yorkshire” for his cousin in attendance. The progressions backed by Lucas’ rapid fire drums had a hypnotic effect as Naughton barked excellent blackened vocals.
Whilst the frontman, and indeed the band, don’t carry the atypical Black Metal image, Naughton does not lack in presence. Blackened cries of “London are you with us” and “Let me see you”, get the required responses from the crowd, though the transition between that evil voice to his natural Northern voice between songs was quite a comical contrast.
Whilst much of the set is played at breakneck speed, occasional breakdown’s added variety. Closer Defending The Realm moved to a majestic waltz paced riff towards its conclusion, with the recorded screams replaced live by clean sung vocals from Naughton and bassist Nick Wallwork which definitely added to the song. Based on this showing, Winterfylleth were certainly worth the wait.
A Memorial / The Swart Raven / The Fields of Reckoning / The Ghost Of Heritage / The Threnody Of Triumph / Defending the Realm
Amazingly it’s over 15 years now since I first saw Enslaved touring in support of their Eld album, sat just below headliners Dark Tranquility on a bill that also included Bewitched, (pre-Deathstars) Swordmaster, (pre-Dragonforce) Demoniac and Dellamorte. Back then bassist/singer Grutle Kjellson graced the album cover alone with only Ivar Bjørnson from the current line-up also in the band. You can’t possibly imagine Enslaved being represented in such a way now, with each of their five members integral to their now very different sound.
In fact live, the differences even from previous album Axioma Ethica Odini and latest RIITIIR feel pronounced. The four songs from Enslaved last release rage less than even recent older material and are best absorbed rather than made for the pit. That’s somewhat at odds to the atmosphere tonight with the Underworld jam packed and just as you lost yourself in the music somebody was barging past or spilling a pint over you. even more of an issue for those trying to take photos. Given this show was sold out for a while I’m not sure why it wasn’t bumped up to a larger venue.
Enslaved however, play to what is before them and their enthusiasm to be back in London is clear to see when Kjellson reveals, “Finally we are back in our second home.”A chant of “Enslaved” prior to Thoughts Like Hammers was apparently so fantastic it led Kjellson to forget the name of the next song. Comically Bjørnson is asked to show the frontman the riff and a take on Monty Python’s “The machine that goes bing” followed. With Kjellson noting the band grew up on British humour, Bjørnson quipped, “I don’t think that we grew up”.
Back with the music, tonight’s set time only permits singular visits to previous albums aside from the four new songs. Ethica Odini nudged up the pace and its addictive riff lifted the crowd. The swirling riffs of Ruun sat well next to the windswept The Watcher. The epic Convoys To Nothingness from 2001’s Monumension was perhaps the surprise of the evening, whilst Allfaðr Oðinn took us all the way back to 1993’s Hordanes Land.
I’m still unsure about Enslaved’s continued inclusion of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song in their set. Whilst the subject matter suits Enslaved, they have far too many of their own songs which were left aside that could have replaced it. However, there are no complaints when Isa drops and sends the crowd home happy.
RIITIIR / Ruun / The Watcher / Thoughts Like Hammers / Ethica Odini / Roots of the Mountain / Materal / Convoys to Nothingness / Allfaðr Oðinn / Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin cover) / Drum Solo / Isa