Absu / Pantheon I / Razor Of Occam / Zoroaster
3 November 2009
Camden Underworld, London

On paper Zoroaster seemed an odd fit on tonight’s bill. The band’s sludgy doom sound seemed a world away from the speed that was to follow, however their extremity provided the necessary link. Any aspirations of working out the setlist went out the window as the three piece lurched through a set that was soup thick with gargantuan riffs that seemed to melt into one piece across their set.

With his microphone stand about three feet from the ground, bassist Brent Anderson provided tortured vocals bent over double. Often the band would crowd around drummer Dan Scanlan’s kit as they locked into a relentless groove. Guests from Pantheon I and Absu made appearances to beef up what was already a weighty sound.

In contrast, Razor Of Occam applied their foot to the accelerator with a set of speedy blackened thrash. Half this band also play in Destroyer 666 and there are many similarities. Initially the wall of noise appeared impenetrable, but by second song Bite of Dogmata things settled and the crowd started to warm to the band. Not enough for frontman Mike Schneemilch however, who threw down the gauntlet by commenting that Paris were louder.

The shaven headed Alex Antoniou on bass did his bit, grinning menacingly and shouting at the crowd to respond during songs. Immortal Code from this year’s Homage To Martyrs was a particular high point in a short but enjoyable set.

Razor Of Occam set list:
Occam’s Razor / Bite Of Dogmata / The Kingdom & The Darkness / Altar Of Corruption / Immortal Code / Heat Of Battle

Norwegians Pantheon I’s sound was the most complex tonight. Encompassing the cello of Live Julianne Kostøl, at times there were hints of the progressive nature of latter day Enslaved and Emperor. However, whilst there was a melancholic nature to their material, it certainly didn’t lack intensity. Reports that the cello had been AWOL from the live sound at previous gigs on this tour thankfully weren’t replicated in London. Whilst Kostøl’s cello certainly couldn’t be described as a lead instrument, it proved an integral part of the band’s metal tapestry.

“Fucking London at last!” declared frontman Andrè Kvebek before conceding that playing here was the highlight of the tour for him. Later he declared that their was 3 things he admired about England. Firstly, metal, secondly, our drinking culture and thirdly, Alan Partridge! Kvebek explained that Pantheon I are an anti religious band and invited Jesus and Allah to “Go fuck yourselves” before the catchy Defile The Trinity.

The vibe was obviously good on this tour with more guest appearances. Kvebek relinquished his guitar duties to Absu’s Aethyris for The Wanderer & His Shadow and Brett Anderson of Zoroaster provided backing vocals for Defile The Trinity.

Pantheon I set list:
Serpent Christ / The Last Stand / The Wanderer & His Shadow / Defile The Trinity / Bannlyst / Enter The Pantheon / Where Angels Burn

We were actually due to be at the Paradise Lost gig down the road in Islington tonight, however a late change of plan had me quickly swotting up on Absu the night before this show. How I’m glad for that switch of gigs now!

Absu had been on a hiatus since 2001 up until this year’s self titled come back. Mainman, drummer and often lead vocalist Sir Proscriptor McGovern had assembled a new line up and his attitude as he took to the stage well ahead of the rest of the band left us in no doubt who was in charge. Generally I find having the drummer as main vocalist doesn’t work, however Proscriptor managed to turn that notion on its head. Never dropping out of his evil character for the duration of the set, the use of a head set microphone ensured he wasn’t too fixed in position as he growled, gargled and screeched his way through the performance. Taking care of the song introductions, Proscriptor had many a pre-prepared speech, which at times were perhaps unintentionally amusing.

In fact the live vocal duties were shared with bassist Ezezu with the two often trading lines such as during Manannan. Either side of the bassist, Vis Crom and Aethyris MacKay’s buzzsaw guitars kept pace with Proscriptor’s speedy drumming. The shaven headed Aethyris in particular carried a weighty stage presence, looking like he was going through a workout churning out the riffs.

Absu themselves describe their music as “Mythological Occult Metal” but are more commonly thought of as a black metal band. In fact there’s a lot of old school thrash in their sound, often reminiscent of a more vicious take on very early Destruction and Kreator. The attack is relentless and the set whizzes by taking in all Absu’s main releases, though surprisingly light on the latest album.

The main set wrapped up with The Coming War, but bagpipes played through the PA heralded an encore of Pillars Of Mercy and Never Blow Out The Eastern Candle. Absu were a band not majorly on my radar but after tonight’s show they certainly are.

Absu set list:
An Involution Of Thorns (Intro) / Descent To Acheron (Evolving Into The Progression Of Woe) / Apzu / The Thrice Is Greatest To Ninnigal / Swords & Leather / Four Crossed Wands (Spell 181) / Manannan / Night Fire Canonization / Highland Tyrant Attack / The Coming Of War / Pillars Of Mercy / Never Blow Out The Eastern Candle

Pantheon I
Razor Of Occam