Decapitated / Kataklysm / Man Must Die
8 February 2010
Islington Academy, London

Why Man Must Die don’t get more press coverage is a mystery. A couple of other British death metal bands have gained magazine covers and major features and Man Must Die are easily on a par, and actually a better band in my opinion. However, there is also the general British band syndrome requiring them to work harder and I’m sure the Islington Academy would have been busier as the Scots took to the stage had they been from overseas. However, the effort put into this impressive set shows they are up for the fight.

I’d been impressed by the band’s 2007 album The Human Condition, but last year’s No Tolerance For Imperfection is where Man Must Die really took a hold of their sometimes schizophrenic style and delivered. It was therefore not disappointing that the band drew their set solely from that album and in fact it was the first five tracks in a different order.

With the benefit of the use of the full stage, lights and, best of all, a razor sharp sound Man Must Die’s set flew by. What I really like about the Scots is their inventiveness. Guitarists Alan McFarland and Renne Hauffe are undoubtedly technically gifted whether it’s Scandinavian-style guitar runs, thrash style chug or plain old death metal crunch. They however throw in off-kilter ideas that a band like The Red Chord use heavily, but are able to do this without confusing the listener. No Tolerance For Imperfection itself being the best example.

Similarly the band’s rhythm section is on the money. Bassist Danny McNab throws in creative runs that on occasion push his instrument to the forefront. Meanwhile it all looked effortless for drummer Matt Holland.

Joe McGlynn holds court centre stage with an ominous roar. Throwing in stomping interludes gave the frontman opportunities to demand headbanging from the crowd and fists in the air. That air of aggression was somewhat punctured during closer Kill It Skin It Wear It with the “last night of the tour jape” consisting of a roadie heading onto the stage with a giant pink penis!

Man Must Die set list:
This Day Is Black / Gainsayer / It Comes In Threes / No Tolerance For Imperfection / Kill It Skin It Wear It

Kataklysm have put in a lot of road work in support of 2008’s Prevail. With fans having to wait until October this year for next album, Heaven’s Venom, a tour Edition of Prevail had been put out and it was the artwork from this that gazed down from either side as the Canadians took to the stage. With a shout of “Are you ready London you sick muthaf**kers?” from frontman Maurizio Iacono, the brutal assault of Like Angels Weeping The Dark kicked in.

The crowd had swelled considerably and with a pit starting during Manipulator Of Souls this actually felt like a headline performance. However, between songs the response was quickly muted and there remained an air of “Monday night gig” throughout. Perhaps the crowd were still warming up as it was perishing outside as Iacono observed, “I got out of the bus and thought I was in f**king Canada!”

The great sound remained for Kataklysm, though with only one guitarist the power was drawn back on the rare occasion that Jean-François Dagenais performed a solo. The Canadians are for the most brutal to the point, with a track like Prevail taking death metal close to the NYHC of Biohazard. Iacono’s call of “We’re Kataklysm, we don’t give a f**k, if you don’t give a f**k join us”, mirroring that no nonsense boot boy attitude. Meanwhile, you can throw in similarities such as Amon Amarth during The Vultures Are Watching or Hypocrisy during Blood In Heaven.

Confidence is a key characteristic of Kataklysm and whilst Iacono notes that they’re used to playing the smaller Underworld when they pass through London, they have no problems commanding a larger stage. The frontman’s movement and personality was striking, but guitarist Jean-François Dagenais and bassist Stéphane Barbe didn’t slack in moving around the stage and indulging in bouts of windmilling.

“If you know Kataklysm, you know this song” bellowed Iacono before the inevitable In Shadows & Dust meant I ended up wearing most of my pint with a brutal finish to a strong set.

Kataklysm set list:
Like Angels Weeping The Dark / Manipulator Of Souls / Prevail / As I Slither / It Turns To Rust / The Resurrected / Centuries (Beneath The Dark Waters) / The Ambassador Of Pain / The Vultures Are Watching / Crippled & Broken / Bound In Chains / Blood In Heaven / In Shadows & Dust

Underneath the Decapitated logo above the drum kit was the line “From Pain To Strength” a poignant reminder of a band that’s really been through the mill. In late 2007, Decapitated’s tour bus collided with a truck near the Russia / Belarus border. Drummer Witold “Vitek” Kie?tyka died from injuries sustained and singer Adrian “Covan” Kowanek still struggles with his recovery.

Two years on, the band’s guitarist, Wac?aw “Vogg” Kie?tyka finally decided to put a new line-up together. Obviously this was no easy decision, particularly considering that Vitek was his brother. With fond memories of past UK experiences, Vogg chose to introduce this new line-up with a UK tour, of which tonight was the final night.

The crowd squashed up further as the lights went down and you could sense an air of intrigue but also respect for the return of Decapitated. Personally it’s difficult to compare the old and new line-ups as I’d only seen the band once before, back in 2002 supporting Opeth. Knowing the music however, it was about how well they could recreate the Decapitated sound and as A Poem About An Old Prison Man hurtled by it appeared very well.

Vogg’s guitar dominated proceedings and he showed why he his so highly regarded amongst the death metal community. With a square of carpet positioned on his side of the stage, the guitarist barely moved from this position and actually compared to Kataklysm this was a much more static performance. Not so in the crowd however with vicious pits kicking off for practically every song.

New drummer, Kerim “Krimh” Lechner, obviously has some massive shoes to fill. Apart from the obvious grief for Vitek, he was also a well renowned drummer. Krimh acquitted himself admirably and looked comfortable with Decapitated’s technical and fast requirements. There was also a new man on bass in the form of Filip “Heinrich” Ha?ucha. With Vogg’s guitar dominating it was less easy to pick out Heinrich’s playing but he looked confident, often sticking his guitar neck, which was complete with inlayed red lights, out over the crowd. Finally to Rafa? Piotrowski on vocals who’s style actually harked back more too original singer Sauron who Covan replaced in 2005. Piotrowski’s appearance was striking, with a beard and long thin dreads. It can be a difficult job to take over as a frontman of an established band and none more so than Decapitated’s circumstances. Piotrowski did well in being confident but not so over cocky as to alienate the fans. You sense there may be more to come from the singer in terms of stage presence, which often consisted of standing with arms outstretched when not singing.

Prior to Winds Of Creation, Piotrowski asked the crowd, “Do you remember a guy called Vitek?” before getting them to chant his name for some time. Vogg himself took the microphone after Flash-B(l)ack to offer his thanks. Unsurprisingly it was death metal classic Spheres Of Madness that brought the set to an end and a welcome return for Decapitated.

Decapitated set list:
A Poem About An Old Prison Man / Day 69 / Post(?) Organic / Visual Delusion / Three-Dimensional Defect / Invisible Control / Winds Of Creation / Flash-B(l)ack / Punk / Mother War / Spheres Of Madness

Man Must Die