A cold and windy winter night casts the perfect mood for New York doom metallers A Pale Horse Named Death's return to London at the aptly named Underworld. Having last played the capital in 2013, the Americans are keen to play here again with new material from last year's 'Lay My Soul to Waste'.
Support is from Swiss gothic/doom metal outfit Blood Runs Deep who supported A Pale Horse Named Death on their 2012 European trek. Formed in 2003, the quartet has two dreary full-length releases bearing their name. Their take on the genre is a modern one, thick with heavy distortion and gothic metal flourishes traceable to masters of the genre Type O Negative in a variety of tempos. There is a keyboard present but it is largely drowned out by the other instruments tonight. The clean vocals of frontman Stefan Vida are abrasive with a punk snarl to them that sticks out of the music and are used alongside the infrequent growl.
The audience number is incredibly low and while Blood Runs Deep may not be reinventing any wheels, they deserve more than the forty or so spectators that are present. Also unfortunate for the band, the sound person blares change over music over the PA as if the set was over, interfering with the band on stage. After a moment of irate confusion, a rightly offended Vida says "I'm trying to have a concert here!" and after that remark, the music soon stops. As the set concludes, the attendees present give a band a solid ovation in appreciation of their sound.
The venue becomes just over half full as headliners A Pale Horse Named Death take the stage, launching into 'To Die In Your Arms', the first song off debut 'And Death Will Follow Me'. The band's sound revolves around crossbreeding grunge with doom metal, with strong influences calling Alice in Chains, Black Sabbath, Paradise Lost and Type O Negative, not surprising given that frontman Sal Abruscato was the original drummer of the latter and Type O Negative's last drummer Johnny Kenny joins A Pale Horse as live drummer. The music is crushing, moody and dry with Abruscato's voice sounding very close to Alice In Chains' Layne Stanley. Compared to its recorded counterpart, the music in the live environment sounds heavier, more metal and less hard rock.
Last year saw A Pale Horse release their second album 'Lay My Soul to Waste' and plenty of tracks from this effort are aired out tonight including 'Growing Old', 'The Needle In You' and 'Shallow Grave'. The audience are incredibly receptive towards hearing the new material, which is unusual for a metal band. Nonetheless, the debut has seven songs carved out of it for tonight's performance, with 'As Black As My Heart', 'The Devil in The Closet' and 'Pill Head' scoring highest marks with the fans. A contained mosh pit even breaks out amongst the most enthusiastic, feeding off of the band's headbanging.
Abruscato presents himself as very likeable with his stage banter light-hearted and personable, with the exception of his rant about his violent opposition to those who download music and screw over the artists they steal from. Closing number 'Die Alone' initially singles the end of the set and the band vacates the stage. A persistent chant of "Pale Horse!" from the fans leads the New York natives back, returning for their encore 'Killer By Night', stating afterwards they will be happy to sign autographs for the fans who remain behind. A solid show for such a strong act and it is a shame the venue was not busier but the band are still fairly young with plenty room to grow.