M-Pire of Evil / Exumer

O2 Academy Islington, London on Wednesday 19 February 2014

This UK tour was originally billed as Martin Walkyier of English folk metallers Skyclad fame playing these old tracks for the last time live ever with Italian power/folk metal act Elvenking backing him and was set to occur in September. However, due to unforeseen events, the tour was rescheduled and moved to February. Fast-forward to February and from the onset, the tour is doomed. The first date of the tour, Dublin is cancelled by the promoter apparently without the prior knowledge of Elvenking. The London date is not entirely cancelled but Elvenking did not receive their promised advance payment and thus could not book their flights. Therefore, they have been pulled from the remaining shows, which means no Skyclad set. Also, openers Raven's Creed have also cancelled for reasons unstated. Fortunately, thrash metal supports M-Pire of Evil and Exumer are happy to still play, with the former receiving a headlining set. Fans hold the option to get a refund at point of purchase if they are not happy with the development.

Germany's Exumer have not played the UK since 1988 and given thrash metal's fairly recent rebirth, there are many keen to catch them (and there probably would have been many more if the tour was promoted as a thrash metal one). As a result of the kerfuffle this show has brought with it, there are only around a meagre forty attendees. With all the cancelled acts, they now have a lengthier a forty five minute long set to bring the '80s thrash vibe to the capital. Their violent brand of thrash metal is similar to the early efforts of fellow countrymen Kreator and Destruction. The stage presence is frenetic with an energy that sets off headbangers in the crowd.

Before the split up in 1991, Exumer left two much-loved thrash metal full-length albums to their name: 1987's 'Possessed By Fire' and 1988's 'Rising from the Sea'. The debut is highly represented in their live set with 'Fallen Saint', 'A Mortal and Black' and 'Xiron Darkstar' aired to the crowd. Their reunion birthed the release of latest album 'Fire and Damnation' from 2012. This newer material takes the values of their classic sound and compounds it with a modern edge, similar to Exodus' newer material. A shot of this later material is served up for the fans to feast on, with the muscular title track acting as the closer of their set. After vacating the stage, cheers from the fans lure them back for an encore of most popular classic 'Possessed By Fire', sharply executed with a clear sound. Given the dramatic turn of events for this show, the audience appreciation for Exumer could only be heightened.

Formed in 2010, M-Pire of Evil are known for being formed of two ex-members of iconic heavy metal act Venom – Mantas and Tony 'Demolition Man' Dolan. With two full-length albums served up in 2012 and 2013, this trio serve up modern thrash metal with a fair dose of intricacy alongside the sinister nature cultivated from their Venom days. Given the pedigree of their former band, M-Pire of Evil know how to please the audience and interweave some Venom songs among their own throughout the set tonight.

Unsurprisingly, the Venom songs receive the strongest ovations but overall, the audience reaction is not as weighty as one would expect. M-Pire of Evil are entertaining live, although there is not too much of a stage presence. As the set progresses, the already sparse crowd whittles down further, undeservedly for the headliners. Nonetheless, Venom fans react very positively to renditions of 'Welcome to Hell' and 'Don't Burn the Witch'. From the M-Pire of Evil material, songs such as 'Wake Up Dead' and 'Hell to the Holy' are musically sound but fail to elicit a keen response from the probably disgruntled attendees.

However, Martin Walkyier himself joins the band on stage at the tail portion of their set. He says a few comments against Elvenking, saying that he thought they were his friends and that had he had more notice, he and M-Pire of Evil would have learnt a full set of Venom songs instead. He does vocals for Venom songs 'Black Metal' and 'Countess Bathory' although understandably, these versions are a little less than perfect. There is some discontent from Skyclad fans that there are absolutely no Skyclad songs performed but M-Pire of Evil did make the best of a bad situation, which is respectful.

Given the shambolic nature of the promoters, the bands that played rather than have the entire concert cancelled should be highly applauded. Those who were eager to hear Skyclad songs for the last time ever were of course disappointed but at least the option to receive a refund was available to them. Who knows if there will be a UK send off for this Skyclad material. As for Elvenking, they have never played the UK before and after his mess, it is a wonder if they ever will.

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article by: Elena Francis

published: 24/02/2014 09:43

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