Desaster / Root / Archgoat / Mork

Underworld, London on Sun 1st Dec 2019

Following the Blasphemy London debut show last night, it’s a stellar weekend to be a black metal adherent. Tonight in Camden, a triple headlining show between Desaster, Root and Archgoat takes place to satiate the hordes begging for more. Each of these bands has a storied history and represent the genre’s diversity so it’s unsurprising to know that the show is close to sold out.

Norway’s one-man black metal band Mork from Thomas Eriksen has been making tremors in the underground. Tonight his vision is fleshed out with a live band, including accomplished drummer Asgeir Mickelson of Borknagar, Spiral Architect and Ihsahn alumni. This year saw Mork release their fourth album ‘Det Svarte Juv’, their second on Peaceville Records. The metal is a cross between traditional and contemporary forms of black metal. Second wave simplistic black metal with sombre dark tones is often accompanied by inquisitive guitar leads and deep choral-style vocals that wouldn’t be out of place at a ghostly mass. Some passages are derivative and repetitive but overall, Mork’s music is entertaining. Eriksen maintains a commanding stage presence and succeeds in revving up the crowd.

The Underworld fills up uncomfortably for Finnish war metal veterans Archgoat, who waste no time pummelling the venue with unrelenting malice. It has been two years since they previously laid waste to the Big Smoke and they have been missed. Every show this unholy trinity invades is an entrancing outburst of unrelenting black metal. Beherit-style bestial rhythmic riffs from Ritual Butcherer slither forth before unwinding into Goat Aggressor’s double-bass drumming cacophony, occasionally backed by taped grandiose keyboard samples. War metal can be a total mess live sound-wise but Archgoat sound very decipherable. The trio strike an intimidating yet simplistic stage presence, focusing on their instruments and headbanging. The mosh pit whips around the crowd and some headbang but for others, there is simply no space. The setlist is blasphemy after blasphemy, with the likes of ‘Lord of the Void’, ‘Grand Luciferian Theophany’, ‘Goat and the Moon’ and ‘Hammer of Satan’ being particular highlights of the night. They easily could have played for another hour and no one would complain.

Next up is black metal vanguards Root. Despite developing a name in the first wave of black metal, these Czechs never really received their due, unlike their peers in Master’s Hammer. They began in 1987, quickly releasing numerous demos before their debut full-length in 1990, ‘Zjevení’. Eventually their music evolved into a more heavy metal approach, which presumably isolated the black metal purists. Tonight they proudly brandish their fusion between these two metal subgenres. Winding sinister black metal guitar leads are coupled with epic singing vocals and roughened growls. There’s something theatrical about the music, aided by band members donning capes. Singer Big Boss perches atop a stool – understandable given he’s 67 years old. The proto-black metal features plenty of bitter thrash influences and the newer material is imaginative and enthralling. Their stage presence is relaxed and antithetical to the usual black metal performance but these guys predated almost all of the scene and have nothing to prove. The Underworld is significantly less busy than it was for Archgoat but that’s proof of how much more underground Root remained than they should have.

Finally, German black/thrash horde Desaster get ready to round up the night. Like the previous two acts, they have been crafting blasphemies for a while, 1988 to be precise. This is only their second appearance in London so there are lots of wild and hungry fanatics here, despite even fewer people in attendance at the Underworld than for Root. Unlike the other headliners, their thrash attacks are far more dynamic and less ritualistic. Infernal’s guitar work propels the music fist first, new(ish) drummer Hont knocks you over and stomp all over you, and vocalist Satanic barks his commands like a military general. They axe their way through songs like ‘Black Celebration’, ‘Damnatio Ad Bestias’ and ‘Satan’s Soldiers Syndicate’. The sound is clear and emphasises the battery even further. The performance defies imperfections and is thoroughly enjoyable. ‘Metalized Blood’ and its leather-and-chains imagery ends the set perfectly and the fans are rightfully at their most hyperactive. This set feels far too brief but is an excellent way to conclude tonight’s proceedings.

This was a brilliant night of historic black metal with differing styles to suit all morbid appetites. Woe are those who declined to stick around for all three headliners but with Archgoat clearly being the most popular band, it’s merciful that they were not the only headliner and gave Root and Desaster more of a chance – especially since they are far rarer to these damp shores. London needs more weekends like this.


article by: Elena Francis

published: 09/12/2019 08:33


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