Septicflesh & Inquisition – The Underworld, London, UK (22nd January 2018)

An extreme metal double bill wreaked havoc at The Underworld in Camden, as Septicflesh and Inquisition played a sold out show in front of a devoted crowd of heavy music connoisseurs.

Black metal duo Inquisition were up first. Consisting of just guitar, drums and vocals, their sound was nonetheless a full-on attack on the senses of blast beats and tremolo riffs. Dagon’s vocal style, unlike the shrill screams in most black metal, is rather inhuman – some describe it as ‘reptilian’ – like a throaty chant that erupts from his stomach and whose vibrations resonate in yours.

Donning the traditional black metal corpse paint, the duo are a sight to behold on the stage, however, as the lone moving person, Dagon didn’t have enough of a presence to fill the space which stood a little empty despite his best attempts. After an hour of old school black metal, the duo left the stage under the approving applause of the audience and we braced for the main act of the night.

Septicflesh are among the best respected metal bands to come out of Greece, and their evolution has carried them through many styles on the extreme spectrum before lodging them firmly at the forefront of symphonic death metal. Their affinity for the mythological is present not just in their lyrics, but also in the exotic melodies and rich orchestration of their songs. Diving right in with ‘Portrait of a Headless Man’ off their most recent album Codex Omega, the Greeks gave a clear message that they were taking no prisoners tonight. What followed was a comprehensive walk through the contemporary period of Septicflesh, from their reunion in 2007 up until today – a catalogue consisting of four bona fide classics of modern day extreme metal.

The brutal growls of vocalist Spiros Antoniou soared over the merciless onslaught of double kick drums and downtuned guitars of his band mates, leaving no neck unmoved. Dearly missed, however, were the clean vocals of Sotiris Vayenas – one of the creative forces within the band, who unfortunately chooses not to tour. His absence seemed to have swayed the setlist choice away from their more melodic tunes and towards the heavier side of their music, leading to an omission of some of their best tracks and a less varied setlist than they can offer. During the rare outing of a song with cleans (the irresistibly catchy ‘Anubis’), Sotiris’ voice came through the PA, buried underneath the guitars’ wall of sound. It was a similar case with the symphonic elements of the band, as Spiros’ calls to ‘feel the orchestra’ fell flat against the weak sounds of the recorded samples. If they are to do their full catalogue justice onstage, Septicflesh would benefit from the inclusion of a keyboardist and clean singer to their touring line-up.

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These were but minor flaws to an otherwise flawless performance. The band was visibly revelling in the crowd’s enthusiasm, with frontman Spiros repeatedly praising them for selling out a Monday gig, and calling upon them to ‘destroy’, and in turn they responded with a seldom ceasing moshpit. Under the fading sounds of the orchestra after the magnificent ‘Dark Art’ from their most recent opus, the band promised to return soon and stayed behind to shake the hands of any fans. Like the mythological calamities they reference in their songs, Septicflesh ravaged everything standing in their way, leaving behind a mass of exhausted but pleased metalheads. As far as Monday nights go, you could hardly do much better than this celebration of metal at Camden’s temple of heavy music.

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