After a decade of not venturing very far for gigs, LIVE EVIL Festival is new to me and as I have a soft spot for escapist epic heavy metal ( although paradoxically this festival turns out to be a bit of a mix ) I had been looking forward to it all week. Unfortunately work meant I couldn’t make doom superstars PAGAN ALTAR on the Saturday but could do ETERNAL CHAMPION who were headlining Sunday, so back to the land of six quid pints it was. Camden Town!
I missed the first two bands so apologies for not reviewing ASGARD and CROM DUBH. THULSA DOOM’s ‘Realm of Hatred’ intrigued with its loose yet charming down-tuned blackened death-growling war metal, which admittedly is a very long description. 30 years ago we just called what they play something like ‘heavy crust-punk’ – and on record they reminded me somewhat of 80s legends Prophecy of Doom, a band with two guitarists who were at constant noise war onstage, each sneakily turning up their own amp when the other one wasn’t looking, which after a few songs resulted in a very, very loud gig with the drummer not even being able to hear his own drum kit and the sound man just giving up and going to get a pint.
Imagine my surprise then to find that three songs into THULSA DOOM’s set was also really, really loud, I mean like detrimentally loud. The loudest I’ve ever heard it in the Underworld. I have to give the drummer ( and the soundman ) top marks for the most pummelling kick drum sound I’ve experienced since VADER’s Litany album, but after a couple more songs he could not keep up the snare blasts at the speed the guitarists were going, and at one point got totally lost, something that would normally slip past half of the audience, but TD seem to be a young band and haven’t quite learned how to style things like that out yet, so it was quite obvious to everyone. Are they any good though? There is something likeable about them, yes, the songs are ok. Overall, a band that looks the part, but need a bit more experience maybe. Let’s all wish them well.
In complete and utter contrast, HELVETETS PORT are Swedish traditional pop power metal, or whatever you want to call it, and are really good at it, with a carefully played and well balanced sound. They also place a lot of importance on their image, which is fine by me, so long as the music is good. We listened to them outside in the bar first, so we wouldn’t be swayed by their outfits. The first song they played was not very good actually – it had no metal in it at all and reminded me of the worst genre ever to be invented on the planet, pop punk. However as we worked our way into the crowd to watch them, things got a bit better, with some pretty cool stuff reminiscent of BUDGIE and even some chuggy 6/8 pagan metal style stuff, all topped of with early Queen harmonies. OMEN, maybe? It’s difficult to place them, as they are not serious in some respects, yet also a very serious band. Stage-wise, they look like ABBA fell through a sex shop window, and spilled out the back door with leather and studs stuck randomly to their lycra disco outfits. The look is very clean and light though, it must be nice dressing like the 1980s without actually having to live in that god-awful period. And lastly, who can resist white Stratocasters ( superstrats in this case ) with maple necks, so extra points for that HELVETETS PORT. Definitely feel good music, and who doesn’t need a bit of that these days?
HELLISH CROSSFIRE are a death-ish thrash-band who sound like they are from Texas, but are actually from Germany. They are good at what they do, and as such is tempting to file them as good but generic, yet there are two unique selling points that will mean they could conquer the thrash world, should they desire it – a vocalist with a fantastic raspy voice like the bastard child of Jeff Becerra and Dave Vincent, and an inventive guitarist with some awesome thrash riffs and leads that I urge you to listen to should you be in that musical world. He keeps a relatively clean distorted tone too for maximum power. They filled the room and had a lot of people dancing. A band to watch if you like that kind of thing.
ETERNAL CHAMPION’s Armor of Ire came out in 2016 – I think I heard it the year after, and remember the first track and the third standing out. It has that Spiral Castle era sound with a lot of hi-mid reverb on the vocals, that you either like or don’t. There is also a definite SLOUGH FEG feel to the riffing. An interesting band for sure. The Underworld Crowd are well up for them, and as they take the stage tonight it seems we are in for a good one.
Jason Tarpey is a blacksmith, which explains why he has big muscles, because banging away at metal is great exercise, and ‘I am the Hammer!’ has to be their stand out track. Have you ever tried blacksmithing? It’s ace. You can’t be a daydreamer though – the knife I made was almost perfect until I put it back in the forge to make the handle a little longer, and whilst it was there I thought about what we were having for tea later, and which cymbal stand I was going to use for the 16″ china I’d bought, and then by the time I’d remembered I was supposed to be blacksmithing, it was on fire in the coals with the heat disintegrating the last two hours of hammering in a spitting fizz of yellow. Such a cruel world!
He is clearly a hard working guy and gives it his all onstage. Watching from the crowd, I was wondering if he tries a bit too hard to sing high sometimes, and what he would sound like if he relaxed a bit. My question is answered with the surprise track Veils of Negative Existence by Manilla Road – Jason’s voice actually works well in the lower registers.
I don’t really know much about their back story but ETERNAL CHAMPION work the stage like they’ve been in this band for twenty years. They could do with another couple of good albums under their belt I think, rather than just one, and can then take their righteous place in the realms of the epic metal pantheon, because it is certainly within reach. Let’s hope they keep going and write us another Armor of Ire!
Overall a great festival and looking back at the lineups over the years I am sorry to have missed so many great bands. And if you are intrigued by the Epic Metal stuff I can very much recommend this excellent series of articles here at rideintoglory.com