Acherontas @ The Black Heart, London

7th March 2015
Review by Jarod Lawley
Videos by Jo Blackened
Altercarnated Photography

As part of Old Empire’s “Rite of Blood and Magic”, the time has finally come for the cult Greek metal outfit Acherontas to make their UK debut. Despite being little more than “new” to the band myself, the chorus of excitement that fills The Black Heart as attendees down their pre-gig drinks is hard to ignore.

FlyerTwenty minutes after the scheduled opening time the doors still remain shut, but fortunately, the first of the bands on the bill tonight, Towers of Flesh, take to the stage just on time, as I rush upstairs and open to the door only to be knocked back by the gorgeous smell of incense.

My introduction to this Candlelight signing came (rather appropriately) at Candlefest last year, and I wasn’t impressed, although their situation really wasn’t helped by an awful sound mix.

Tonight, it’s apparent they are suffering from the same issue. It may be by no fault of their own, but inaudible guitars and muffled drums and vocals make enjoying this band near impossible.

Their black/death metal brand may have won over some new fans tonight if it wasn’t for this- they really are done no justice at all. The chromatic riffs that gave their 2014 sophomore “Antithetical Conjurations” album its Luciferian charms have become totally lost in translation.

Visually, the band does their best to make up for it though. They look psychotically aggressive, giving the decent sized crowd cut-throat gestures as they go on with the thirty minutes they have to work with. Vocalist Jack Welch’s bleeding head shows that he suffers for his art, and those near enough the front to get a well angled view of Anil Carrier’s drum work will certainly be impressed, as I find myself mesmerized by his flailing arms and sticks.

After popping downstairs for another quick drink, Mord’A’Stigmata appear as hooded menaces onto the stage.

They begin their ritual under red light and in the thick fog of atmospheric, chord-based guitar work, surely pleased to making their debut in Britain tonight.

Their soulful style of black metal is atmospheric and melodic and could be popular with fans of post-BM acts such as An Autumn For Crippled Children, Deafheaven and Livelover. With their drift through various soundscapes, but all ones that rest under a very bleak sky, this musical journey feels beautiful, poignant and enriched in a dark yet charming aesthetic.

Despite the rafters of The Black Heart shaking with the six-string and snare drums rattles, their approach begins to lose its appeal slowly over time, and the forty-five minute set length is a bit enduring. I feel it would have been more powerful if a shorter set was offered, and the audience was left shouting for more.

Technically, the four-piece can boast prowess, and they can also boast emotionally honesty and devotion. As all comes to a close, the splashing and crashing of the gleaming cymbals flickers in the orange lights of the amplifiers onstage, and in the glasses of the attendees.

The spinning of 80’s synthpop tunes in-between the bands is a questionable choice, but one that the IV are guilty of secretly enjoying!

A change of atmosphere can be noted, as Crest Of Darkness  kick off with groovey, Carpathian riffing.

Admittedly, the stage costumes donned by these Norwegians looks far from high budget, looking more like the kind of tacky, gleaming satanic garments that Glen Benton was famous for wearing in the early Deicide/Amon days, but those in the audience (noticeably a lesser amount than for the previous acts) are happy to raise their glasses to this kind of shameless and light-hearted homage, which packs in nostalgia if nothing else.

Their sound is distinctly of their home country, but an interesting flavour is added by guitarist Rebo’s soloing in-between the dirty riffing and burning bass.

It’s weird to see such a small audience for this act, (the numbers are inspected as frontman Ingar Amlein hops of stage to wander around the crowd), but fans of old school, dogmatic black metal are missing out if they’ve gone downstairs to fill up their glasses again. 51 year old Amelin’s aquiline nose connotes evil supremacy, and the rest of the band look like satanic terrorists to add a heap of charisma that is engaging on a level unmatched by any other band tonight!

It’s almost half eleven by now and I’m feeling confused, an intro tape has been left on for a while but there is still no sign of Polish act Thaw, who are supposed to be making their UK debut. Instead, it is Acherontas who take to the stage next, with the Poles having pulled out of tonight.

Their latest record, Ma-IoN (Formulas of Reptilian Unification) has been met with a stellar response by the critics, but live the newer songs don’t translate as well as I hoped. However, their distinctly Greek and Mediterranean sound engages with lovers of Rotting Christ and Varathon, with eerie guitar riffing and low, esoteric chants.

Long time fans are happy to see the band finally on British soil, as they mark their new territory on a pitch black with trait signs of candles and incense. They fill the venue and stage with an unholy, dark and dingy presence, guitarist and bassist both donning black bandannas over their faces. Vocalist’s Acherontas V.Priest satanic symbols over his forehead and interestingly unique tattoos prove his dedication to his black metal art.

At first the audience seems somewhat sedate, proving that there was no need for security tonight; possibly due to the starting time, but more likely due to the crowd being truly captivated. As the sound mix improves so does the band’s power onstage, with their dictatorial salutes being met by a row of headbangers at the front.

“Hail Satan,” front man Acherontas V.Priest proclaims as they shift through a set list that plays with material from an array of their five albums, including favourites Vamachara and Theosis.

The candlelit aesthetic of a ritual really strikes and mesmerizes some fans whilst they stand in awe, although I was hoping for more than four white candles onstage as they gleam light reflected by glossy black of a Gibson Les Paul. The band won’t help shake off NSBM rumours that linger still from the days of Stutthof with a dedication of a song to “those of Aryan blood”, but leave many feeling like they witnessed something important tonight, as they polish off their rite with the closing, old era favourite “The Horned Moon!”.

Acherontas isn’t your typical corpse-painted, forest wandering style of BM, but more of an esoteric exploration. The diverse line-up tonight has showed not only the variety of this long-running genre, but also its many moods, atmospheres and passionately charismatic performers.

Certainly a gig worth seeing.

Acherontas set list
Acherontas set list

For more videos of this gig, please click here: