4th April 2015
The Dome and The Boston Music Rooms, Tufnell Park
Review by Jarod Lawley and Ben Spencer
Doom Over London V is obviously the fifth installment of now what has become the capital’s favourite and much heralded doom festival. Now expanding not only in terms of venue size but also in the variation of bands on the bill, this promised to be possibly the most interesting year yet.
It’s four o’clock and after a rather awkward drink in the Boston Arms which has just a couple of confused metallers stood amongst people watching football on TV, it’s time to head to the main stage to check out openers Crypt Lurker. Despite a thin crowd size, the Liverpudlian doomsters manage to create an intense atmosphere with real candles and occult lights, which only becomes more apparent as I head further down the front.
After a lengthy turnaround, it’s time for Serpent Venom to offer their distinctively English, traditional type of doom. These local lads prove more than dependable, having honed their carnal craft since 2008. Opening track from “Of Things Seen and Unseen” sounds soul drenching, with that classic early 80s doom guitar tone that so many in attendance know and love lingering throughout all of the riffs, topped off with some washy wah wah soloing that flies over the fuzzy bass flawlessly. Beardy vocalist Gaz stomps his feet and and flings back and forth his long locks, taking only breaks to soar to high, high notes.
Sticking to the upstairs room, The Dome, Death Penalty keep affairs old school but with a more upbeat approach. Not tied down an instrument, front woman Michelle Nocon benefits from being able to roam free and therefore grip the audience tighter, whilst beside her ex-Cathedral axe man Gaz Jennings binds the band to the crowd with his spellbinding riffing. The Witchfinder General influence is obvious, after all the group was named after WG’s debut album, but they also offer a more grinding, doomy bass driven sound, which allows the high vocals to cut through nicely. Some people I spoke to after moaned of a muddy sound, but from where I was stood, I had no such complaints. Closing number “She Is a Witch” probably offers an explanation as to why Rise Above Records owner Lee Dorian was all over them and signed them for their debut LP, but also shows off what a great range of emotional moods and textures this Belgian/British four-piece have in their arsenal.
It’s a breath of fresh air after the haze and gloom of the previous two bands to welcome Isole to the stage. They describe themselves progressive/doom, and under that prog tag manage to reach out to many different branches of sounds and atmospheres and have been doing so since their 2004 Swedish beginnings; after a 13 year career known as Forlorn. Their presence onstage is self-assured, and clean vocals cut through the mix beautifully, but doom passages and riffs show that they certainly deserve their place on this bill. The light show provides the perfect accompaniment to their sound, with red and blue streaks cutting through the darkness like Crister Olsson and Daniel Bryntse’s six string work cutting through a melancholic, bassy myriad of sorrow. For those who aren’t moving already, the strength of the grinding guitars is enough to induce involuntary headbaning at times, entrancing those at the front with their brooding and menacing style.
I head downstairs for the first time, into The Boston Music Rooms to catch October Tide. The room is pretty full to welcome the Stockholm crew onto the stage, and they seem to be pleasantly surprised with the enthusiastic and appreciate audience. Playing tracks from their steady back catalogue which dates back to 1994 and consist of four full lengths, the Swedes are energetic on stage, with vocalist Alexander Hogbom’s arms outstretched to accentuate his lyrical sadness and sorrow. Musically, they pack a bass driven punch with solid guitar work and washes of lead licks, topped of with a very Stockholm sounding vocal style and the beats of experienced drummer Robin Bergh. After staying near the front for a track or two, I wander round the outskirts of the room and notice that the passionate head banging is as consistent at the back as it is nearer the stage, and the whole crowd is emotionally engaged and captivated. Unfortunately, the solid block of green light which the downstairs room here is infamous for is also slapped onto this act, and really doesn’t do their wide variety of emotions and melancholic moods justice at all.
Last minute addition to the bill, Fen (review by Ben Spencer) assemble on stage as the congregating fans gravitate towards the opening guitar melody of “Our Names Written In Embers Part I”Within moments, their sound erupts into a chaotic spree of shrieking and sonic anguish, as the track charges onward with raised fists from onlookers as the Watcher jumps between blues led melodies and sinister riffs seamlessly.Upping the ante with, ‘Our Names Written In Embers Part II’ the band unveil a more aggressive prowess. Full of speedy drums and dissonant guitars that pull the venue further into the nature swept landscapes of their sound. The band focus their energies more towards their heavier material, as the violent sounding ‘Consequence’ and the hellish foreboding of ‘Exiles Journey’ that show no sign of relenting. Fen’s sound suffers from an overly loud bass, which came into focus around half way through, as the remainder of their set proves to be more immediate the heavily textured sound of their doom metal predecessors. What‘s more, their performance not only marks them one of today’s strongest band’s but also laments them as one of the UK’s most promising black metal offerings.
Asphyx would never have been bookies favourite to headline Britain’s most established doom festival, but many await their arrival in anticipation as they bring the death metal come 9.50pm. Their aggression is immediately striking, with the furious vocals of Martin van Drunen, who hits fifty soon, but shows no sign of slowing down. His vocals are every terrifying and grotesquely inhuman, and shine best on classics from 1991’s The Rack. Speaking of shining, I’ve never seen an extreme metal singer look so happy to be on stage- he is literally beaming to be up there, and so connects with the crowd on a level most just don’t have the charisma to touch. The fanbase tonight of doom fans in the audience get fully engaged with the groovy beats quickly having been won over by the slower numbers which are thrown in and pull them over the dark side and into the pit. Even the most dope hazed, Electric Wizard worshipping doomsters get pushed into the right mood by these Dutch death metallers. It’s obvious to see why this troupe was bought over from The Netherlands to headline, they bring the energy, the brutality and the scathing riffs like no-others do, and leave most exiting The Dome just over an hour later with only the name Asphyx on their lips.
I look forward very much to seeing what Doom Over London VI can bring next year!
For more videos click here