13th May 2014, Review by Caitlin Smith
Due to work commitments, it was an hour and a half after doors before I arrived I north London. Walking out of Tuffnel Park station I was preparing myself for the disappointment of missing Nordic black metalers ONE TAIL, ONE HEAD. I was greeted however with a queue to get into the venue still tailing back down the road and continuing round the corner to the next street. It was then a long hours wait before I finally made it to the doors.
While it was obvious something had gone wrong, the lack of apologies or explanation by either Isengard promotions or the Dome was already causing friction in the queue as people began to question whether we would make it into the venue at all. Standing beside guys who had travelled an 100 miles round trip to see the one off London show and had to leave early to catch their last train, missing two of the support bands and being forced to leave before Mgla was particularly insulting. On reaching the doors the problem was finally revealed, lack of tickets and poor planning left the single person manning the door with an extensive list of names, chalking this up as the single worst case of organization I have ever seen at a gig.
London based Grave Miasma [4/5] are the first band playing as I make my way to the stage. Containing a mix of Cruciamentum members as well as ex live players for Corpus Christi and Destroyer 666 there’s no denying there is serious talent in this lineup. Nestled within three other black metal bands, they may seem like a strange choice to add to the bill but beneath the death metal exterior beats a distinctly blackened center. The sound is dominating with a bombardment of catastrophically tight drumming from D and misanthropic riffing dripping from the stage. Despite being a regular on the London scene, the band still managed to draw a huge crowd for what rapidly proved to be the best performance of the night.
Svartidaudi [3/5] arrive on stage appearing more like anarchists than black metal musicians. Formed in 2002, it took this band 10 years before we saw their first studio album in 2012. Despite this the band have quickly gained a reputation in the UK and the venue is filled to the brim with fans jostling for a spot close to the stage. It quickly becomes clear that despite Mgla’s headlining spot, this is the band many fans have come to witness that night. Despite their unconventional appearance, this band delivers a truly unforgiving performance. A chaotic wall of noise emanates with stabbings of dissonance rising cutting through the mass. The sound at the venue really did a disfavor to the Icelandic four-piece however, with the distortion often sinking into a layer of indistinguishable muddy sound, most seemed not to notice though as they rip their way through a truly triumphant opening UK show.
It’s easy to miss the more subtle touches of a black metal performance when many bands wave their ideas brazenly at the audience. Arriving bathed in fog, Mgla [3.5/5] meaning fog in Polish, are already visually creating the air of mystery that both the recordings and their name had promised. Like Svartidaudi, Mgla are not about the faces of the band and the name of the musician, but the music itself. This was reinforced by the image of the band, with faces hidden by a solid black mask that hid the faces causing them to stand as solid dark figures amongst the haze of smoke.
Layering the sound in reverb created vast ethereal soundscapes backed equally in both bleakness and brutality. Rooting themselves firmly in traditional black metal, Mgla do break out of the tremolo riffs into an uneasy groove, separating themselves from the average old school purists. Although the sound continued to be plagued throughout, lacking the usual energy that comes with black metal, this was more than made up for by the energy of the crowd who appeared to hang off every note. By the time the set draws to a close the venue is starting to clear as people hurry to catch final trains, but they leave knowing they witness a formidable UK debut show by one of Poland’s greatest black metal talents.