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The Misplaced Metalhead Volume Fifteen

Decapitated 2012

Promoter: Factory Music

Date: Thursday 18th October 2012

Venue: The Railway, Winchester

Bands: Decapitated, Xerath, Bloodshot Dawn, (Ageless Oblivion)


Fucking work getting in the way of gigs again (Or, in other words, hello). On top of a shit day at work and little sleep the night before some form of balls up on the trains meant I had to get a cab home just in order to get some dinner so I was ready for this gig tonight. As such, when I got the venue I was on the tail end of a particularly pissed off mood. Fortunately for me – tonight was all about the glorious Metal of Death – a genre purposefully defined to kick the fucking snot out of moods such as these. Enough about me though, there’s brutality to be getting on with.

You may notice the brackets around openers Ageless Oblivion as you saw in my Volume Fourteen review for the band I didn’t see. Well, fortunately for you, lucky reader, at least this time I managed to catch the tail end of Ageless Oblivion’s set and, let me tell you, I was pretty much kicking myself that I wasn’t there earlier. I entered the crowded, sweaty venue to the sounds of what could only be described as a ‘transcendental passage’. That’s right, this was my opening impression of what was promised to be a Brutal Death metal gig. Although this may have seemed out of place at first, the band carried off the restrained and reflective passage with such conviction that the sizable crowd before me stood transfixed in wonder at what they were hearing. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the band launched into what we’d all come to see, some truly crushing riffs tearing through the calm previously bestowed. Although I couldn’t see much from way at the back, any glimpses I did catch of vocalist Stephen Jones instantly gave me the impression of a powerful frontman, his stillness in delivery completely at odds with the ferocity of his incredible roars. Although the set I managed to see was short at best, what the band did deliver was an eclectic fusion of unrelenting fury and technical brilliance, incorporating elements as disparate as slap bass and blast beats in the same verses – let alone the same songs. A band of contradiction and a phenomenal one at that.

 Next up were local favourites Bloodshot Dawn, a band I have only ever seen once (Volume Twelve) when completely and utterly tanked up to the eyeballs. With my late arrival I was nowhere near this level this time round and a pang of apprehension grabbed me: what if I was just pissed last time? What if they’re not that good? As the band set up a little voice at the back of my head was still voicing this so when they started with a blisteringly insane assault I was pretty chuffed. The little voice was replaced with a much louder one, hitting the previous one with a big fucking hammer and screaming “FUCK YOU! THESE GUYS RULE!”.

 You’re probably going to want a more in depth review than that right? Okay then. Most Death bands just have the one vocalist but, not to be outdone, these Hampshire badasses combine the best of both worlds with guitarist Josh Mcmorran and drummer Doug Anderson sharing the role. Both use the staple roars and screams of the best of them but each voice comes with its own nuance which allows for a fuller and more brutal sound, different enough to provide variety but not to much as to create undue dissonance. Each member’s respective talent with their insruments also atests to their skills, joining lightning fingered bassist Anthony Riddout to provide the perfect undercurrent of aggressive rhythm, when Mcmorran isn’t soloing his fucking balls off that is. The technical skill on display here was unquestionable, particularly on the part of lead guitarist Benjamin Ellis, who I’m pretty sure spent the entirety of the song ‘Vision’ running his eight string axe through one hell of what seemed a constant solo. The guys even managed to start the first pit of the night, an admittedly quite lacklustre wall of death on our part but that was our fault, let’s face it, we knew what to save ourselves for.

With the anticipation in the room reaching suitable unbearable levels there was only one band left before the Polish behemoths of our headliners; that band was Xerath. I’d heard Xerath a couple of times on youtube prior to this gig (researching little cunt that I am) and was pretty impressed by their sound. This feeling carried on through the first couple of songs through their set, a no holds barred ear bashing which almost made headbanging cease to be an action and instead become an instinct. Utilising only one guitar instead of the traditional two, the band created a raw and organic sound to their music with occassional flourishes such as bassist Christopher Clark providing backing vocals and actually creating a harmony with lead singer Richard Thomson, a near impossibility in this genre.

 That said, a few songs in these flourishes seemed to fade away and the music, at times, stagnated dangerously. Yes it was still great to headbang to, but certain songs I felt my midn drifting away with little else to grab my attention. I realised some of the ambient qualities afforded to the band in youtube form were produced synthetically to create a more complete feel and recreating some of these can be difficult live, especially in smaller venues like The Railway. These guys were an incredibly savage band to mosh to, I just couldn’t help but feel that playing straight after the technical wizardry of Bloodshot Dawn did them no favours.

And now the event you’ve all been waiting for. The Railway was sold out in the lead up to this event and you could tell just by how many people had to jump on steps just to get a good look at the stage. This was the most packed out I’ve ever seen my favourite tiny little venue and never had I been further from the stage. After horrendously off-pissing technical problems there was an extended wait which only served to fuel the fires of the expectant horde and, sure enough, before long, the Polish kings of Brutal Death Metal took the stage and the crowd in an absolute storm of insanity. It had begun. Decapitated was here. 

 As I had done with Xerath, I’d done my research on these Polish nutters through youtube and found myself, shall we say, less than impressed with the prospects. I’ve never been a huge Brutal Death guy and my opinion wasn’t swayed straight away. What I failed to take into account, however, is how the music would sound live. Sure enough, every tinny blast beat from my laptop speaker was replaced by a horrifying cacaphony of oblivion launched by Krimh, every repetitve riff become a thundering gallop from the bass of Heinrich and all the precise wails courtesy of the recording process became haunting melodies of destruction from the guitars of founding member Vogg. On top of all this was thrown the bug eyed madman with a mic in his hand, the terrifyingly powerful Rafal Piotrowski, with eyes blazing and dreadlocks flailing like the arms of a broken strait jacket orchestrating this order of devestation at his feet. Sure enough, devestation was to follow. EVERY song had it’s own pit – NO EXCEPTIONS. I went from being thrown like a rag doll to pushing my weight against some of the most intense motherfuckers I’ve ever seen (particular credit goes to a short, brunette woman who gets the Metal As Fuck Award for pretty much starting EVERY SINGLE FUCKING PIT). Could I tell you individually how each and every song was? Fuck no! I can’t do that with bands I’m not in a pit with. The fact of the matter is though I discovered what I had been missing when I listened to youtube with an ill-conceived ‘meh’. Brutal Death Metal is more than just a genre, it’s an experience. You have not truly heard a song, or a band, until you have heard it live and, in Metal, that is more true than any other genre. Decpaitated provided me with the most intense night I’ve had at the Railway since Sylosis/Romeo Must Die in 2009 and, frankly, it’s going to be a long time before anybody comes even close to topping them.

When it happens – I’ll be fucking ready

Summing Up:

Ageless Oblivion: 7/10
Bloodshot Dawn: 8/10
Xerath: 6/10
Decapitated: 9/10

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