With both upstairs bars of the Mean Fiddler cordoned off, I can’t help wondering if this gig should have been booked at a cosier venue like the Garage, especially as first band on, Dutch “dumbed down” metallers God Dethroned, do little to dispel the winter chill from the air.
Thankfully, by the time God Forbid take to the stage, although the venue is still less than half full, the fanatical faithful who have turned out to watch the New Jersey metallers have packed the front six rows tighter than battery hens in a cage. As End Of The World begins its cutting intro, the kerfuffle breaks into frenzied action and, continuing the apocalyptic theme of recent album Constitution Of Treason, Gone Forever then blasts home rhythms that keep the crowd wild with appreciation.
It becomes quickly apparent that God Forbid’s drilled tightness allows them to accurately reproduce their studio efforts. If the quintet weren’t recording a live album during this evening’s proceedings they should have been – I am hard pressed to find a single note dropped in a truly stellar performance.
The Haunted needn’t worry – if their career in extreme music ever dries up, they can try their luck as look-alike artists. Vocalist Peter Dolving is Dave Gorman’s long lost brother, guitarist Jensen could pass for one of the 118-118 brothers even on a bad day, while Anders Björler is dead ringer for Shadows Fall‘s Matthew Bachand. Despite this “hidden” talent, if this evening’s performance is to be used as a yardstick, it could be some time before the look-alike agencies get a call.
Opening with the drastically heavy No Compromise, there is no doubt that God Forbid may be good, but The Haunted remain untouched on this tour bill. For the uninitiated, one may be forgiven for thinking Abysmal is the Swedish group’s attempt at a ballad, but those in the know are merely preparing themselves for the impending metallic massacre, signalled by a guttural scream from Holving, which sends the venue into synchronised involuntary convulsions (once labelled “headbanging”).
Older fans revel in the brief slice of 2000’s The Haunted Made Me Do It as Trespass receives a flawless outing, while the dropped beats and off time riffage of the brutal thrash metal 99 Ways is the B-side Metallica never wrote during the Kill ‘Em All sessions.
My Shadow brings the sweat-drenched set to a close, and my word is it a worthy finale. Half time doom-filled stoner riffage is given a distinctly metal flavour, and for sheer heaviness alone even the posers at the bar are forced to turn and scowl in awe.
For anyone still in doubt of this band’s skills, Peter makes it his task to whisper like a demented psycho through the verses before wailing beautifully across the huge chorus. All of this is underpinned by some lead guitar work form Björler and Jensen, which has the sole intention of rupturing ear drums. Judging by the high-pitched ring that is still in my ears over 24 hours later, they came pretty close to succeeding.