|The Day Of Unrest: Zero Tolerance Xmas Fest - London, England, 14th December 2008|
A chilly December afternoon, Christmas is just around the corner, but the only thing on our minds this particular afternoon was the Zero Tolerance magazine's Christmas bash at the Purple Turtle in London where some of the best bands of the British underground were set to play, including the first Mithras show in three years, and last show with Rayner as part of the band. We were given Zero Tolerance wristbands on entry, the time was just past two in the afternoon, and the first band were ready to take the stage to a room not even half full.
The afternoon was kicked off in not such an explosive manner, but exploding isn't the Haxan way of doing things. These are a slow, almost doomish sounding band. Experimenting and playing on atmosphere seemed to be the Haxan way, but unfortunately at two in the afternoon there isn't much of a dark atmosphere to bring their music alive. Just a handful of people were watching the show up close, but even still the band took the stage with confidence and put out a good performance. Perhaps not the energetic start people may have expected or craved from a day like this, but the band still provided a nice warm up for what was to come.
Let 'Em Burn
Last time I encountered this band was in early 2007, and they were not particularly anything special and so it was to some surprise when Let 'Em Burn blasted out onto stage with a new, charismatic frontman and delivered an absolute blistering performance of old school thrash metal with a modern and clean edge. This band have grown and developed into something quite impressive. New singer added amusement to the show with a great, if not probably drunken sense of humour, but also a new intensity the band never had before. This line-up of Let 'Em Burn is a force to be reckoned with, check these guys out live, they will not disappoint.
There was a great spirit inside the modestly sized venue, many friendly people to talk with and share the day with. It was still light outside, and more and more people entered the venue as the afternoon turned into the evening.
As the audience grew, the next band was three-piece Nebukadnezza. After the five-man last band, these two guys standing atop the stage didn't own the stage with the same confidence and tended to just stand and play their material in chunks of songs. These guys shot through an impressive set of death metal crossed with thrash metal, and even more impressive was the drummer who apparently was under doctor's orders not to drum after an injury but still played with such speed and intensity you would have never known. Nebukadnezza definitely provided something to get your head behind and it just goes to show with bands like these, just how deep the talent runs with extreme bands of the British underground. Impressive set from an understated band.
So if by now you were getting fed up with straight forward, pummelling death and thrash metal, this band was for you. De Profundis provided a slightly different flavour to the music compared to the band that had been on. These guys like to take their time and build up to the big moments as they cross doom metal with death metal. Admittedly not being one to appreciate much doom, these guys were actually somewhat of a breath of fresh air to the small, dark room. The slower, doomier parts accentuated the death metal parts when they came along, so when they did come along, you knew about it. These guys confidently took the stage and owned it while up there to an appreciative audience. If this sounds like your thing, catch this impressive band live.
By this time the Christmas merriment was flowing well if you know what I mean. It was also time for one of the night's amusements to set up shop in the form of Mithras' Rayner Cross dressed as a black, PVC Santa. Go sit on his lap and put your hand in his sack, have a rummage around and pick out a free gift. There were plenty of CDs in there from small band's demos to promo CDs of your favourite bands. Surreal indeed, but great fun to add to the joy and spirit of the night.
So enough rummaging, it was time for the only tinge of folk to emerge from the night. These proud Englishmen brought a folkish black metal to the night in spectacular form. It was great to again hear a slightly different edge to extreme music, especially with the folk tinge, but as the only black-inclined band of the day. The four-piece had two guys taking control of the vocals each side of the stage and held the stage with a sturdy confidence. These England enthusiasts put on a fantastic show of intense, extreme music that once again just goes to show the depth of the talent of the British underground. Impressive set, no gimmicks, no frills, just good old pure metal.
One of the most awaited bands of the night, after their highly impressive debut album on Galactic Records. This was Sarpanitum, this was brutal death metal, total and utter destruction of the highest order. These guys owned the stage well and pulled off a concise, solid, faultless set of songs from their album. The ex-live Mithras drummer Sean pulled out an extreme performance that would see most other's limbs fall off. Sadly the set seemed to be over in a second, way way too short and it was all over. Well, they say time flies when you're having fun, how much more fun can you possibly get than being up close and personal with an onslaught of utter chaos?
At points in the night there were supposed to be guest DJs, whether there actually was any guests or not we may never know as no one was introduced to us, but in between each set we were treated to some great songs from the likes of Morbid Angel, Nile and Forefather. A further warming up was not exactly necessary, as so far the night had provided us with the best of British underground and it wasn't about to stop here.
So from Sarpanitum onwards, brutal death metal was the dish of the night, and Infected Disarray were not going to let anyone down who craved more brutal insanity. Infected Disarray are one of these classic brutal death metal bands were the vocals are as guttural as hell, the guitars are like feral beasts and the monster behind the drum kit is actually some form of mutant with too many limbs to be normal. In this case sat behind the kit for Infected Disarray is ex-Gorerotted and Detrimentum drummer Jon Rushforth who along with a handful of the other drummers of the evening has to be one of the best on our island. It is amazing that such complicated and erratic music can be pulled off as distinctly and accurately, but this music unleashed some kind of bloodlust and sheer adrenaline with the audience, it was just even more unfortunate when the set came to a close, but not after an absolutely blistering cover of Suffocation's "Infecting The Crypts" to finish us off.
So this was it, the moment people have been waiting years for, the thing that attracted people from across the country to witness. This was the first Mithras show in three years, and also a goodbye from Rayner, for whom this was sadly his last show with the band. The three wise men took the stage and after the introduction track of the new album, blasted into the cosmos of "Under The Three Spheres". In the live environment with the booming speakers, the sounds Leon's guitar makes takes you on some kind of flight through space. The band played the best they ever have live after years of rehearsals and for this show housing a line-up that clicked and worked together. The titan Rayner stood and conquered with his booming voice sounding even mightier than on CD, and Ben White sat behind the kit and absolutely blew us away with his truly gifted arms and legs to pull off some of the fastest and most intense drumming a band could ask a drummer to pull off.
The set had three main chunks split apart by interludes taken from the three albums, these came at some relief to grab a little needed oxygen from the breathtaking performances taking place on the stage. Songs were evenly taken from the three albums, but it was the songs from "Worlds Beyond The Veil" that really stood out in the live settings away from the particular production of the CD. Songs like "Psyrens", "Beyond The Eyes Of Man" with Leon's other worldly guitar piece and the immense title track "Worlds Beyond The Veil" shone as bright as you will ever have chance to experience them. There was no doubt Mithras would be the stars of the night, but this live performance really brought alive their cinematic, spacey, brutal death metal magic. We can only wait until the next show to re-live such an experience.
For the people unfortunate to miss this set, the show was recorded from two different angles for a DVD as part of a planned release of old demos and rarities.
So of the night the climax had been reached, there was nothing left to look forward to, it was time to go to bed. Or not without Zero Tolerance's idea of a lullaby and bedtime story. Satori may have some acclaim to them, but they are not a band. Two men stood on the stage with laptops in front of them and probably just stood there mindlessly watching Windows Media Player play some sounds over the sound system. Only a few people stayed for the bizarre experience, their performance was random noise over the speakers with some obscure video playing behind the men.
After the Mithras set I got to have a short chat with the Mithras guys. Ben wondered if we could hear any of the drums as he couldn't hear anything. Strangely enough earlier in the afternoon while chatting to Leon I asked if he had any nerves about playing for the first time in three years. He told me he didn't but was only worried about not being able to hear himself on stage. After the show, he seemed pleased with how the set and the day had turned out. Speaking to Rayner, I asked if some time down the line he would miss being in Mithras and whether he thought he would be easy to replace. He told me that yes, he probably would miss being the part of Mithras he is now, but modestly told me he would probably be easy to replace. He cannot stay in the band due to other, mainly family commitments - and so we all wish Rayner a happy future and say thanks for the amazing show as part of Mithras.
The day was a total success, everything ran smoothly, all the bands were fantastic and everyone in attendance went away with a huge sense of satisfaction having witnessed a day of the best of the British underground extreme bands.
A big thank you to Lisa Macey of Zero Tolerance for the accreditation, and to Leon, Rayner and Ben among the other acts for a day to remember.
Written, and photos by Barry Anderson
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