Incineration Festival 2022
|Incineration Festival 2022
|musclassia, omne metallum
The Underworld, one of four stages in Camden used to host Incineration Fest
Omne: Incineration Festival has long been a day for UK metalheads to put in their calendars, as some of the biggest names on the darker and heavier end of the metal spectrum amass in Camden, London, for a day of carnage. A regular staple of the live scene for much of the prior decade, Incineration Festival has been host to some amazing line-ups and bands throughout its duration.
Returning after a 2-year hiatus (no prizes for guessing why) with its seventh and biggest iteration to date, Incineration took place across four venues in Camden, from the tiny sweatbox of The Black Heart, through the legendary Underworld and Electric Ballroom, to The Roundhouse, which served as the headline stage for its maiden appearance at an Incineration event. The Roundhouse served as the culmination of the day, with no other bands scheduled on other stages to clash while Emperor were gracing its boards.
While undeniably a big draw in and of themselves, Emperor were but a big cherry on top of a packed line-up, with the day stacked with great acts throughout. Unfortunately, circumstances would intervene and both Shrapnel and Unleashed would cancel their appearances on the day of and the day before the festival, respectively, which really suited me well given that they were both bands that I was looking forward to (and particularly now that the latter has cancelled two appearances in three months at events where I was due to see them... no, I’m not bitter at all).
Much of my day’s activities took place in The Underworld, with only the occasional trip to the other venues. Thanks to some unkind clashes (always the unfortunate consequence of stacked line-ups), I had to miss several bands who I otherwise was hoping to see (Tsjuder and Bloodbath chief among them).
Matt: I had ummed and ahhed for a good while over whether I would attend Incineration; I hadn’t been before, so the idea of finally sampling it was appealing, but considering there were only 4 bands that I had any real interest in seeing, I wasn’t sure whether it was quite worth the price (and, as was the case with several bands that Omne already mentioned, the threat of late cancellations looms large over any festival, which makes decisions over attending events with only a small number of attractions more challenging). However, perhaps just because I was already riding a live music high from Roadburn only 2 weeks prior, I ultimately took the plunge, meeting Omne for a quick drink at The World’s End pub located directly above The Underworld before the first band of interest took to the stage.
Calligram 13:45-14:25, Electric Ballroom
Omne: Shrapnel were due to open the day for me, but with the news filtering through that they had cancelled their appearance as I was waiting to get into the venue, this meant an impromptu change of plans and some beers with Matt before heading in to see Calligram.
Energetic and chaotic would be the best words to describe this performance. A solid and powerful set that saw the band rip through much of their latest album The Eye Is The First Circle, it gave the material an extra dimension live that added so much more to the songs. The band’s atmospheric black metal balanced both elements well, while the vocalist took care of entertaining the role with his hyperactive “performance”, at one point discarding the microphone and deciding to shout the vocals instead before attempting to eat or violently kiss the bass player, punctuating the energy of the music and making a spectacle of himself and of the day. Calligram made up for my belated start to the day with a bang.
Matt: My abiding memory of this performance will forever be the maniacal performance from Matteo Rizzardo, a man possessed with so much furious energy on stage that he, at various times, threw away the microphone and screamed acoustically, collapsed and lied down on stage for a solid minute, and jumped onto the bass player. It was so exuberant that it perhaps diverted more attention away from the music than Calligram might have hoped for, but they still put on a powerful display, kicking off the festival in style with their vicious black metal/hardcore hybrid.
Omne: After the band had finished, I had to go sort out my accommodation for the night and so my next band was Unfathomable Ruination
Matt: I, in the meantime, made my first trip to The Underworld.
Noctule 14:20-15:00, The Underworld
Matt: I had seen Serena Cherry perform twice within the past 12 months, but on both those occasions it was with her main band, Svalbard. This time, I was lucky enough to witness the first ever live performance from her Skyrim-themed black metal solo project, Noctule, whose debut Wretched Abyss deservedly appeared in the MS Awards metalgaze category. The gaziness of Noctule’s black metal really came through in the live setting, a brightness cutting through the tremolo and energetic drumming. Noctule weren’t one of the aforementioned 4 bands I mentioned earlier on as my main anticipated sets at Incineration, but I enjoyed them plenty enough.
After Noctule, I briefly went to the Electric Ballroom to see the very similarly named Noctem, who I remembered had put out a decent record in 2021; after a couple of songs of what seemed like surprisingly generic black metal, I went on Metal Storm and realized that I had in fact been thinking of Noltem. As it was, this wasn’t one of those happy mix-ups where you accidentally discover a new favourite band; I had more than had my fill of Noctem before their set was even threatening to finish, so I left to rendezvous with Omne.
Unfathomable Ruination 16:05-16:45, Electric Ballroom
Omne: The closer the day of the festival came, the more Unfathomable Ruination grew on me; I was looking forward to have my head smashed open ‘blunt force trauma style’ with the band’s extremity.
With a last-minute replacement vocalist drawn in owing to illness, Mallika Sudaramurthy of Abnormality fame, the band could have been forgiven for a disjointed performance; credit where it is due, however, as both parties ensured that this was not the case and gave one of the tightest performances of the day. Pulverising those in attendance as Sundaramurthy slotted into her role with ease, the band tore through their set and your ears with an accuracy and tenacity that held your attention throughout. The guitar work of Piazza and Herrara balanced power and dynamism well, with pinch harmonics aplenty that sat atop some of the most thunderous and unrelenting drum work of the day.
Beheaded 16:40-17:20, The Underworld
Omne: Malta is not a country that pops to mind when I think of technical death metal, but lo and behold, the band have some excellent flag bearers in Beheaded. Ripping through choice cuts in “A Charlatan’s Enunciation” and “Crossing The House Of Knives”, the band seemed to be seasoned pros at whipping a crowd into a frenzy, with the audience rarely standing still for much of the set. Though the band suffered from a poor mix that saw the guitars way too low for the first half of the set, Beheaded managed to compensate through this with some stellar rhythm work and through the controlled chaos of the mosh-ready crowd. Luckily, the sound issues were remedied for the second half of the set, allowing the band to end on a high note and unleash their full power onto the already won over audience.
Winterfylleth 16:45-17:25, The Roundhouse
Matt: I did see the first half of Unfathomable Ruination’s set, but I’ll be damned if I could remember anything of it by the end of the day, so I’ll let Omne discuss that one himself. I left after a couple of tracks to make my first trip to The Roundhouse and see Winterfylleth, a band that I had never seen before despite being in close proximity of their performances on several occasions (I arrived too late when they opened for Behemoth in 2014, and completely forgot their set at last year’s Bloodstock Festival until it was already over). I saw less of them that I would have liked here as well, as the queue to enter the not-remotely-full Roundhouse was bafflingly slow (thankfully, this issue was rectified for later sets at the venue). What I did catch of Winterfylleth was slightly ‘wall of sound’, but the better riffs did manage to break through the dense cacophony created by the distorted tremolo and blast beats in order to make a decent impression. The Mancunians, still fresh-faced hotshots when I was getting into metal, are now 15-year veterans, and that experience showed through in their show.
Skeletal Remains 17:50-18:30, The Underworld
Omne: Ever since I stumbled across Devouring Mortality several years ago, Skeletal Remains have been front and centre on my radar. Though I had seen them prior, for an all-too-short supporting slot a few years ago, they were a must-see here ever since they were originally announced back in 2019. Living up to the protracted hype and then some, Skeletal Remains put on the best performance of the day for me. Taking a packed Underworld (drawing the biggest crowd of the day, Emperor aside) through a tight set of old-school death metal that spanned the slow crush of Autopsy a la “Eternal Hated” to the Morbid Angel groove of “Beyond Cremation” without sounding contrite or a pale imitation of either. The band were on top form, and had a crystal-clear sound that allowed all elements to shine and combine for an out-and-out classic performance.
Matt: Those that have spent enough time talking music with me will have probably heard me voice my indifference for revivalist OSDM, with me placing such bands just above retro-thrash and retro-NWOBHM bands at the bottom of the ‘metal I care about’ pile, at least on record. Live, however, I can appreciate such bands more, and Skeletal Remains delivered a tight and tastily dense slab of death metal that worked well in filling a quiet gap in my schedule before several must-see bands later on in the day.
Akercocke 18:40-19:30, Electric Ballroom
Matt: Six months after catching them at Damnation Festival, it was time for another round of Akercocke, suits and all. The Damnation show involved a full-album performance of The Goat Of Mendes; Incineration attendees were greeted to merely a ‘regular’ set, but with a band as innovative and unique as Akercocke, nothing is going to be ‘regular’, and they delivered a great show here. I had to duck out before the end to catch the next point on my itinerary, but Akercocke kickstarted the home stretch of the festival nicely for me.
Hellripper 19:00-19:45, The Underworld
Omne: Following up the Skeletal Remains set was a daunting task for any band; luckily, Hellripper were more than up for the challenge. How I’d not managed to see them before I don’t know, but now I have, I can’t wait until our paths cross once again, as, although they didn’t match Skeletal Remains, they certainly gave them a good run for their money. Taking the approach of ‘less talk more mosh’, the band tore through their high-adrenaline set with the audience gasping for air in between, screaming along to “Hell’s Rock N’ Roll” and catching a stray elbow to the ribs. Though the band were slightly too loose in their performance, the likes of “All Hail The Goat” and “The Affair Of The Poisons” were all the better for it, with the band sounding like they could fly off the rails at any moment and descend into primal chaos. Certainly a band to keep an eye on if you like high-octane blackened thrash that sounds like Venom and Motörhead had a baby (and now I need a drink to get that mental image out of my head).
Mastiff 19:30-20:00, The Black Heart
Matt: My first and only trip to The Black Heart on this day was to see Mastiff, perhaps Hull’s finest metal/hardcore offering (although they may Still find others challenging them for that crown). Their vicious sludge/hardcore hit hard on last year’s excellent Leave Me The Ashes Of The Earth, and their live show lived up to it effortlessly. With a rowdiness and violent energy that was punctuated by irresistibly headbangable slower riffs, Mastiff rewarded the dedicated few (albeit, a number that gradually grew once the set started) that skipped Bloodbath in favour of watching them with a performance that justified that decision.
Regarde Les Hommes Tomber 20:15-21:15, The Underworld
Matt: I was excited to see Emperor, but nothing compared to the chance to see Regarde Les Hommes Tomber again, particularly as they were one of the bands not carried over from the provisional Roadburn 2020 line-up to the one that was finally curated for Roadburn 2022 festival (despite them still turning up for their collaboration with Hangman’s Chair). By now, I had already seen them play their 2020 behemoth Ascension live in full twice on livestreams during lockdown and once at Damnation last year, and again they opted to play the album in full. I wouldn’t mind hearing some earlier material some day, as both of their first two albums are similarly excellent, but I also will never be disappointed by this set, as it’s a beast of an album that translates amazingly well live. This was already comfortably my highlight of the festival, but reached a whole new level when, in order to fill their hour-long slot, RLHT extended closing track “Au Bord De Gouffre” by inserting what was either another song or performing an extended version (I’m not quite sure which) that built the intensity for an additional 10 minutes before the emphatic climactic riff arrived. This was an absolutely extraordinary sequence of music that pretty much single-handedly justified the price of the ticket to Incineration 2022.
Omne: I had originally planned on seeing Unleashed, who were due to headline the Electric Ballroom, but their cancellation meant my evening’s plans were made last-minute. Against my better judgement, I trusted Matt’s advice, bit my tongue and swallowed my pride as an Englishman and saw French black metallers Regarde Les Hommes Tomber. Given that I had only spun Ascension briefly on the train into London, the band made a strong impression on me and stayed any fears of a late-evening lull in proceedings. An enjoyable performance, and one I would likely have enjoyed more were I better acquainted with the material.
Emperor 21:30-23:00, The Roundhouse
Omne: And so it was time for the day to meet its crescendo, with the return of Emperor to London after a sixteen-year absence and to the UK after a four-year interval. With no bands clashing with them, Emperor played to a packed-out and enthusiastic audience eager to finally get the show that had been postponed from last May. Having seen the band twice before playing ‘album in full’ sets both times, it was an enjoyable change of pace to hear the band play a regular set (though it leant heavily on both of those albums anyway) and give me a chance to hear the likes of the triumphant “In Wordless Chamber” with its bombast reverberating throughout The Roundhouse. The band rose to the occasion and received a heroes’ welcome from the eager crowd, who were paid back by a performance that lived up to the hype. Though the bass was largely inaudible for much of the set, the rest of the band enjoyed a strong mix that allowed tracks like “With Strength I Burn” and “Cosmic Keys to My Creations & Times” to shine, with Ihsahn not holding back behind the microphone. Though I am no fan of Faust given his past, his appearance on stage for several songs saw the band work as a well-oiled machine as they transitioned between drummers with ease. A masterclass in black metal done by one of the best bands to have graced and shaped the genre as we know it today, Emperor came, saw and conquered.
Matt: This might cost me my ‘metalhead card’, but I’ve never really been into the 90s Norwegian black metal scene, bar the odd album; even Enslaved, who I’m a huge fan of, I only really listen to the post-millennial material. This applies to Emperor as well to some degree, although I am more fond of their 90s classics than most of those from their peers. Nevertheless, the chance to see such an iconic band performing on a stage as great as The Roundhouse was an exciting proposition, and on the whole, I enjoyed them a fair bit. The relentless blasting isn’t the easiest thing to vibe with in a live setting, but the classics sounded great, especially “I Am The Black Wizards”, and although the invitation of Faust to the stage left a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth, everyone on stage performed with gusto. They’re probably not a band I’m eager to see again after this, but I’m glad that I have now seen Emperor, and with what felt like a definitive performance of theirs to boot.
Omne: With that, three years of waiting came to a close and Incineration Festival turnedthe page on what had been a Covid-prolonged chapter. While not my first time at the event, it was possibly one of the most enjoyable years for me, even with the two last minute cancellations. Between the solid performances and years of anticipation, Incineration Festival once again proved why it is an early highlight to the calendar and a chance to indulge in the extremes of metal.
Matt: In the end, bands such as Calligram, Akercocke, Mastiff and particularly Regarde Les Hommes Tomber ended up justifying my late decision to attend Incineration Festival. It was nice to visit several venues that I’d not been to since before the pandemic arrived, and the spectacle of Emperor provided an emphatic conclusion to the day.
|Written on 01.06.2022 by Hey chief let's talk why not
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