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Warbringer - Live In London, 29.04.2023, London, UK

Event: Warbringer: UK Spring Tour 2023
Written by: omne metallum
Published: 03.05.2023

Having been teased with a dream Destruction, Warbringer and Suicidal Angels tour that never came to be thanks to the pandemic, I'd been chomping at the bit to see Warbringer live again for a while. A band I had enjoyed several times before, this oddly was the first time I had seen them outside of The Underworld in Camden, breaking something of a habit for the band when they pull up in London. Announcing the show with Hellripper as the support act made this an instant purchase from me, given it was a nigh-on guarantee of a fun night. Upgraded from the smaller Boston Music Rooms to the larger The Dome room upstairs due to demand was a good omen of the band's growing popularity, especially as those crammed into the 600-capacity venue were enthusiastic fans of the band.

Pheobator 19:45-20:15

Going by in a blur

Truth be told, I didn't realize that there was going to be an opening act beyond Hellripper, so the addition of Pheobator was a surprise. Having not heard of them before, I went in with an open mind and eager to get my evening off to a good start. Starting later than their 19:30 advertised slot, the band benefitted from this slight delay, as the room quickly filled up with an audience eager to get the drinks in before the bar became overwhelmed.

Pheobator got off to a good start, with their blackened thrash going down well with the contingent of the crowd eager to mosh and move. The harsh vocals of their singer cut through the thrash attack of the band, giving them an edge that cut through the crowd's unfamiliarity with their material. It was alas that, while the band performed well, none of their material had the quality to really stand out and match their evident potential. Still, for an opening act from a young band, the group did OK and warmed up the crowd well.

Hellripper 20:30- 21:15

Goat’s back on the menu boys

It was evident from looking around the rapidly populating room that Hellripper were a big draw for many in attendance, with the band making a healthy amount of sales from their merch stand. Having produced one of the performances of Incineration Festival last year, Hellripper were going to challenge Warbringer to bring their A game, and they confidently threw down the gauntlet with a high-octane set. It became evident why tonight's show had been upgraded from the smaller Boston Music Rooms, with the packed house barely having room for this amount of attendees stood still, let alone an audience determined to open up a large pit. Tonight's set proved to be an oddity; whereas a set that focuses on a group's older hits over the mandatory inclusion of newer tracks is usually something met with excitement and/or relief, here it was met with bemusement by the audience, given the album-of-the-year quality of Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags. The two tracks culled from said album, however, were given a hero’s welcome and slotted in like already established classics. "Goat Vomit Nightmare" and "The Nuckelavee" were but two highlights that punctuated the whirlwind that was the band's set. Move aside Vin Diesel, for this set was the real fast and furious...*ahem*, well the band's speed metal was met with flailing limbs and a sea of windmilling hair, as the band tore through the likes of "Hells Rock 'N' Roll" and "Vampire's Grave".

A man of few words, but plenty of riffs

With McBain again showing he was a man of few words (beyond a brief moment thanking someone in the front row for bringing their own goat mask), Hellripper showed their personality through flurries of notes and barked vocals. The band were beneficiaries of a strong and powerful mix, giving them the sonic equivalent of sounding like a studio album in a live environment, with each note clearly audible and blasted out of the speakers at nigh-on full volume.

Alas, while the band's insistence on keeping their foot firmly on the accelerator kept the energy up, it did slowly desensitise you to their speed metal attack towards the end of the band's set. Though "The Affair Of The Poisons" offered a glimpse of how the group could switch things up to prevent this, it was too little too late to hit with the same impact once you were somewhat numbed to their persistent power.

Having roared through their set at light speed, it felt like the band were finishing up all too soon with "Headless Angels". Alas, all good things must come to an end, though it did offer a respite to catch some breath after what was an energetic performance.

Hellripper setlist:

01. Spectres Of The Blood Moon Sabbath
02. Hells Rock 'N' Roll
03. Demdike (In League With The Devil)
04. Goat Vomit Nightmare
05. Bastard Of Hades
06. The Nuckelavee
07. From Hell
08. The Affair Of The Poisons
09. Vampire’s Grave
10. All Hail The Goat
11. Headless Angels

Warbringer 21:30- 22:45

The black hand reaches out

How Warbringer were going to top that boggled the mind, yet, if there was a band capable of rising to a challenge, then Warbringer was it. With the crowd well warmed up and eager to restart the mosh pit after a short break, it was time for the headliner to take to the stage. Striding out to a raucous reception, the band defied the odds and managed to get the crowd in the palm of their hands, opening with three songs off their new(ish) album Weapons Of Tomorrow. Though it took 1-2 songs for the mix to hit the sweet spot, by their third, "Crushed Beneath The Tracks", Warbringer’s momentum saw the song seem prophetic, as the band's audio assault was in high gear. Such confidence in themselves saw "Living Weapon" played surprisingly early in the band's set, serving to underline the strength in depth they had amassed over the years.

Kevill would be a terrible sign language interpreter

With waves of stage divers hurling themselves into the crowd (at one point landing on top of each other, a pint clearly owed to the poor people who caught such an unexpected two for one deal), Warbringer managed to make the most of the limited space the stage afforded them. Kevill clearly has one move he loves, for he was nigh-on always doing one particular hand gesture throughout, though otherwise was on fine form and had the crowd responding well throughout.

The A string broke on the air guitar

While "Defiance Of Fate" was a palette cleanser and shook things up, it was the hard-hitting and infectious grooves of "Woe To The Vanquished", "Remain Violent" and "Living In A Whirlwind" that proved to be the highlights of the night. The opening trio of tracks slotted in well and highlighted Weapons of Tomorrow's strengths, rising above classification as ‘compulsory inclusion of new material’ and translating well from their studio incarnations to the live setting. It was odd to see Warbringer not take full advantage of the venue's curfew and play a few more tracks, with some glaring omissions in "Shattered Like Glass" and "Jackal" not getting an airing despite having time to spare.

Thrash metal done right

Warbringer setlist:

01. Firepower Kills
02. The Black Hand Reaches Out
03. Crushed Beneath The Tracks
04. Living Weapon
05. Woe To The Vanquished
06. Living In A Whirlwind
07. Descending Blade
08. Hunter-Seeker
09. Defiance Of Fate
10. Silhouettes
11. Remain Violent
12. Total War

While Hellripper ran them close, Warbringer proved to be the highlight of the night, putting on the kind of performance that should see them in larger venues than the ones they currently pack out. Tonight reminded me of why I like thrash metal so much: a high-energy and hard-hitting performance that let the music do the talking, where the energy of the music was matched by the audience.

Written on 03.05.2023 by Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.

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