Primordial Wields Lightning At The Islington Assembly Hall
Band Photo: Primordial (?)
The Islington Assembly Hall in North London is quite an interesting little place. Standing for almost a hundred years, the venue has hosted everything from community meetings to dances to tea parties and now hosts a number of live shows throughout the year. Amusingly for a venue with such innocent events taking place in its history and with the motto “Deus per Omnia” above the stage, it’s become a great place to witness black metal, having hosted such bands as Rotting Christ, 1349 and Moonspell. This past Sunday, another of black/pagan metal’s most beloved bands took to the stage, as Primordial brought their “Heathen Crusade” tour back to the English capital, four years on from their last visit.
Opening the show was Luxembourgish dark folk band Rome, an outlet for musician Jérôme Reuter, which to date has released fourteen albums. While there’s very little to say with regards to stage presence, which features Jérôme along with a drummer (possibly Patrick Damiani) simply performing the songs, saying “thanks” now and then and moving on, there’s definitely something to their music. It should be made clear that Rome isn’t a metal band, they’re more in line with dark folk music, which served as a fine opener for the night’s lineup. An interesting listen, which provided enough intrigue to stave off the boredom many metal fans can feel when confronted with something they can’t headbang to.
Following Rome was Finnish stalwarts, Swallow The Sun. The Jyväskylä sextet are promoting their latest release, “Moonflowers” and there was plenty from the new album on display, including the latest single, “This House Has No Home.” The record was also represented by opening number, “Enemy,” which while good, did feel a bit awkward to begin with as the band all stood still on stage waiting for the intro to finish. Nevertheless, there was a strong showing from STS fans in London, who all seemed absolutely delighted by the performance, which was brooding, gloomy and if such a thing can exist, enjoyably depressing. There was of course more vintage material to digest, including the title track from “New Moon,” as well as “Falling World” from the same album. Add to that “Descending Winters” and finale, “Swallow (Horror Pt. 1)” and what you have is a setlist designed to please fans old and new. A very worthy replacement for Naglfar and a memorable live act.
When it comes to black metal and its frontmen, I love Ashmedi, I love Sakis Tolis, I love Tom Warrior, but Alan Averill, AKA Nemtheanga, is head and shoulders above everyone else. Primordial has been Ireland’s metal ambassadors for a long time now and the charismatic figure at the helm understands the music, aesthetic and the fandom perfectly. Much like Swallow The Sun, Primordial presented a healthy mix of more recent material, such as “Where Greater Men Have Fallen,” “Nail Their Tongues” and the superb “To Hell Or The Hangman.”
After two fairly stoic frontmen, it was refreshing to see Averill engage with the crowd so much, delivering everything from monologues to a very welcome “Shut the fuck up” to someone who felt like shouting over him as much as possible. Of course, it wasn’t just Averill who shone bright, as the whole band performed with a fluid chemistry, with particular praise earned for the live guitarist (whose name I couldn’t find,) who filled in for Ciáran MacUiliam after he was unable to make the tour. Naturally, there was no shortage of classics, coming in the forms of “As Rome Burns,” “Gods To The Godless” and “Sons Of The Morrigan,” before closing out the night by dedicating “The Coffin Ships” to the people of Ukraine and then the standard closer, “Empire Falls.” The tour was being semi humourously promoted with that message that it could be the last before Doomsday and if indeed it is, no one can deny, in this world or the next, that Primordial went out on top of their game.
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.