The freezing winds outside The Forum were somewhat fitting as hordes of Vikings stood waiting for their leaders to sail onto the stage. Tonight was also Metal Hammer‘s annual ‘Defenders of the Faith’ tour, but all good things must come to an end and all the bands were certainly ending the tour in style. The fourth edition of ‘Defenders of the Faith’ certainly contains a diverse line up, with NWOBHM legends Hell opening, followed by rising metalcore stars Bleed from Within. After Bleed from Within were the pioneers of multiple genres, Britain’s own Carcass as well as the death metal titans Amon Amarth. For £20 this event was certainly worth the travel and almost getting stranded in London.
Opening up were Hell who were two weeks away from the release of their second album Curse and Chapter, and with the ‘Age of Nefarious’ logos on stands adorning the stage, an epic show was expected. Starting with new song ‘The Age of Nefarious’, Hell were certainly not letting the fact they were opening get to them. Some younger fans in the audience were confused as to what to make of Hell; after all, a man in corpse paint with a crown of thorns on his head was probably the last thing they were expecting. But by the time they played second track, ‘On Earth as It Is in Hell,’ the audience were pumping their fists and moshing. Frontman David Bower was once again a charismatic and likeable frontman despite the unholy appearance. His sense of humour shone throughout the set too: “we face some dark times, we face the coldest winter on record, longboats have been sighted in the Thames and a group of Northerners are on your stage.” The band concluded their “short sermon” with the inspirational song ‘The Quest’, as the mosh pit broke out for the final song of their set. Bower remarked “it’s been our pleasure London, we’ll see you soon.” Despite seeing them earlier on in the year at Bloodstock (where they had a longer set and better stage production), Hell were fantastic and if they were playing local, I would have happily seen them again.
Many fans of Hell were angry that Bleed from Within were playing above Hell and after that performance it is easy to see why. Many cited the reason as to get more people into the venue early. Frontman Scott Kennedy was even aware of this: “I don’t care if you hate or not, just have a good time,” remarked the Glaswegian frontman. Kennedy though was humble and was clearly grateful at the chance to play on these dates, while making the audience give a large cheer for all the other bands on the night. The band weren’t terrible, they were better than when they opened for Megadeth back in June. More people seemed to enjoy their set too which probably heightened my enjoyment too. The Scottish five-piece were enjoyable and fun but were easily the weakest band on the bill. They weren’t terrible but many better bands could have filled the slot. As highlighted in my previous review their overuse of strobe lighting was annoying, causing one attendee to walk out as it was too much for her. Bleed from Within had their moments though, ‘Colony’ was a good intro, slower song ‘It Lives in Me’ surprised a few people and ending track ‘Uprising’ caused the fans on the floor to go wild. There were certainly more mosh pits than in Hell’s set, but then again Hell aren’t exactly a mosh band. The wall of death during the appropriately named ‘Our Divide’ could be seen from standing too, so clearly the odds weren’t totally against them. Bleed from Within were the weakest band on the night, but it didn’t mean they were awful. It may have been predictable at parts, but I still enjoyed myself during the set, even if I was the only one in seating.
By the time the backdrop for the Surgical Steel album cover was up and intro track ‘1985’ was being blasted through the speakers, it was time to smell the Carcass! Having already seen them lay waste to Damnation as headliners, it was interesting for me to see Carcass in a supporting role this time. Launching into ‘Buried Dreams’ from Heartwork, the audience was already going ballistic as Jeff Walker snarled at his audience. Carcass were genuinely electrifying and there was never a dull moment, even during the earlier material I disliked I found myself playing the air guitar. Carcass’ morbid sense of humour was on show with images of genitals flashing on their screens during ‘Genital Grinder’ and sheep skulls on display during ‘Captive Bolt Pistol’, it certainly was a visual treat. Carcass were so precise in the execution of songs like ‘Carnal Forge’ and the epic set closer of ‘Heartwork’, it’s a surprise the Forum didn’t collapse from the chaos below. It’s just a shame Walker’s vocals were hindered by mirky sound that plagued parts of the set. But Carcass are back, if you get a chance to see them next year, I strongly recommend it.
As Amon Amarth’s Deceiver of the Gods backdrop was revealed the fans went mental, if this was the reaction to the backdrop, then only Odin knew what would happen when the band actually came on. Classic songs such as ‘Ace of Spades’, ‘Run to the Hills’, and ‘Paranoid’ blasted out the speakers before the band came on and the audience were clearly loving every minute as they waited for the Norsemen to arrive.
I had seen all the acts on the bill earlier this year at various times, but one band I had never seen before was Amon Amarth. I discovered them in 2011 when War of the Gods was released and Viking mythology was popular again due to the release of Marvel’s ‘Thor’ in cinemas. Two and a half years later, Amon Amarth was here and I was finally watching them. Walking out on stage to ‘Father of the Wolf’ from their epic latest album Deceiver of the Gods (reviewed here), the band had begun their assault. Johan Hegg looked like the happiest man alive in between savage vocal assaults. For one of the most intimidating frontmen alive, he was certainly grateful to be playing a sold out venue and for all the support the fans were giving. The fans were nothing short of amazing, singing along to the new material that had only been released a few months ago as well as going ballistic to all the classics such as ‘Death in Fire’ and ‘Runes to my Memory.’ The band has often been called a ‘Sing-along Death Metal band’ and with the entire audience yelling “We’re the Guardians!” to ‘Guardians of Asgaard’, it was obvious to see why they are associated with the tag. Ending with ‘Destroyer of the Universe’ and ‘War of the Gods’ from the album Surtur Rising, it was a miracle anyone was left alive. The band walked off as the stage went dark, a new backdrop was revealed illustrating a norse battle as the sound of Thunder dominated the air. Soon Johan Hegg walked onto the stage carrying Thor’s hammer. He lifted it high as the first notes ‘Twilight of the Thunder God’ crept out the speakers. Hegg gave his hammer to a roadie (who in a hilarious twist struggled to drag it off the stage) as he equipped his mic for the last time, letting the audience sing the chorus for him. “We have time for one more!” yelled Hegg as the riff to ‘In Pursuit of Vikings’ kicked in. The entire audience including the seating section started jumping in unison as the entire standing area became one large mosh pit. Hegg stopped the song to let the audience sing, making his trademark joke “it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the words it’s Death Metal!”. ‘In Pursuit of Vikings’ was definitely the largest Death Metal sing a long I’ve ever partaken in, and it was a perfect end to the night. Roll on Bloodstock!
Fan Footage from the Gig: