All photos by Gemma Shaw
It’s the second year that Incineration Fest took place in London. The first time around, the lineup was really impressive, with Anaal Nathrakh, Taake, Aeternus and Nargaroth being some of the bands that played the festival. This time, though, it seemed like it was going to be even more exciting, with acts such as Alcest, God Seed and Unleashed among the top names, and with a staggering thirty bands in total playing across three stages (Electric Ballroom, Underworld and The Black Heart) in Camden Town.
The first stop was Electric Ballroom, since the first band that was I really anticipating had to be Aura Noir. In the meantime, I was able to catch a glimpse of Woland, of whom I had not heard until that point. I stayed for their final two tracks, and they were an interesting black metal act on the melodic side of the genre, with a fair amount of groove and energy to their live performance.
Next up were the black/thrash titans, Aura Noir, who were completely unstoppable on stage. Apollyon, Blasphemer and Aggressor were absolutely tremendous in their presence, giving that old school thrash, proto-black metal vibe. The band made great choice of their set, unleashing hymns such as “Hell’s Fire” and “Black Metal Jaw” from The Merciless album, a couple of songs from Hades Rise including the title track and the rock ‘n roll mayhem of “The Stalker.” Still, what really sealed the show was when they played “Deep Tracts of Hell,” a performance that made you wonder whether the band was on speed or something of the sort, because it was completely unreal. Same goes for the manner in which the show ended, with a hellish recitation of “Conqueror” from Black Thrash Attack.
Next up at the Electric Ballroom were Finnish psychedelic black metal outfit Oranssi Pazuzu, and this was a show I just had to experience. I was already warned that they would give a completely psychedelic show and they delivered on that perfectly. The lights were insane, rendering the audience in a state of trance, while the band unleashed its alchemical self. Kicking things off with “Kaaos Hallitsee” from their second full-length Kosmonument, it really found the show transpiring to other, unconceivable dimensions with the song. The first new track from the band’s upcoming album (more on this later) was showcased as well, with the tribal-esque drums giving a very ritualistic vibe to the show before they would go back to Valonielu with “Olen Aukaissut Uuden Silman” for a more energetic offering. The show was continuous, with the band making sure that there was a constant flow between their songs; it really seemed as if there were no breaks in between tracks. Rounding things off with another new song, and a fucking epic one, they bade us farewell, leaving us deep within the acid trip that they had induced.
I had to run fast at that point to catch a glimpse of Prostitute Disfigurement over at the Underworld, whose gore death metal assault was heavy as shit and absolutely crushing. Another switch to the Black Heart in order to experience the dark ambient terror of From The Bogs of Aughiska. The performance was quite different and created a great contrast to the other acts that I had seen up to the point. Absolute darkness and minimalistic quality drove their set, as they told tales of banshees.
Back to the Electric Ballroom to see the final couple of songs from Norwegian melodic black/death outfit, Keep of Kalessin. Even though I prefer the earlier material from the band, back in the days of Through Times of War and Agnen: A Journey Through the Dark, they were very solid with their performance. The band was in a truly manic state, giving a great thundering enactment with the blasts flying in all directions, while “Ascendant” finished off their set in the most fitting way.
Once again running to the Underwold to see the first couple of songs from Endstille, whose black metal is as raw and angry as you can dare to imagine. The rage that the band was able to transmit was perfectly appropriate and their stage presence with the corpse paint and the insane banging was the strongest asset of their performance. But it felt like it was time to go and experience some oriental black metal over at the Electric Ballroom.
With a very mysterious vibe the stage is perfectly set for Melechesh, as the smoke rises. The band comes on stage dressed as nomads unleashing “Tempest Temper Enlil Enraged.” Hoods are then taken off and the performance continues to be staggering. The powerful presence of the band on stage is enough on its own to get you on this insane ride through the ruins of ancient civilizations and desert sceneries. They pay homage to their latest album once more with “Multiple Truths,” and then the band travels further back to the days of Sphynx with “Triangular Tattvic Fire” and finish their set with the most possibly suitable ending: “Rebirth of the Nemesis: Enuma Elish Rewritten,” rendering them as one of the strongest appearances of the festival.
After a short break that felt long due at that point, Shining come to the stage. The Swedish band led by Niklas Kvarforth kicks things off with material from VI – Klagopsalmer and its opening track, “Vilseledda Barnasjalars Hemvist.” The band looked great on stage and Kvarforth’s presence was as incredible as any of the times I have seen them playing, but after their second song, and since I had seen them live on multiple occasions, I thought it was time to go for a different shade of darkness.
Over at the Underworld, Tribulation were about to begin spreading their own disturbing ideas. With the band a condensed but still very solid set, they gave a strong dose of their poison. “Strange Gateways Beckon” throws you straight to the wolves with the band’s distressing appearance working wonders – especially Adam Zaars and Jonathan Hulten gave one of the creepiest, most horrific performances I have seen in a while, one looking like a ghoul returned from the grave, and the other with a vampiric quality, it was just mental trying to make sense of what was happening on stage. On top of all that, they had that rock ‘n’ roll vibe going for them, that fitted their appearance perfectly. Moments that stood out were the hellish performance of “The Motherhood of God” from their latest album, The Children of the Night, and the anthem that “When The Sky Is Black With Devils” is. Overall an insane act and I cannot wait to see what they can do when they play on their own in a venue and have a full set.
Impaled Nazarene were next to take the stage in the Underworld, whose uncompromising assault was everything that one could expect from the old school black metal terror force. But at that point I decided to have a quick go over to The Black Heart to see German doom/black outfit Essenz perform. Even though it was not that crowded, the band gave a great performance with the heavy riffs pummeling down on you and the steady pace of the band devouring all, especially as the effects were coming in at full force and the disturbing samples sucked the air out of the venue.
I did not have many expectations of what I would see from God Seed, which made what I saw even more impressive. And the place was fucking packed at that time, with band leaders and ex-Gorgoroth members, Gaahl and King ov Hell, on fire. These guys were just in a frenzy on stage, except from Gaahl, who was just on another domain. His presence on the stage was so commanding, full corpsepaint on (the only member of the band to indulge into the act) and no holding back. Songs from the debut album of God Seed, with “Alt Liv” especially standing out, as well as Gorgoroth classics sealing the deal in the best possible way.
I had a quick run to the Underworld to check out Necrophobic, whose cvlt status seems to be holding really well. The blackened death metal band had the throwback aura on and everything seemed to be clicking for them. Similarly, Alfahanne were also throwing that old school vibe straight to our faces with an impressive performance at The Black Heart. The manner in which black metal is matched with punk and heavy metal within their music created a cool vibe.
Back to the Electric Ballroom, where Alcest were getting ready to go and the stage seemed to be perfectly set. The feel was quite different, since most of the other bands at this day had a more extreme output, but the change was unquestionably worth it. The dreamlike lights set in and the shoegazing tendencies were engaged full on for what there was to follow. Basing their set around their first two albums, Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde and Ecailles de Lune, it was definitely good to see the band paying tribute to their former days. Great performance from them and their presence on the stage was exactly right and made you travel far away from this earthly domain.
That concluded the night for me, since then I had to travel to catch a plane to Athens, but more on that later. All in all, Incineration 2015 was definitely a good experience, with the bands really giving their all, and without any major let downs. It was a bit hectic at times trying to see as many acts as possible, and it might have been better as a two-day festival in the end, but it worked out great! Let’s see if they can surpass it for next year.