Fri 21st September 2007
Support from Battered, Centurion's Ghost
Centurion's Ghost are evolving steadily into a fine British metal band. Tonight is the fourth time I've seen them and even though I'm stood nearer to the bar than the stage their live prowess is all too apparent. The less memorable songs in their set have gradually been trimmed away over the last few months and what is left are strong, riff filled songs with plenty of groove that proudly proclaim themselves as heavy metal. While I'm not normally one for screaming vocals, they counterbalance the thickness of the guitars very well indeed and the whole sound of the band is powerful, heavy and with a purpse. The songs I know by ear if not by title with one or two exceptions, notably the brilliantly monickered 'Bedbound in the House of Doom' which closes the set on a high. It's always pleasing to see authentic, crafted homegrown metal bands in prestigious support slots such as this....
....even if they are unfortunately last on the bill, under the headliners and Battered, who are on next. I've never heard of this band before but being fellow Scandinavians perhaps it's not so surprising to find them supporting Sweden's greatest export since the welfare state. Apparently they were once a Viking metal band but with the adopted American accent and spiky hair of the lead singer you couldn't tell now. Their music... well to be honest I spent half the set chatting to friends. There were some good thrashy parts in it but also some rather dodgy nu metal riffs and pretty much no one in the venue knew their songs. The attempt to start a crowd chant at the end wasn't a very good idea either.
The last time Candlemass came to these shores I had to miss them due to not being anywhere near where they were playing and a lack of money. I make my way to the front of the crowd, wondering what I'll get. While I do own and enjoy about four or so Candlemass albums, it's not often that they actually get played. Odd, considering that the Sabbath influence in their work is very obvious - I should be religiously listening to this band. Perhaps it's the vibe of the records, or maybe they need more time to sink in. I have a feeling, though, having watched most of one of their live DVDs, that the music really comes into its own live.
This feeling is proved in the best possible way when the band march onstage and launch into 'The Well of Souls.' The sound in the venue is fine to these ears and helps give an extra punch to the live performance. Which is nothing short of glorious. The most noticeable feature is Rob Lowe of Solitude Aeternus handling vocals, having replaced the former arguable figurehead of the band, Messiah Marcolin. Put simply, he sings and interacts with the band like he's been in them for all of their twenty or so years of existence. "Messiah who?" is all I can think of when 'Well of Souls' segues into a magnificent version of 'At the Gallows End". Lowe hits the high notes with ease and given the previous animosity between Messiah and the rest of the band it's really good to this reviewer to see the obvious friendship between the members tonight and the chemistry onstage. Lowe is great, but then so are the rest of the band - leader and bassist Leif Edling is obviously enjoying himself a lot as he walks the stage underpinning the thick, lovely, heavy guitars that pour riff after riff out of the speakers, as well as an excellent solo in pretty much every song.
The only complaint I have about Candlemass's set tonight is that it's a bit too short due to the venue curfew but what it lacks for in length it makes up for in quality. Several songs from the new album 'King of the Grey Islands' are aired tonight and for me and I wouldn't mind betting most of the crowd the best of the bunch is 'Of Stars and Smoke' with its grandiose and incredibly catchy chorus, a classic song that is right up there with the band's best work.
Stripped of their recorded vibe and delivered through raw live power, the classics are revealed for what they are - brilliant doom metal songs with hooks and aura by the bucketload. 'Solitude' gets a rapturous reaction from the crowd, but for me the gem arrives with 'Mirror Mirror' and 'Under The Oak' back to back which is the reason for my sore neck as I'm sitting typing this. The crowd goes truly wild though, for main set closer 'A Sorcerer's Pledge' which inspires ten minutes of frenzy all around.
It's clear from the massed shouts of the band's name through the venue and the instruments left behind on stage that an encore is due and we get one in a rousing 'Black Dwarf' and then rolling back the years for 'Samarithan' which completely overshadows the (already incredible) album version and gets the whole crowd singing along. This type of music when done well washes over you and that's exactly what happens here, an absolutely fantastic example of the life affirming power only great heavy metal can bring. After a long, dull day at work this is such a good way to let go.
As the lights come back on, I think the ticket price was truly money well spent and would love to see Candlemass again, especially with someone as good as Rob Lowe on vocals, arguably the revelation of the night for me (along with getting a chance to watch Leif Edling's bass playing up close). Sometimes you have to see a band live to really 'get' them and start appreciating the music fully, and it certainly happened tonight.
Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to listen to Nightfall again.