tue 25/06/2024

Kreator / Dimmu Borgir, Roundhouse review - explosive extreme metal extravaganza | reviews, news & interviews

Kreator / Dimmu Borgir, Roundhouse review - explosive extreme metal extravaganza

Kreator / Dimmu Borgir, Roundhouse review - explosive extreme metal extravaganza

A tour-concluding night of energised international thrash mayhem

Kreator (top) and Dimmu Borgir

It’s about to begin. The final performance on the final night – and only UK date – of the European Apocalypse package tour featuring four extreme metal bands. The 1,700 capacity Roundhouse is sold out. Touts outside are scrabbling for tickets. A curtain covers the stagefront. A procession of images flicker across it; ancient art, demons, gods and hellish conflict. Then the screen goes black.

In large white gothic letters, words in sequence: LONDON. PREPARE. TO. GET. DESTROYED. The curtain drops. The white-light silhouetted forms of German thrash juggernaut Kreator pounce in at a velocity unrelenting. “Enemy of God” is the song. The moshpit explodes. It has begun.

In truth, it started four hours earlier with Swedish death metallers Bloodbath. The two-man theartsdesk team, however, only arrived three-quarters of the way through a set by US punk metallers Hatebreed (pictured below), who looked to be having a great time with a spiky hardcore racket led by headbanded frontman Jamey Jasta. There’s a large contingent of European metal fans here tonight; Scandinavians, Austrians, Germans, a sea of black, of tee-shirts, and more women than many might imagine, often dressed in outré, burlesque-style Suicide Girls schtick. In this age of boring leisurewear, metallers are a tribe that still knows how to dress both up and down.hatebreed

Norway’s Dimmu Borgir are next up and are pure theatre. The sound of every other band tonight is based in raw guitar pummelling but theirs is built around bombastic orchestrated keyboard chorales. Frontman Shagrath holds court centre stage, wearing a garment that combines gold-hemmed wizard sleeves with a horror filmic monk’s cowl. Like his hooded comrades either side, flailing at their flying Vs, he has black’n’white corpse paint. He maintains his death metal gargle even when informing us that this concert is being filmed for a DVD.

Dimmu Borgir’s look is a fusion of baddies-from-Lord of the Rings and Mad Max, all distressed stitched leather, studs and tattoos. Totems of showbiz Satantism are also present, two shiny inverted crucifixes at the stage-front, a goat’s skull atop the drums. Their sound is rhythmically redolent of Russian folk dances, while the guitar shredding remains subservient to all-encompassing giant goth-pop synths. Highlights include “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse” for its anthemic explosiveness and galloping danceability, “Council of Wolves and Snakes” which begins with a solo drum at the stagefront and builds, and “Dimmu Borgir” which turns into a symphonic metal crowd sing-along.

Finally, then, Kreator (pictured below). Going for over 30 years, they’ve become cult heroes of thrash, achieving significant album sales across Europe only this century. Their last album in 2017, their 14th, was their most successful. They are, in other words, at a career peak, where many of their peers are living off past glories. Seeing them live, it’s easy to see and hear why. Led by German-Italian frontman Mille Petrozza, their hour-long show is utterly rampaging.kreator

Here are three Kreator album titles: Gods of Violence, Extreme Aggression, Endless Pain. Petrozza’s thematic obsessions have been honed over the decades, bolted to a sound of ferocious Teutonic steel. It’s a music of catharsis, like the moshpit it serves, where the ritual body-bombardment is enjoyably unhinged, painful, slightly dangerous, exhausting, and full of communal friendliness. There are plenty of women hurling themselves into the swirling melee beside the men. My back, my ribs, my sides, my everywhere takes a battering. My associate is swamped to the floor at least three times, only to be hauled up and, on one occasion, launched aloft, crowd-surfed over the front barriers. Every now and then jets of flame burst upwards from the stage, their heat adding a further infernal element to proceedings. It’s a truly invigorating mayhem.

Soundtracking it with unyielding fury, Kreator take no prisoners. They have a few heavy metal tricks up their sleeve; a giant devil prop with glowing red eyes appears behind them for “Satan Is Real”, and two masked demons introduce one song, but it’s Petrozza’s utter commitment to his insane-sounding visions that’s so compelling. He encourages “the massacre”, revving and revving the crowd with track after track (“Flag of Hate” is particularly fraught!), until they reach the final one-two punch of “Violent Revolution” followed by their outstandingly twisted and unrelenting “Pleasure to Kill”, a demolition derby of pure rage. By now my mind is melting and my body wrung out like a launderette-spun rag. Kreator take a deserved bow at the stage lip, and we drift towards tube trains. It’s been visceral. It’s been physical. Kreator rock hard!

Below: watch Kreator live in 2017 (full concert)

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters