Nachtmystium

support The Psyke Project + Pombagira
author EW date 27/03/10 venue Bar Academy, London, UK

Quietly announced and promoted was the European tour of American psychedelic black metallers Nachtmystium, a feeling I gathered from having to turn up at the Bar Academy in London, directly above the more prestigious Islington Academy proper and thus a venue reserved for those 'yet to make it'. I would argue Nachtmystium deserve better than that, after all, I did award "Assassins: Black Meddle Part I" my coveted album of the year in 2008, but perhaps the intimate setting would be for the best. It usually is. Firstly though we had a couple of support bands to get through before I could see if my live experiences with Nachtmystium match up to those on record.

Pombagira

London doom crew Pombagira opened things up with their tectonic, crusty take on the classic doom template, based only on the guitars of Pete and drums of Carolyn. Yes, this is a doom metal band without a bassist; you can thus imagine the amount of low-end draining out of Pete's suffering rig. Despite the Bar Academy's stage being a small one, a two-piece still struggles to fill it and though Pete's movements and general frontman efforts are welcomed it doesn't stop the feeling that I've seen this band much better before (not coincidentally when they had a bassist in the ranks). With a most recent album of just two songs measuring in at 52 minutes, Pombagira's music is not designed for support slot status, but drone on they do until Pete's guitar sound vanishes, not returning until after a couple of awkward and quiet minutes fiddling with various amp and guitar settings. I sense potential in the recorded output of Pombagira as well as from prior live experiences that this local band and their Electric Wizard inspired doomy filth could make underground waves; tonight's showing unfortunately aired none of that.

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The Psyke Project

Certain other members of this fair establishment have been raving about their Danish brothers in The Psyke Project as a great band in the making, and this show represented my first live opportunity to assess if I agree with such sentiments. In comparison to what had just come before TPP were instantly a move lively and energetic bunch, showing the confidence of a band who will give it their all regardless of audience size or interaction largely thanks to the boundless energy of frontman Martin Nielskov. Not being content to let their frontman take all the limelight, however, TPP's other standing members showed equally admirable enthusiasm, flinging themselves around on the small stage in time to the crushingly heavy onslaught of riffs in songs like "Stockholm Bloodbath", providing a strong visual engagement for those in attendance.

Nachtmystium have already demonstrated their disregard for which kind of bands 'should' support them on tour and so in theory the choice of TPP should be neither surprising nor misplaced, yet however as their set dragged on I did feel that they may not be extracting as much as their dedication warranted from a typically stubborn and hard-to-please black metal crowd. To someone like myself not overly acquainted with last year's "Dead Storm" LP the songs quickly began to sound similar in tone and structure, where too initially Nielskov's exhortations sounded deeply impassioned, they soon reached a glass ceiling in my mind beyond which I could not accept much more. This feeling seemed to spread throughout the audience, where movement was minimal against that on the little stage, as I find myself left with the abiding memory of The Psyke Project's stagecraft rather than any particular connection with the music. However with a billing and audience more fitting to their sound I am quite sure these feelings could have been a whole lot more positive.

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Nachtmystium

Missed gigs and festival cancellations had so far deprived me of a chance to see Nachtmystium live but having heard good things about their recent Kingston performance my anticipation was high. Opening with the title track off 2008's album, a truly brilliant song, was a good way to open a set which ended up being greatly more involving that my knowledge of their material led me to believe was possible. The transformation from stereotypical grim black metallers early in their career to today's psychedelia/classic rock-tinged BM is an ongoing one on record, but the dropping of the corpsepaint, and the ego that goes with it, has allowed Nachtmystium to exude a stronger personal element in their live music, with Blake Judd taking the mantle of a confident frontman in a style rarely seen in more contemporary circles and producing a better live performance as the result.

The production of a live show of commendable quality in a small setting like this is testament to the pedigree of Nachtmystium's most recent material and the sense involved in seeing a band taking the chance to walk the path lesser trodden. Lacking the theatrics of either the grim black metal or the big rock stars kind Nachtmystium still at least provided value for money for the small crowd in attendance, never exuding the air of a band who feel they should be playing somewhere bigger and better and sending those in attendance off in to the cold spring air content with their evening's entertainment.

Photos taken by my good mate Karl.

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