Candlefest

support Anaal Nathrakh + Altar of Plagues + Winterfylleth + The Rotted + October File
author EW date 12/11/11 venue Underworld, London, UK

In an age where competition for attention is fierce amongst all players of the music industry it is a wonder I can not recall having seen this before: a showcase of a label's artists all under one roof. This clever event was the creation of the London-based Candlelight Records, piecing together 8 British bands on a Saturday afternoon in the capital's home of the underground, the Underworld.

October File

Unfortunately prior commitments meant I could not make the early bands - Falloch, Eastern Front and Xerath - and so my event kicked off with the modern hybrid sound of October File. Mixing elements of punk and industrial, and apparently coming with the blessing of Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman, I was not entirely sure what to expect from an act with whom my only prior awareness was the artistic cover to their last album, "Our Souls To You". All expectations aside, OF went on to showcase a performance of damning mediocrity, consisting of a sound and overall artistic persona entirely unremarkable at the time, and which only appeared amateur and soft in comparison to what was to come. Tracks like "Falter" and "Isolation", which are essentially reasonable sounding romps around a simple riffing structures, have turned out to be just as one-paced when listened to with home comforts, solidifying the sense that however genial and pleasant October File seemed to be in a still sparse venue, there is a serious lack of bite in their music to suggest they will go too much further.

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The Rotted

While October File showed how a lack of artistic identity and being too nice are not conducive to great extreme metal shows, The Rotted immediately set out to portray the complete opposite. Having taken over from the Gorerotted name, these Londoners have always epitomised a wilful disregards for political correctness, posturing and the safety of one's eardrums, and in 40 short minutes showed just how. Mixing songs up from new album "Ad Nauseam" and The Rotted debut "Get Dead or Die Trying", I personally felt the band have hit a spot where the furious blasting and feverish growls have become more than merely that, a critique I held for years against the original incarnation of the band. Historically it had always seemed extremity was the first, and last, consideration in a Gorerotted song, but with greater experience "Anarchy in the UK", "Surrounded by Skulls, "Nothin' But A Nosebleed" bristle with strength and brutality, which combined with the physical intensity and camaraderie of frontman Ben McCrow mark The Rotted out as an impressive live band, especially for one whose recorded output has never matched their undoubted desire.

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Winterfylleth

Having earlier criticised the absence of image or collectivism about October File I am now going to dispute my own argument in order to make exception for Manchester residents Winterfylleth, whose Anglo-Saxon-inspired black metal could hardly be more at odds with the appearance of the four 'normal' blokes who come to stand infront of you and perform it. With the strength of 2010's "The Mercian Sphere" behind them, how Winterfylleth appear only serves to underline the easy brilliance of their proud, heraldic and victorious English brand of black metal which simply gets better with every subsequent exposure. Their's is no twee attempt at heathenism/paganism created by an over-exuberant keyboard player with zero authenticity (examples abound everywhere within the scene), but one of genuine passion and intelligence both in the construction of interesting riffing structures and lyrical themes. As comes with this level of honesty the result is barely short of sensational; opener "Gateway to the Dark Peak / The Solitary One Waits for Grace" in particular containing everything that makes, in my opinion, Winterfylleth one of Britain's very best metal bands at present - varying speeds, melody, atmosphere and majestic vocal lines. The only bad thing about opening with this track is the difficulty in following it up; the good thing is that Winterfylleth seemed to do it with ease.

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Altar of Plagues

Following that up was no easy task but one sensed Ireland's Altar of Plagues were going to provide a stern challenge to it. Having been mightily impressed with 2009's "White Tomb" and almost equally so with this year's "Mammal" I was query how these lengthy, challenging tracks would be portrayed in the live environment. To do so, AoP played heavily on the strong ritualistic element of the music by injecting what I'm going to declare as genuine acts of ritual/worship on stage, involving a great deal of reflective posturing, tribal percussion and an all-round sense of foreboding I've rarely witnessed outside of a Wolves in the Throne Room performance.

Unlike the previous three acts, AoP suffered through a muddy sound rendering distinction of their sweeping, classical riffs difficult to determine, but in the end it was less about this and more of what live rendition of this material clearly means to the band; the fact the audience quietly respected without interruption only enhanced the sense of theatre being combined with music on stage. Not as conventionally as Winterfylleth were, Altar of Plagues were nonetheless a very interesting experience and one which blessed with a more audible sound could reveal itself to be a total revelation to anyone lucky enough to experience it.

Anaal Nathrakh

So after a few stellar performances leading up to the night's headliners, Brummie black/death miscreants Anaal Nathrakh were tasked with polishing off the night's entertainment with their psychotic amalgamation of extreme metal, which it turns out almost did not happen at all. After a typically brisk and vicious opening combo of songs, lead vocalist Dave 'V.I.T.R.I.O.L.' Hunt took some time out to explain why other AN member (to the unitiated this is a 2-man studio project who occasionally play shows) Mick 'Irrumator' Kenney was absent from the line-up (US immigration issues where he now resides). To say Hunt was pissed off about the situation would be an understatement, with confirmation that he was very close to calling off his band's performance but for the sake of the fans and organisers a testament to that.

Anyway, with a fill-in guitarist recruited at the 11th hour and a suitably whetted audience to please, Hunt & co poured their invective regarding Kenney's absence into a round of such chaos all subtleties (notable in the vocal department) were disparaged in favour of all-out war. Though the band mixed tracks from across their 6-album discography it was "Satanarchist" and never-before-played "Lama Sabachthani" which elicited the strongest reactions, including countless numbers of stagedivers at the request of Dave Hunt himself to rarely leave at any point just the 5 live members of AN onstage.

Perhaps as a result of Kenney's absence this seemed an especially brutal Anaal show, aided in part by an indistinct sound robbing us of the epic elements ingrained in much of the band's work, which ended a successful night on a high. Good job Candlelight.

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All photos taken by Adrian Purser.

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