Heavy Christmas: A metal weekend in Glasgow

Anaal Nathrakh w Exile The Traitor, Scordatura

The best of British metal? There’s certainly a case that Brummie bruisers Anaal Nathrakh fit that bill. Riding high on stunning seventh studio album Vanitas, they’ve returned to the UK to level the place. Picking a different, local support for each date there’s an unpredictable lack of continuity to this UK run, but holing up in the bunker-like first floor of Glasgow’s Classic Grand (an ex-porno fleapit) there’s no question we’re set for an evening of crushing chaos.
Kicking things off tonight are Glasgow-based melodic death metal outfit Exile the Traitor.

It’s a competent performance, more than a little inspired by classic melodeath bands like At the Gates and latter-day Carcass, but inspires little more than some appreciative headbanging from the more enthusiastic corners of the crowd. Fellow Glaswegians Scordatura receive a somewhat warmer reception. Much closer to the brutal end of the death metal spectrum, they incite a decent mosh-pit among the younger, perhaps over-eager audience members. Still, it is clear that most of the attendees are here for one band and one band only.

Anaal Nathrakh immediately shatter the wall of tense anticipation with an avalanche of blackened grind and audience chaos. The previous bands might’ve done little more than whet the crowd’s already ravenous appetite, but the instant the headliners unleash an opening salvo of sonic devastation, it’s utter chaos. It’s as though the force of Nathrakh’s music is capable of actual, physical bludgeon, the impact causing an instant devolution to a more primal state of mind as bodies are hurled around and huge beasts of men swing from the low-hanging rafters like mindless apes.

Not exactly an inexperienced frontman, even ex-Mistress and Benediction vocalist Dave Hunt (a.k.a. V.I.T.R.I.O.L.). seems taken aback at the sheer carnage unfolding in front of his barrier-less stage, yet this only serves to spur the band on to play faster and harder; band and crowd feeding off of each other’s energy in a vicious feedback loop of metal mayhem.

You’d expect a lesser band not to be able to maintain this momentum through the entire set, but Nathrakh are a band whose approach to dynamics is to throw in as many different kinds of heavy as possible rather than let up the intensity for even a moment and the crowd are only too eager to keep up with the relentless aural battering. Sweeping climax ‘Forging Towards The Sunset’ caps an utterly devastating show, leaving the crowd physically destroyed, aurally annihilated and praying this sets a precedent for this somewhat stage-shy band. Better rebuild and recover quickly; their return can’t come soon enough.

Deströyer 666 w Bonesaw
Deströyer 666 might come from the other side of the world, but their grip on the heavy metal touchstones is anything but upside-down. Inhabiting the thrashier end of the extreme metal spectrum the antipodean expats – now based in London – are taking a two-date excursion to the UK’s grim north. Prediction: old-school, beer-soaked bedlam.

Local boys Bonesaw prop-up the main support slot at Ivory Blacks tonight, serving up a fittingly old-school blend of death metal. All chainsaw guitars, guttural vocals and gore-splattered lyrics, it’s an entertaining and well-executed homage to the early 90s sound. Sadly they fail to win over more than a few punters, who are clearly here for something altogether more” grim and frostbitten”.

They’re not words you’d normally associates with Australia, yet despite the meteorological differences, deviants from down under Deströyer 666’s back catalogue could easily have originated in the bleakest of Scandinavian forests rather than sunny Victoria.

Not messing around with any grand theatrical entrance or foreboding keyboard intro tapes, the band launch straight from a quick-tune up into a storming rendition of Rise of the Predator, instantly grabbing the punters’ attention away from their pints and towards the blasphemous cacophony unfurling on stage.

The sound is superbly engineered for such a small venue. It’s rawer than the note-perfect crispness you’d get from a band that trade on technicality, but the individual instruments aren’t fighting over each other in an incomprehensible blur of sound. Thundering drums and blistering rhythm guitars provide a perfect sonic backdrop to icy lead guitars, demonic shrieks and bestial grunts.

The unholy audio assault soon has the crowd whipped into a frenzy of break-neck headbanging and a bruising, beer-spilling moshpit has the tiny dance floor enveloped.

The band work through a set that spans most of their career, though a heavy focus on their debut full-length Unchain the Wolves and classic album Cold Steel… for an Iron Age lends a welcome thematic coherence.

It’s a devastating performance. So much so, the band’s initial departure from the stage leaves the assembled horde baying for blood. Their volume works, quickly summoning the band back for a three-song encore with redoubled ferocity. The fans respond in kind and before long the bodies are flying over the barrier. Hardly a prolific band in the studio or on the road, when Destroyer do play they make sure to lay waste to all in their path. Tonight’s no exception.

Written by John Barrett and Sam Law