It’s encouraging to see the Islington Academy so completely and utterly sold out for a metal bill of this calibre, and it’s entirely appropriate that Reading-based upstarts Malefice get the party started not with a bang, but with a sickening crunch.
Leviathan riffs rain down into the crowd like sonic boulders, whipping the pit into a maelstrom even at this early hour; and the overall impression is that the owners of the Barfly chain (where Malefice are touring in January) should take out some hefty insurance on their venues before the New Year.
According to their t-shirts, God Forbid are ‘metal’s best kept secret’; and whilst few here tonight would dispute that claim, it’s baffling as to how they remain relatively unknown, especially in the light of tonight’s ferocious performance. Man-mountain frontman Byron Davis commands the stage like a deranged, dreadlocked heavy metal preacher, exhorting the crowd to greater efforts; and the mayhem that greets the likes of ‘Better Days‘ and the Dimebag Darrell-inspired ‘To The Fallen Hero‘ speaks for itself. Be warned, these underdogs have sharp teeth, and they’re still hungry.
After their semi-legendary performance at this year’s Download festival and the release of a storming third album ‘The Last Kind Words‘, this UK tour seems more like a lap of honour for Devildriver. Except that they’re not ready to rest on their laurels quite yet; with opener ‘End Of The Line‘ proving a suitably brutal start to an hour-long lesson in how to pulverize the sense. There’s no tiresome grandstanding from Dez Fafara and co, no unnecessary between-song banter; just one prime quality blast of melodic death metal after another, and no shortage of energy or conviction on display.
Granted, the Academy’s acoustics could be better, but the venue does at least lend itself well to the set’s climax; a reprise of the mammoth Download circle pit for ‘Meet The Wretched‘. It’s an excellent finale from a band that started life as a mere side-project, but who are now sounding more than ever like genuine heavy metal contenders.