Gig review: ONSLAUGHT – O2 Islington Academy, London, 20 July 2014

Support Act: Artillery, Nightlord, One Machine
Review and photos by Yiannis (John) Stefanis

July is not the best of months to arrange a gig in London. This is the time of the year when most people are either counting their last few pennies with upcoming summer festivals in mind or are already on a beach somewhere, saving up on warm weather and sunshine for the rest of the year.

What did, however, guarantee a decent flow of people to the O2 Islington Academy on the later afternoon of the 20th of July was the knowledge that UK Thrash Metal titans Onslaught were recording their show for the purpose of releasing a DVD later this year and also the fact that the main support band were none other than the legendary Danish outfit Artillery – a band whose latest album “Legions” has received a very warm reaction from audiences around the world.

My original intention was to conduct interviews with members of Artillery & Onslaught in a fast and efficient manner and then make it to the venue in time to watch all opening acts of the show but as everyone who’s involved in the music business will attest to, it is very rarely that things are going according to plan.

Having enjoyed a chat with Artillery’s frontman Michael Bastholm Dahl, I tried in vain to do the same with Onslaught’s mainman Nige Rockett and by the time I gave up on the idea and headed towards the venue Steve Smyth’s (ex-Testament, ex-Nevermore) latest musical project were already in full swing.

Featuring members of Mercenary, Biomechanical and Mnemic, bands whose musical pedigree is far from “classic” Thrash, One Machine may not have managed to create the massive reaction that perhaps the organizers were hoping for when booking them as direct replacements for Steve Souza’s Hatriot – still, there was enough quality and passion in the performance to perhaps convince some of the crowd to attend their support slot for The Agonist at the Underworld on the 10th of August.

First formed in Hanworth/London back in 1990, Nightlord are a US-sounding guitar-driven Speed/Thrash Metal quartet who never quite managed to make it to the higher echelons of the UK thrash scene in time to survive the onslaught brought by Grunge at the beginning of the decade.

With 1990s “Approaching Thunder” being the band’s only studio album to date, Nightlord’s performance was bound to have a certain old-school vibe, but the moderate crowd that have gathered to watch the band’s performance did not seem to mind at all, banging away to the solid riffs generated by the guitar duet of James McKenzie/Ferenc Collins.

Though a massive Onslaught fan, I admit feeling a tad more excited about the prospect of watching Artillery, as they are one of those much cherished underground bands that I grew up listening to and which I had somehow convinced myself that I would never manage to see live.

Artillery, O2 Islington Academy, London, 20 July 2014

Having really enjoyed last year’s “Legions” album, I was well aware of what an important addition Michael Bastholm Dahl has been for this band – still, it is really only on stage that he gets to prove his worth. Well, I am happy to report that the young frontman passed this very important test with top marks!

Even the most hard core of Flemming Rönsdorf’s fans could not deny Dahl’s ability to give justice to classic material such as “Khomaniac” and “By Inheritance”, employing his full and very impressive vocal range in the process.

Artillery, O2 Islington Academy, London, 20 July 2014

Looking quite comfortable when positioned between bassist Peter Thorslund and axeman Michael Stützer, the young vocalist was in constant rapport with them while, at the same time, managing to squeeze every ounce of energy out of the audience – an audience that seemed to enjoy new material like “Chill My Bones (Burn My Flesh)” almost as much as the all time classic “The Almighty”, a song which concluded the band’s short but thoroughly enjoyable show in truly glorious fashion. To any gig organizer reading this review: can you please bring these noisy Danes back to London, pronto?

We all knew well in advance that the show would be quite a special affair but when the members of Onslaught first hit the stage at approximately nine thirty on the night, we were all immediately taken aback by the quality of the sound and light systems employed for this occasion.

Onslaught, O2 Islington Academy, London, 20 July 2014

Kicking off with the riff laden “The Sound Of Violence”, the Bristol combo showed signs of sheer professionalism in the way they approached the show – such that it did not undermine the energy and passion of their performance.  I am not quite sure who was that young chap who was filling in for guitarist Andy Rosser-Davies but his contributions on songs like “Killing Peace” and the classic “Let There Be Death” were quite impressive indeed.

Onslaught, O2 Islington Academy, London, 20 July 2014

Sy Keeler is without doubt one of the most gifted front men ever to come from the UK Trash Metal scene – as demonstrated through his amazing vocal performances in both “Children Of The Sand” and “Destroyer Of Worlds”. Half way through the show, the crowd was already well involved in the proceedings but by the time the first few notes of “66 Fucking 6” were performed, the noise levels inside the venue had increased dramatically.

Onslaught, O2 Islington Academy, London, 20 July 2014

Everyone who’s aware of the band’s history would have been much surprised by the incorporation of “In Search Of Sanity” to the show’s set list, however, Sy did a very decent job singing along to material he had had no part in creating, while the band’s main set was concluded with two much loved classics in the shape of “Fight With The Beast” and “Metal Forces”.

The band’s exist from the stage was short due to a strict eleven o’clock curfew and their return was marked by a sterling performance of “Onslaught (Power From Hell)” and the short but devastatingly aggressive “Thermonuclear Devastation” which brought goosebumps to my body.

Onslaught, O2 Islington Academy, London, 20 July 2014

Three days following the show, I still get flashback images of what I experienced at the O2 Islington Academy on the evening of the 20th of July and that, my friends, is the clearest of indication that the show I attended was pretty special indeed.

Thrash Metal may not be the most popular of genres at the moment, but the decent number of people that gathered in central London on a Sunday night to watch two classic old-school bands ‘thrashing it out’ prove without any doubt that, as long as there are bands willing to create good quality music, there will always be enough people to follow and support them in their difficult quest.

Onslaught’s DVD is scheduled for the end of the year – till then, I have quite a few vivid memories to keep me company. Thrash ‘till death!

Artillery Set List:

  1. “Chill My Bones (Burn My Flesh)”
  2. “God Feather”
  3. “Legions”
  4. “When Death Comes”
  5. “By Inheritance”
  6. “The Challenge”
  7. “Khomaniac”
  8. “Terror Squad”
  9. “The Almighty”

Onslaught Set List:

  1. “Intro (Siren)”
  2. “The Sound Of Violence”
  3. “Killing Peace”
  4. “Chaos Is King”
  5. “Let There Be Death”
  6. “Children Of The Sand”
  7. “Rest In Pieces”
  8. “Destroyer Of Worlds”
  9. “66 Fu*king 6”
  10. “In Search Of Sanity”
  11. “Fight With The Beast”
  12. “Metal Forces”

Encore

13. “Onslaught (Power From Hell)”
14. “Thermonuclear Devastation”


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Power Plays w/c 16 September (Mon-Fri)

BLOCK BUSTER Losing Gravity (Frontiers)
WATCH ME BREATHE Don’t Think I Haven’t Thought About It (The Label Group/INGrooves)
FIRES OF FREYA Take A Bow (indie)
BLACK STAR RIDERS Underneath The Afterglow (Nuclear Blast)
STOMPIN’ HEAT Shiny Curly Red Hair (indie)

Featured Albums w/c 16 September (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 THE DEFIANTS Zokusho (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 CORELEONI II (AFM Records)
14:00-16:00 TONY McLOUGHLIN True Native (Fuego)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

BAD COMPANY Company Of Strangers (1995)



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