GIG REVIEW: METAL CHURCH, BLIKSEM & DISTILLATOR Live At Camden Underworld, London
On the evening of May 10th, I visited the Underworld in Camden once again, this time to see the classic American heavy/thrash metal band Metal Church, supported by Belgian thrashers Bliksem and Dutch thrash group Distillator. The gigs purpose was to promote Metal Church’s April 2016-released studio album ‘XI’, the eleventh full-length record of the band’s career.
The first band to perform on the night was none other than Distillator, hailing from the Netherlands. The thrash group received a substantial amount of attention in terms of crowd size considering they were the gigs opening act, and were generally enjoyable as they brought their own style of European metal to those in attendance. For me, however, the most surprising and pleasing moment of their set was their unexpected cover of Slayer’s 1983 track “Black Magic”, which brought a big smile to my face. In terms of original material that the band performed, the setlist consisted primarily of tracks from the band’s 2015 debut release ‘Revolutionary Cells’.
Following Distillator’s performance was Bliksem. While a band fronted by a woman is, by no means, a problem or even a surprise in metal due to big names such as Within Temptation, Arch Enemy and others, the clean vocals over fast and aggressive thrash metal instrumentation was admittedly quite different and interesting as well. The most significant moment of their set was one song which contained significantly more doomy musical elements, borrowing much from early Black Sabbath, as supposed to traditional thrash which typically utilises many of the qualities we all know and love. As for their setlist, the band performed a variety of material from their two full-length albums, ‘Face the Evil’ and ‘Gruesome Masterpiece’.
The final band to perform was, of course, headliners Metal Church, a band well-known in more experienced thrash circles as one of the key groups from the American metal era of the early 1980s which did not make it as big as some of their contemporaries like Megadeth and Slayer. This, however, did not matter as the performance room in the Underworld was packed to witness the performance, which contained various songs from their newest record ‘XI’ as well as plenty of tracks from older records in order to keep the faithful satisfied. Like the two bands that played before them, the crowd’s physical activity for Metal Church was quite minimal, but some movement did happen throughout the first few songs. Like Exodus’ Steve Souza, the band’s frontman Mike Howe is one of those instantly-likeable on-stage characters that automatically wins you over with his visible charisma and excitement while he’s performing.
In conclusion, the Metal Church gig at the Underworld was a very enjoyable night out consisting of both old and new bands coming together to celebrate the glory of, in my opinion, one of the most relevant genres to this day in metal: thrash. Metal Church’s new album ‘XI’ is out now, do yourself a favour and pick it up.