Magna Carta Cartel has seen a surge in popularity recently as guitarist Martin Persner revealed that he was an ex-member of Ghost. Tonight’s sold out show in The Black Heart, London is their UK debut and anticipation was high.
Before they take the stage we have an opener in the form of True Moon. The band is heavily influenced by 70’s and 80’s era rock such as Joy Division, Sisters of Mercy and Killing Joke. They’re more than just a rip off though, their sound has a biting edge to it and they clearly managed to impress the audience tonight. Karolina Engdahl (vocals/bass) has one hell of a voice which gives the band that extra something to set them apart from their peers. While the time may have passed for anyone playing this style to make it big, fans of Goth Rock and Dark Wave are in for a treat.
When Magna Carta Cartel come on stage they waste no time setting the mood. Persner is a master of creating otherworldly, ethereal sounds with his guitar. Listening to the band is an experience, watching them live is transfixing. Songs off last years Demon King EP get the biggest response from the crowd and have me hungering for a new full length.
Much has been made of Persner’s previous stint with Ghost, with rumors that band leader Papa Emeritus (I’ll leave out his real name, though it’s something of an open secret nowadays) claim that he creates all the music may not be entirely true. There are some similarities between the two bands, the new version of “Turn” played tonight could be mistaken for a Ghost song and much of the guitar is easily identifiable as being the same player. It’s certainly not just more of the same though, the music takes more of a classic rock approach and puts atmosphere and melody above catchiness or heaviness. Whatever the truth is behind the scenes, it means we’ve got two bands playing great music and touring instead of one.
While the show was impressive there are a couple of niggles that detracted from the experience. The venues sound, which is normally good, was rather uneven and the vocals are almost inaudible for much of the show. Fia Kempe sang guest vocals on several songs and when audible she did an excellent job. Persner is clearly still uncomfortable signing live claiming that “he’s not a singer” before one song. It’s a shame; he’s actually pretty great when he does sing, and I would like to hear more vocals from him in the future. It does seem that performing without the anonymity of being a nameless ghoul is still something he’s getting used to, there’s lots of self-depreciating humor and he doesn’t hide the fact he’s a bit nervous. The confidence will surely come in time, the band are excellent throughout and get rapturous support from the audience any times there’s a lull.
While there were a couple of issues with the sound mixing, both bands put on an excellent show. Magna Carta Cartel seems to still be adjusting to life in the band, but everything tonight indicates they’re on a sure-fire track to success.