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The Black Dahlia Murder - O2 Academy Islington - September 20 2013 (Live Review)

Tuesday, 24 September 2013 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Sparkling in the September sunshine, Islington is the spitting image of a Grand Theft Auto mission. Pedestrians shuffle about at an annoyingly slow pace, inadequate drivers threaten to flatten all who dare to venture near the the curb, and has that guy got a gun in his pocket? Nope, he's just happy to see me. It's the perfect setting for this particular musical bloodbath.

Kicking London in the nads with the power of a very angry elephant, Revocation get the party started accordingly. Playing to an unsettlingly thin crowd doesn't seem to put the band off one bit and their brand of deathly thrash reeks of Sepultura wandering through an alley full of melody. They execute a set full of brutality, infectious hooks and a healthy dose of circle pitting. Most of these are incited by the over-enthusiastic bellow of main axeman/vocalist David Davidson, whose soloing and shredding border on virtuoso-level, taking the audience on a mesmerising ride.

After a cheeky cigarette and booze break, the majority of the crowd return to be subjected to the next round of terror. Aborted introduce themselves as 'Aborted minus one' due to a guitar cock-up, going straight for the jugular with the superbly titled Meticulous Invagination. Their setlist reads like a plot to murder people, with delicately titled numbers such as Fecal Forgery and The Saw And The Carnage Done taking flight once technical issues are cast out.

Frontman Sven De Caluwe is as menacing as he is charming, coaxing the crowd in with a barrage of friendly banter before bludgeoning them with yet another onslaught of uncompromising grind. Sticksman Ken Bedene is a revelation to watch, savaging his drum-kit while clad in a Spice Girls t-shirt. The band doesn't let up at all, retaining an insane level of intensity and pure, animalistic rage for the duration of their set and ensuring that the headliners have their work cut out for them.

Well, saying that, the Black Dahlia Murder do happen to be one of the most exciting extreme live acts of recent years. Fresh from tearing the Warped Tour a new one over in the United States, the Michigan quintet have their sights set on Islington Academy. Striding triumphantly on stage to the opening throes of In Hell Is Where She Waits For Me, this is a band in complete control of their performance.

Trevor Strnad looks too happy to be fronting a death metal band; high-fiving crowd-surfers and pumping his fist in an almost comical fashion, the man is simply a hairy bundle of energy. His transitions between high screams and guttural growls are handled with expert precision, every deafening roar sounding like it came straight off the CD. This is a man absolutely in love with his job, and it's such a glory to see first-hand.

That's not to say, however, that the rest of the band are any less of a revelation. Long-serving rhythm guitarist Brian Eschbach grimaces and grins at punters near the front, while lead six-stringer Ryan Knight provides a flurry of fret-tapping solos. Although his playing is occasionally too quiet in the mix, it really hits home when the soundman gets it right.

Cruising through a set of old favourites littered with newbies from latest album 'Everblack', it's ridiculous to see just how consistent the Black Dahlia Murder actually are as a studio band. Numbers like Closed Casket Requiem from 'Unhallowed' go down a treat, but the new stuff is on an entirely different level. Raped In Hatred By Vines Of Thorn provides one of the biggest genuine singsongs of the night, its crushing blend of melody and cruelty leading all involved into a crescendo of crumpled bodies.

Topping things off with I Will Return and Map Of Scars, the gig is over in the blink of a battered, bloodied eye. Death metal has never been the most fun experience in the live arena, yet the Black Dahlia Murder manage to incorporate their ugly slew of tunes into a ridiculously entertaining live show. If you've heard them and don't like them, their shows might change your mind. Equally, newcomers will also reap the benefits of a Black Dahlia ceremony. Either way, this band deserves your attention.

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