Words & pics by Sven Mihlan
The decision to break with easter tradition was pretty easy to make in view of the band line-up of this year's DOOM OVER LONDON festival edition, flight booked and off to London! But, before talking about the festival itself I want to give you some advise how to get to The Dome – the festival's main venue – fast and how to find an effordable place to stay in London for a couple of days. If you are rich as fuck, simply leave the next paragraph out – if you are not, this could help you saving some British pounds:
The first and easiest thing to do is to find a cheap flight to London – keep in mind that the early bird catches the worm. We landed at Stansted Airport, went by train to Tottenham Hale railway station for eighteen pounds per person, by Tube (London Underground) via King's Cross St. Pancras to Tufnell Park Station for five pounds each and per pedes to The Dome, which is at 2A Dartmouth Park Hill – turn right after leaving the tube station, cross the crossing and go straight for two minutes or count 279 feet, here you are! You can also go by bus, which is five pounds too for a day ticket. The cheapest way to get there is to simply go by cab from the airport to The Dome and back, which is about fourty pounds a way and saves you money in a group of at least three persons. Long story short – the smart guy pays around ten pounds to get from the airport to The Dome, the friendly taxi driver told us on the very last day. As for a cheap place to stay, Julia – thank you at this point – found a beautiful flat on www.airbnb.com that was cheaper than any hotel in London and only five minutes away from The Dome, by foot.
Arriving at The Dome on friday evening I realised that AUTUMNAL had cancelled the gig and stage times where pulled half an hour. That's why I missed BATHSHEBA which really was a pity as I was looking forward to this band recruiting of Sardonis members but playing a very traditional style female fronted sort of doom metal. At least I found a shirt of the band at the merch stand and was happy again. Even more when MOURNING BELOVETH – the Irish grandmasters of doom/death Metal – entered the stage and gave me gooseflesh with their quality music that caresses your mind with heavy steamrolling guitar riffs and agonizing melodies. Frank's clean vocals are a lamenting instrument of beauty combined with Darren's grunts contributing the perfect dose of hate and despair. Serving old hymns and new tunes off the band's actual album, 'Rust & Bone', the Irish proved that they doom like gods, thrash as hell too ('Godether') and touch hearts with every note. UNDERGANG and IMPALED NAZERENE were both not my cup of tea then and pretty misplaced in the otherwise grandious doom metal line-up of the festival. After hours of natting at the bar and the barbecue Corny (Ahab), Julia, Daniel and I ended up at a crowded heavy metal pup where, besides long haired rock fans, a group of baldies did some rough pogo to the tunes of Pantera – that was endeed entertaining from my German point of view. Some Motorhead, Iron Maiden and Eyehategod was served too later in the night.
Saturday morning started with a grandious breakfast after we explored a tiny bakery near Tufnell Station. The story goes like this: On the way back to the flat I turned and entered the shop again. The saleswoman asked scared, if anything was wrong. "No!", I said, "I simply need more of these white chocolate with cranberries scones. The first didn't survive until I was 'round the corner!" – Try those amazing scones at The Spence Bakery, when you make it to London! Maximum filled and sugerized I rolled to the Aces & Eights bar close to The Dome to meet up with Sophie from ALUNAH for an arranged interview. Philosophising about British bakery products we almost forgot why we were there, but, anyhow, we managed it. – Read the interview later on the DMF pages!
KING GOAT was in the last tunes when I entered The Dome and surprised with a rough, hate filled doom style that I did not expect at all from this Brighton based band, also with clean singing besides the grunted vocals. I changed from the main stage to the BMR right over the Dome's courtyard to see EYE OF SOLITUDE, who had caught my attention with a handfull of noteworthy releases on Kaotoxin Records and professionally filmed music videos. The show fulfilled my expectations and served high quality doom/death metal with a strong funeral edge and absolutely abyssal grunts – pretty negative, dark material. Kept in talkings outside I missed CONJURER and unfortunately uncompromising TORPOR (Bandcamp) from London too but was right back when SEA BASTARD (Bandcamp) entered the main stage – what a blast! Even if I was aware of the band's great reputations, they blew my head off with their filthy variant of sludge/doom demolition. Honestly said, I am pretty much into this kind of ultra-slow and brutal riff worshipping, destroying anything in its way. That was simply jaw-dropping. Would SLABDRAGGER be able to top that show? And how! Still being overwhelmed by their fresh sludge output, 'Rise Of The Dawncrusher' (Bandcamp), these hyperactive Cockneys stirred the crowd up with an enthusiastic and powerful show – crushingly heavy as well as memerisingly diversified, thus entertaining. I am very curious what is to be expected by this youngsters after having served one of my personal album highlights of 2016 so far – along with Graves At Sea's long awaited full-length debut. SLABDRAGGER join the ranks of the sludge top acts with ease and confidence. MY SILENT WAKE didn't have an easy job then to convince me simply due to the lack of agility – This out of my mouth! – but served down-to-earth doom/death metal, no more, no less. Both predecessors bear the blame, which is in any case a good excuse.
What about ATARAXIE from France? They did everything well and celebrated solid old-school and entertaining, early 90s style doom/death metal. Switched over then to the Aces & Eights to not miss ALUNAH, who achieved to pull me into a state of daze and maximum relaxation with their cosy rolling tunes. Soph is still singing off the line of all those wanna-be-Jex-Thoth-clones, which is a big luck and was again a great pleasure to my ears. Thank you so much for that and for dedicating the track 'Heavy Bough' (from 'Awakening The Forest') to Doom Metal Front. Hopefully nobody recognized me turning red in the club's darkness – anyway! At the very same time, OFFICIUM TRISTE played in The Dome – a pity to completely have missed the Dutch – as they played a good show I was told after HOODED MENACE. They served most solid doom/death metal like on their latest album 'Darkness Drips Forth' (Bandcamp) and pleased with live quality. I question why Markus Makkonen (vocals and bass) hides himself behind the mane and hood – maybe it's simply a well kept Finnish secret, at least the name indicates it, who knows. Owed to the parallel stage times I witnessed a snippet of OHHMS, who somehow brutalised everything that is said to be sludge, or better, they swung a huge demolition ball in the vein of Eyehategod, maybe more core-like. At least their singer's stage acting reminded me of Mike IX Williams, but much more hyperactive. My yet pretty fast camera run like a snail after a turtle, always a tick too late. But honestly, the light down in the Aces & Eights was nonexistent from my photographers point of view – a very sporty challenge without flash. Back at The Dome ESOTERIC was and will always remain a special and historical event when it comes to doom metal, whether you love or hate them.
MOONSPELL was set on the saturday's headlining position – and still I don't get it at all. Also why the crowd was celebrating these Portuguese mainstream rock band. Blame me, but I hate this kind of big-balls-stage-posing somewhere in between Ozzy Osbourne and Pete Steel, but worse in any case, vocally as well as musically seen. Time had come to dive into the cellars of the Aces & Eights to do some after-doom-party-thing.
Just woken up early sunday morning I found a message from Daniel (Napalm Records), as arranged, on the cell phone including the times for the train from Paddington Station, reminds me of Agatha Christie's 'Murder She Said', to Reading, which is quite funny in the context. Why Reading? Because it is the place to start from when planning to look for the place, where the cover artwork of the very first and self-titled album of Black Sabbath (1970) was shot. After having arrived at Reading railway station we entered a cab. "Where do you want to go?", the driver asked. "To Mapledurham Watermill!", we answered. – "Where?" – "To Mapledurham Watermill!" – "Is there a watermill?", he wondered, "But I have an idea about the place you talking about." After a thirty minutes drive through rural areas and villages the cab driver kicked us out at a square in Mapledurham. On the left a tiny old church and on the right – gooseflesh – the watermill! As we had to wait for the mill to open which, nowadays, is a museum of the last working watermill on the river Thames, we decided to explore the cemetary of the church that turned out to be very old and made me feel historical, yet also doomish as I stumbled over three 'Headless Cross(es)', or rather celtic high crosses, that were placed in line of sight with the watermill, which can not be accidental. Slowly and reverentially we approached the watermill in search for the album cover's motive, looking for the correct spot and angle. Imagine the full 'Black Sabbath' artwork when opening the original vinyl jacket, back and frontcover – tree on the very left, black woman in front of the mill, another tree next to her on the very right of the cover – that tree had been cut down a couple of years ago. I felt strange and deeply satisfying at the same time to watch the album artwork in real – a special moment at the origin of doom and heavy metal.
On the way back – luckily we had the cab's phone number written down – we realised that we would not make it to LANDSKAP, the new band around Chris West (ex-Trippy Wicked), and FALLOCH but arrived right in time at The Dome when THE WOUNDED KINGS kicked off their top notch traditional doom celebration that maintained the elation of the day. To retrieve George Birch (vocals, guitars) in 2014 was the best decision the band had made as I love his vibrato adding a classical, sublime note to the yet awesome compositions. The next hour I spent calling and looking for Mikko Kotamäki, vocalist of Swallow The Sun, to do an arranged interview, but that is another story. At least I caught some tunes of PANTHEIST, who offered their mixture of funeral and progressive doom metal tunes to the apparently excited crowd. I missed COLTSBLOOD and all bands that played at Aces & Eights that night whilst talking to Chris (Landskap), the Serpent Venom dudes, who had been on the spot too, and loads of nice people that had travelled to Doom Over London from all over Europe.
LORD VICAR was reason enough to pause natting. I was not only looking forward to those enthusiastic traditional doomsters around Kimi Kärki (ex-Reverend Bizarre), yet also stunned about the vocal performance of Christian 'Chritus' Linderson (Goatess, ex-Saint Vitus) that, for any reason, was the very best one he had been doing, and I have seen them a few times. They premiered Sami Albert Hynninen (Spiritus Mortis, ex-Reverend Bizarre) on bass guitar, which was a big surprise as well as I missed Jussi Myllykoski (Earthbound Machine), who had always entertained with gigantic appearance, strange faces and unique bass play. Not exactly knowing what to exspect from SINISTRO the Portuguese surprised with an almost drone-like heavy show set into blue darkness on the Dome's main stage. Vocalist Patrícia Andrade did an unsettling performance, moving like a split personality whilst adding her great, sometimes insane voice to the impressive, minimalist overall appearance. The next female fronted highlight was the gig of BLACK MOTH. Harriet Bevan is both an auditory and visual delicacy, catching the audience with her great voice, beauty and last but not least a powerful performance.
SWALLOW THE SUN played a professional set then that, in my opinion, did not spread the funereal atmosphere of the first two albums, which I obviously prefer. In fact, the Finns were celebrated by the crowd to be fair enough. I was caught then by the cosy melodies of 40 WATT SUN, namely Patrick Walker and band, who raised attention with his former band Warning. Some tend to complain about the semi-acoustic guitars, but – Cross your heart! – the auditory beauty of Patrick's poetry touches every soul, so did he with mine that night. I sat down, closed my eyes and revelled in solitude and grief. This could have been the perfect final of the easter doom feast, if IN THE WOODS had not been set on the headlining position of the sixth edition of Doom Over London festival – many were looking forward to that rare band respectively they had been off the spot for about twenty years, which seemed to be worth the closing gig.
We strolled along the Thames on Monday, enjoyed the sunny spring weather and crossed Tower Bridge to end the last day in London with a delicious Ethiopian feast at Lalibela as we had to get up very early in the morning to catch the flight back to Germany. Big thanks go out to Paola and the Doom-Over-London-Crew for the invition, for a tight organisation of the festival, for having compiled a stunning line-up and for keeping the doom scene alive. Doom Over The World!