The Neckbreaker’s Ball had been moved from The Forum to The Garage in Highbury obviously because of poor ticket sales, which was a touch for us because frankly I think the Forum sucks a bit and the sound is shit generally. Unfortunately I had to arrive late (about 7pm) because the gig started at a ridiculous early time which was a tad difficult for those of us with day jobs. Whatever, I was here for something different and was meeting my mate Paul and his friend Phil. Happy days.
The first band we caught were Varg (which means ‘Wolf’ in German apparently). At first I was thinking, “oh no these guys look stupid,” with their Braveheart face paint, proudly proclaiming their Viking heritage (aren’t they from Germany? Forgive me but I was under the impression that Vikings were from Scandinavia. Apologies if my history is out of whack). However, despite my obvious prejudice they managed to suitably win me over. When you look past all the cheese you have a heavy, groovy, full sound and incredibly catchy tunes. They remind me of old school death metal acts with a clear blackened death metal tip. I am always extremely pleased when a band manages to surprise me like this. Good stuff and judging by the reaction of the Garage audience I was not alone in thinking this. They even had me singing along to “Wolfskult” regardless of the fact that I’d never heard it before and it was in German, which I don’t speak or understand... Go figure.
Next to tread the boards was Mercenary from Denmark. This band is a confusing one. Every song without exception was half good and half rubbish. They burst on stage reminding me of Pantera back in the day and then within a split second turned the songs into something totally different, whiney, soft and the exact opposite to what we had just been listening to. Check out their facebook page and have a listen if you are unfamiliar with them. Bizarre to say the least and because of this I didn’t enjoy it. It was annoying.
Following Mercenary were Eluveitie. I wasn’t holding high hopes for these guys either because what I’ve heard in the past is a bit folky and weird for me. They plod on stage en masse (there are eight of them in the band). I started to worry when I saw the bagpipes and hurdy-gurdy wheeled out. Call me a traditionalist but this sort of thing just makes alarm bells ring and has me thinking, “horrible gimmick” every time. So, for the second time this evening I was seriously surprised... No, astonished. If you have never seen this band live I sincerely urge you to do so. It was a staggeringly good performance. I couldn’t get enough of the live show. This band from Switzerland had delivered probably one of my favourite shows of 2011. Absolute class. Bring on the flutes, violins, mandolins and hurdy-gurdies. What a shocker! They bloody look the part too.
Finally Dark Tranquillity. This was the first time I’ve seen this band even though I have been a fan for some time. Melodic Death Metal can be touch and go live in my opinion. However, Dark Tranquillity definitely lean towards the good side of this musical spectrum. The whole stage show was a joy to watch and Stanne looks as pleased as punch to be doing what he does. They promised to play until they got chucked out and they did just that. The projections running in the background gave an awesome feel to the show and the synchronised performance of ‘Zero Distance’ with the video was mesmerising. What a great end to an overall great night. Good company, lots of beer and heavy music, this is why I love Metal.