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Whiplash @ Hev’n and Hell Club, Liverpool
The year I spent as a member of Hecate Enthroned from it’s less than immaculate conception in Wrexham in the mid-nineties without a doubt represented some of the highs and lows of my musical "career" rollercoaster (which, like the one in Rhyl, is often shut down depending on the season). So despite the classic musical/personal differences parting of the ways, time heals (though scars remain) and I was genuinely keen to take up an invitation to one of their seemingly rare and relatively local gigs.
The club is in what I took to be the heart of Liverpool’s clubland, although the streets weren’t particularly busy when I arrived. It’s split into two and naturally Bar Hell was the side to choose. My vague attempts at blagging guestlist entry failed but was consoled by freebie CD’s and T-shirt from the magazines that provide sponsorship to the Whiplash club night (www.whiplash4metal.com ). It certainly does what it says on the tin as the DJ set is all solidly extreme metal, love it. There’s a whole load of gigs listed as coming up under the banner of the organisers to this night and fair play to them, if I was a scouse resident would without a doubt be a regular, and am more than likely to head over again anyway in the not too distant future, given the scarcity of similarly "heavy shi*t" back here in North Wales (Army of Crows an eagerly awaited exception). Not a very big venue (or stage) but gives it a reasonably busy feel, backdrop of cheesy zombie paintings ("when there’s no more room in Hell…"etc.), there’s good opportunity to renew acquaintances with the band past and present then check out the live show.
The Prophecy had originally been on the bill of some gig I’d been to in their native West Yorkshire last year but had been a no-show, so it was a pleasant surprise to see them here. Was aware of some connections to county compatriot successful doomy goth metallers My Dying Bride and this ultimately massively coloured impressions of them. A mix of heavy guitar and keyboard atmospherics, slowly shifting song structures, mournfull or rasping vocals was very reminiscent of them and other established acts like Paradise Lost and Anathema. Their shifts in mood in their songs was achieved very well but difficult to see how they could really break new ground in what they were doing. The cardinal sin of not having a bass player (an impromptu "flying picket" of the stage by resident members of the union was considered) also contributed to the impression that there was too much reliance on the guitar to provide the dynamics to the songs, personally I prefer more balance.
For Hecate Enthroned the stirring, anthemic intro music and the band with backs to the crowd was all amusingly familiar. Then it’s about to face to unleash the fury, done with really impressive technical precision combined with a truly ferocious speed. The two guitars waste no time or dilute impact with wazz-out solos, it’s relentless riff-mongery and intricate runs, the bass underpinning and matching the tempo. That said, there are some pieces of slower intros or breaks to provide some contrast. Drums are spot-on, faultless blast-beats, even when he "slows" its still hyper. The vocals show a good range, from gruff as f*ck to occasional almost dark spoken words, think they suffer a bit when trying to deliver some of the fast stuff in verses, get a bit a screechy, but that’s as much down to my taste as anything. There had been some last minute tech problems with the keyboards which may have been why at times they were more strident than others when they blended well into the mix, providing good counterpoint to the heavy onslaught and definitely integral to the songs as opposed to there for decoration. As well as tracks such as "Shining Delight" and "Choose Misanthropy" from their latest release "Redimus" there’s a good trawl through their back catalogue, back through their more death leanings such as "Deceiving the Deceiver" and their most "black" era of "Slaughter of Innocence" to the very start with "Crimson Thorns" (preceded by a dedication - I was touched!), a thoroughly enjoyable blast from the past. The subtle evolution of their style I felt was well demonstrated through their set and where they are now is an excellent niche of intense, uncompromising metal, their experience honing a fine performance in effective head battery that I’d definitely recommend.
As they’ve been plying their trade in the margins of extreme metal of course they have remained obscure to the majority, and even within the "scene" have endured disrespect at times through lazy comparisons to other more well known acts. Still, as I had to point out to the one guitarist who is the only remaining original member, it’ll soon be 10 years they’ve been plugging away, and are really going as strong as ever. The whole existence of the band I find quite interesting, in that they’ve had some 5 or 6 albums out on a "proper" label, distributed worldwide, only play a handful of gigs a year (including occasional trips into Europe), all have their day jobs, and seem happy enough with this set-up. Think it represents an alternative example of "making it" in the music industry, the paid opportunity to express yourself musically and get it to those who may be interested in it, without great delusions or ambitions of "rock" stardom.
Out of the club at midnight there are literally hundreds milling about the clubs, it’s an eye-opener for sure. Takes me a hundred yards or so walk to realise what that omnipresent smell is, puke, everywhere, no one else seems fussed, obviously accepted as part of the evening’s event, guys rolling around play fighting in it, better out than in, couple of hours clubbing left, second wind, crack on eh? And you think death metal is sick entertainment. To echoes of "Lwch at ‘is fwccchin ‘air!" I head for the escape tunnels…
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