All told, it’s been a pretty damn good year for the UK live scene. We’ve seen bands like Inquisition and Negative Plane put in amazing (and rare) performances, while the home-grown underground has gone from strength to strength. Tonight is the final show of the year for many, and a compelling line up to play out 2011.
There’s definitely a danger when a band is as prolific in their live appearances as Winterfylleth that they cross the line into oversaturation. Ubiquity usually leads to complacency among fans, and it’s easy for an audience to find themselves losing their enthusiasm when a band starts to appear at seemingly every event. That said, although it was only a few weeks ago that Winterfylleth were in town, it was to put in a phenomenal appearance supporting Anaal Nathrakh at the Candlelight Records Christmas party, so the general consensus is that tonight’s show is probably going to be something pretty special.
It’s not the best turn out, which is both a shame and a surprise given the strength of the billing, and I’ve seen much smaller bands get far higher numbers through the door of the purple turtle, so I can only assume that it’s a case of bad timing and the pre-Christmas lethargy hitting attendance.
Basement Torture Killers are up first, a band I’ve previously been much impressed by. I’m not normally a fan of their brand of no-frills death metal, but they mix it with a sense of humour and have previously left me wanting more. Whether it’s an off night for them, or that they just can’t compete with the heavyweights further up the bill, tonight they come across as lacklustre and with a set over running by five minutes, it’s a feeling of relief above anything when they finally leave the stage.
Scythian, on the other hand, once again prove that they are one of the most essential forces in the UK underground today. It’s a shame these guys don’t play live more often, as this is easily one of the most powerful performances of the year and far beyond the realms of capability of many bands twice their size. Scythian manages to both generate and constrain absolute chaos and the most remarkable aspect of their live presence is how tightly they control their sound. Technically they are flawless, with not a single note lost in the mix, but it’s the sheer level of aggression they exert that impresses the most.
Winterfylleth have had a fantastic year. There’s been a trend with these guys that each show they play is better than the last and they’ve come on exponentially from an already high standard to become one of the best live bands on the scene today. Opening as usual with ‘The Wayfarer Part 1′, it’s never long before you find yourself completely entranced by the atmosphere that they manage to create. There’s something all encompassing about what Winterfylleth do that really has the power to take you into their world. Halfway through the set, there’s a diversion from the norm and they blast into a stunning cover of Hate Forest’s ‘The Gates”. The Slavic influence on The Merican Sphere was very clear, and this is a great tribute to the masters of that style. Cover aside, this is an extraordinary performance and once again, a case of outdoing even their own high standards. It’s easy to forget when you get the chance to see a particular band on so many occasions just how special they are, but the overwhelming feeling you get from tonight is that these guys are putting out something unique. ‘Defending the Realm’ closes the night in stunning fashion and as the spell breaks, the only complaint is that their set wasn’t twice as long. If Winterfylleth can continue in this fashion, then 2012 is looking very bright for them indeed.