Killfest - LIVE: Islington Academy 2011

Killfest Tour
London - March 3
Capacity 800

Overkill's Killfest package tour has become an annual tradition now, and although it hasn't yet outgrown the Islington Academy, or had the opportunity to hit any other cities in the UK, it is now consistently drawing crowds and has given Overkill the opportunity to put together their strongest bill so far.

California veterans Heathen were forced to cancel their own tour in 2010 which was to support their recently released new album Evolution of Chaos, so this was finally a chance for them to play their new material in London, Belgium's After All hadn't played here since they supported Death Angel in 2009 and German titans Destruction for even longer.

Far more than just a bill with a major special guest and a couple of local supports, this was a package tour the likes of which Europe doesn't often see (being far more common in North America) with a strong line-up from start to finish.

After All

Comfortably the biggest unknown quantity of the bill for most people, Belgium's After All have just as much experience, and more in albums compared to Heathen, as the others, but for whatever reason (most ridiculously cite the vocals being too close to power/traditional metal) they unfairly haven't really achieved as much as their contemporaries.

Their material, all new tonight, shows this really shouldn't be the case. All seven of the songs they managed to fit into their half-hour timeslot come from most recent album Cult of Sin and brand new EP Becoming The Martyr, and demonstrated beyond argument their thrash credentials, and the impressive range of new vocalist Sammy Peleman.

Not many people were in the venue when they arrived on stage at an incredibly early 17:45, but everyone who came in during the set realised how good they were immediately and wasted no time languishing at the bar. All of the new material stands up very well in a live environment, and while there probably wasn't a need to play quite so much of it, or exclude older tracks entirely, they had nothing to lose by doing so as barely anyone knew who they were, and they sold several copies of the EP as a result.

The crowd responded well and After All don't get many opportunities at the moment to play to UK crowds, so getting as many fans to the front as they did with such an unfavourable start time on a week night is a testament to their material and their performance. Hopefully they'll get another chance to do it again soon.

Setlist: My Own Sacrifice / Devastation Done / End of Your World / Becoming The Martyr / Demolition Course / Betrayed By The Gods / Timeless Machine

Heathen

Heathen's were hampered from the start by technical problems which delayed the start of their set by around ten minutes. As a result their time on stage was shortened, meaning just a four-song set of tracks taken entirely from new album Evolution of Chaos.

A set of older material would have allowed more songs into the set, but with their first new album for 14 years to promote, they announced early on, after the first song, that they'd be sticking to new songs. If Overkill or Destruction had pulled the same trick it would have backfired, but Heathen have slipped from the thrash community's consciousness over time, so had nothing to lose by playing all new material.

What is also in their favour is Evolution of Chaos is arguably their finest record, and therefore playing some of its excellent tracks to an unsuspecting audience garnered a very favourable response. Being unfamiliar with the songs did mean most people didn't realise the sprawling Dying Season and epic No Stone Unturned weren't actually two or three songs segued together, but that didn't really matter. Heathen can offer uncompromising but intelligent thrash, with a compelling front-man in David White, and the crowd happily tapped into that.

They earned themselves the right to come back and play their own show, which is what being part of a bill such as this should achieve, and provided they do it sooner rather than later, and don't get too ambitious, there's no reason it can't be a success.

Setlist: Dying Season / Controlled By Chaos / Arrows of Agony / No Stone Unturned

Destruction

Destruction's sound problems were of an entirely different nature to Heathen's. No gremlins affected their arrival on stage, or the length of their set, but the clarity of their sound varied greatly in different parts of the confined venue, meaning they sounded great to some fans, and awful to others.

Supporting new album Day of Reckoning Killfest represented just one leg of an extensive period of touring for the German veterans, and although their set was only to be 55 minutes long, it was surprising that only two songs from the new disc were included.

In terms of stage show, in a tight setting such as Islington Academy, Destruction are at a distinct disadvantage compared to the other three bands on show. They are the only act of the four to have a singer who also plays an instrument, confining front-man Schmier to his microphone stand for the majority of the set. As guitarist Mike Sifringer doesn't run around as much as some players do, and they are only a three-piece, along with their dismal stage lighting putting them in the shadows for much of the time, there wasn't much to visually engage the audience. This wasn't the end of the world for people fortunate enough to be standing in a position where the sound happened to be good, but for people standing where the sound was bad, the show was very flat indeed.

Having ripped through their set with barely any chatter from Schmier they found themselves with a few minutes to spare and played an impromptu The Butcher Strikes Back, which was not included on the original setlist, and that definitely added an exciting finishing touch for the fans who only really care about the early material, but it didn't alter the fact that their show wasn't particularly good.

Setlist: Curse The Gods / Mad Butcher / Armageddonizer / Tears of Blood / Thrash Till Death / Devolution / Bestial Invasion / Soul Collector / Hate Is My Fuel / Nailed To The Cross / The Butcher Strikes Back

Overkill

And no sooner had Overkill started, everything else was forgotten. There are no more energetic bands on the circuit than Overkill, and barely any more passionate front-men than Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth, who attacked every song with the same vigour he always does; never waning.

Still supporting the Ironbound album four tracks from it were again included in the set, three of which were the same ones as last time, leaving the surprises in the hands of the older material. Although many aspects of their set remain constant (the opening trio of songs on this tour are the same ones, in the same order as on the 2010 Killfest), Overkill do try to make sure they change up the rest with each tour, and this year they hit upon a combination many are calling their best setlist for a long time, perhaps ever.

The absence of Horrorscope prevents it from being their best ever set, but by dusting off Blood Money, Endless War, Bastard Nation, Infectious, and Deny The Cross to replace Gasoline Dream, Bare Bones, In Union We Stand and Battle, which were the surprises packages of 2010, and bringing Hammerhead back for Feel The Fire, most of the middle of the set was met with either rapturous cheering or momentary stunned silence.

Just like last year all previous performances were inconsequential when Overkill took the stage. From song one, for 90 minutes, their performance was breathless and breathtaking. There's really only one reason they can keep doing this annual expedition, and it isn't the bills they put together, which are a pleasant bonus, it's the sheer brilliance of their shows.

Setlist: The Green And Black / Rotten To The Core / Wrecking Crew / Infectious / Bring Me The Night / Bastard Nation / Hammerhead / Ironbound / Blood Money / Endless War / Hello From The Gutter / Give A Little / Necroshine / Old School // Deny The Cross / Elimination / Fuck You

Photo(s): Andy Lye

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2011, Gigs, Thrash Metal, , , ,

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