Darkest Hour – Venom Prison; Live at Camden Underworld, London, UK


 

Just days after a lumbering weekend hosting Desertfest, the Camden Underworld in London switches up the pace to host US melodeath act Darkest Hour for a lightning quick night of brutality from a band in peak form.

First up are UK grind outfit Lunatic Hooker. A decent act that generally comes in two speeds; doomily slow and blisteringly fast. They put on a decent show, know how to lock into a groove, and has a natural showman in their shape-throwing guitarist. A solid warm up.

Hailing from Wales, Venom Prison offer a more modern and technical brand of death to beat you over the head with. Riff and time changes blur past, never stopping around long enough to introduce themselves. It’s very impressive – especially on record – but harder to get into in a live setting. But in frontwoman Larissa Stupar they have an animated focal point.

In case you missed it, Darkest Hour just released a banger of an album in Godless Prophets and the Migrant Flora(Southern Lord). And, even if it is your ninth album in a 20+ year career, there’s nothing quite so invigorating for a band as knowing you’re at the top of your game.

Vocalist John Henry is demanding a circle put before the band even crack into the first song, and in a brief but intense 45-minute set, the band blast through a cracking set at a relentless pace. A lot of meldodeath tracks – good or bad – can bleed into one, so it’s the energy with which they are plated which is the key. And Darkest Hour play with the vigour of a band half their age.

About half the set list is drawn from the new record, but everything fits together seamlessly. The bands disregard anything as banal as catching a breath and just blast straight into one song after another. Old classics such as ‘With a Thousand Words to Say but One’ and ‘Doomsayer’ sit next to new corkers like ‘Knife in the Safe Room’ and ‘Timeless Numbers’.

Even though it’s short but sweet for a headlining set, every track old or new gets a rapturous response from the fans. Henry gets every circle pit he asks for (and a few more), and after the encore of ‘Rapture in Exile’ and ‘The Sadist Nation’ everyone is left sweaty but happy.

DAN SWINHOE