It’s another one of those typically cold, grey April evenings in central Birmingham. Slowly darkening skies, a distinct chill in the air, and a dense pall of doom hanging over The Asylum as it’s clear that first band Khost are already on as I arrive. Luckily, the band are only a couple of songs in, but the slowly gathering crowd are already enraptured by the duo’s atmospheric industrial grind.
Akercocke in the West Midlands is an unusual sight, and as vocalist Jason Mendonca himself notes, it’s only the second time the band have played Birmingham in twenty-one years. Plunging straight into ‘Horns of Baphomet, their hour-long set is a battery of black and death metal blastbeats, insanely fast riffing, and piercing guitar solos, Mendonca’s vocals switching between deep, resonant clean tones, inhuman screams, and some deeply satanic mouth farting. At times, the sheer speed, volume and ferocity of their attack transform their songs into an inescapable, almost hypnotic wall of noise.
While songs like ‘Verdelet’ and ‘Enraptured by Evil’ enable drummer David Gray to prove yet again how he earned the nickname Blast Vader, guitarist Paul Scanlan stays pretty much rooted to the spot, so it’s left to keyboard player Sam Loynes and bassist Federico Benini to act as cheerleaders, both of them determined to whip the audience into a blur of satanic fury.
Back in their hometown, local boys Anaal Nathrakh step onstage to a full capacity Asylum, and within seconds of opener ‘Obscene as Cancer’, have already begun to tear it a brand new anus. “Can we have some more crowd surfers please?” guitarist Mick Kenney politely asks at regular intervals, the drunken crowd obliging as the front of the venue frequently becomes a veritable war zone for security, who until now had experienced a relatively quiet night.
Frontman Dave Hunt is on top form, giving a random shout out to the #17 bus, as well as highlighting the differences between a hometown show and playing abroad. “We play in other places more often than we play at home, so usually we go like, “Hello, we’re a band from where Black Sabbath came from” and everyone goes ‘waheeyy!’. Whereas you lot go like, ‘what, Aston? Yeah, whatever.’”
As the songs gather in intensity, the crowd responds in kind as a tumultuous maelstrom of legs, heads and elbows are dragged inelegantly over the barrier to the likes of ‘Depravity Favours the Bold’, ‘Monstrum in Animo’, ‘In the Constellation of the Black Widow’, ‘Forging Towards The Sunset’, ‘Hold Your Children Close and Pray for Oblivion’, and an unbelievably brutal ‘Forward!’ Finishing their set with an appropriately violent ‘Between Shit and Piss We Are Born’, Dave explains the pantomime of the encore before Mick chimes in with “I need a wee wee”, exiting the stage with a cheeky grin.
As promised, the band – currently acting as a five-piece – return a few short minutes later to smash through ‘Do Not Speak” and ‘Idol’, before eventually closing the show with an utterly barbaric version of ‘The Joystream’. For all of his piss-taking about rock show clichés, Dave remains 100% sincere about his feelings of gratitude to those who have turned out to support them, and the Brummie fans return the compliment, noisily cheering their heroes off with beer-soaked applause.
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY GARY ALCOCK