Despite The Garage feeling more like a nightclub than a live music venue, the North London haunt continues to develop a burgeoning reputation as a facilitator of the most brutal and often experimental bands.
My last visit here was for the illustrious union of Wiegedood and Yob. Tonight brings two more powerhouses together for what proves little short of a transcendental experience in which a near sell-out crowd risk having their features reassembled by the collective force of Akercocke and Anaal Nathrakh.
The highly acclaimed Akercocke take to the stage, guided by founding member Jason Mendonça. After a ten-year hiatus, the psychedelic Londoners re-emerged with Renaissance in Extremis back in 2017. Mendonça sounds something resembling a medieval warrior, with his fierce battle cries ringing out over the intense riffs of Paul Scanlan. But it is Sam Loynes, (also of Voices and The Antichrist Imperium), who turns this set into a heady concoction of spiritual reawakening and metal brutality.
Flowing between keys, vocals, laptop-led tech attack and alluring dancing – Loynes is the one who commands our attention. Hand up in air, eyes closed, still… taking in the music around him – this is fully conscious magic-making.
Opening with “Horns of Baphomet”, taken from their 2001 album The Goat of Mendes, this was a nostalgic set on the tail end of their reunion. Akercocke briefly acknowledge more recent work with “Disappear” and “Unbound by Sin”, before close their savage assault with the almighty “Shelter from the Sand”.
Over the past few years, Anaal Nathrakh have continued to push the boundaries and limits of extreme metal. They always challenge and stretch the capacity and possibilities of the genre. How much further can they push into the realms of despair – their latest projections getting closer and closer to becoming human pain personified.
Unfortunately Nathrakh’s opening number, the usually immense “Obscene as Cancer” suffers a technical glitch with Dave Hunt’s mic cutting out half way through. As they flow into their second song, he exclaims in his irreverent Birmingham accent ‘Now Dan is f**ked too! waving towards the guitarist to his left who is emptily screaming into his own mic.
These issues seem to be rectified as they reach the battle charge “Forward!” – one of the most addictive songs from their latest album. It’s a song tormented with the sound of guns and war – as Hunt hollers “Who gives a f**k if your enemy’s starving? FORWARD!” It is haunting and transportive as the frontman becomes the army general with the apocalyptic sounds of war erupting around him.
Throughout the night, Hunt encourages stage divers like no other – ‘Come on then, can we get some more people up here please?’ – he requests, beckoning those at the front up on to the stage.
The next few songs are full of those willing sacrifices lurching themselves perilously into the heaving open-armed throng. Hunt is chatty and thoughtful, diverging into his musical interests and the influence of black metal on his work.
‘One time we were in London, Nargaroth were here.’ He begins. ‘Well I went right up to Rene Wagner and said ‘Nazi then, are we?’ Well, turns out not actually!’ Anaal Nathrakh have a unique ability to bring in so many strands of metal that to many, their sound proves utterly overwhelming.
Their music is amongst the most complex, the most interesting and the most gut-wrenching in the whole umbrella genre. Hunt’s vocals are animalistic cries of pain rather than metal screams or growls – this is music that creates sound to provoke emotion. ‘Song’ or ‘tune’ barely comes into it. And it’s truly hypnotic.