The Leather. The Metal. The Rain
It's a horrible, wet night in the Big Smoke - terrible weather there's no doubt about that - but possibly the perfect conditions for the dark elemental songs of tonight's headliners In Solitude. Such is the low-light, windswept drama of their classic heavy metal that it would be better for them to be playing on the street, out in the rain, rather than in a half-full basement in Camden but that's the way it goes. I arrived at the Underworld just in time to catch the last lingering shards of distortion of support act Beastmilk's set. The assembled soggy punters looked pleased. The break between sets allows me to bask in the bright white glow reflected from the UV lights in the ridiculous hi-top trainers a number of dudes are sporting. Bruce Dickinson must be gutted he didn't create a heavy metal shoe company back in the eighties.
As the DJ spins endless Stooges' tracks the headliners' gear is set up and promptly at half past nine the five men bedecked in black emerge to swirls of folk music from the PA and all round enthusiasm from the crowd. The first two songs of the gig, however, are a little muddy and the response fairly muted but bassist Gottfrid Ahman is driving the band on: gurning to the lyrics, raising his axe to the ceiling and jumping on the monitor. Singer Pelle "Hornper" Ahman then announces that this gig is "very special to us" before adding: "We shall not speak about heartache but heartache speaks" and the band bang out the chugging riffs and icy doom of Lavender and the crowd finally send some energy back to stage. Powerhouse drummer Uno Bruniusson, whose kit is adorned with foliage, keeps the energy up with Demons from The World. The Flesh. The Devil and hands are thrown together for the guitar refrain in the middle of the song.
Any momentum gained at this point is lost with a song in Swedish - "don't worry though it's about all of us" - the Underworld floor is about 2/3s full now and there's standing room everywhere else. Bloody weather. Coming from the land of the ice and snow the band must think this is particularly weak from London. They play the title track from the Mercyful Fate transcending third record Sister released last year. The metallic gothic-pop of this song returns some buzz before the galloping stomp of To Her Darkness affords some opportunity to the longhairs at the back of the room to stoop, headbang and air guitar with gusto before the hour long set ends with a meandering whimper through Horses in the Ground.
There are moments of quality and community at this show but all too often a lethargic crowd combined with an up and down setlist make for frustrating night. At least it had stopped raining by the time everyone left.