A Ghouls Night Out
Morbid Angel & Akercocke @ The Mean Fiddler, London, UK, March 23, 2004
by: Jackie Smit
It's a hair over 21:00 in a woefully oversold Mean Fiddler, and I'm standing two punters' lengths away from the stage barrier, caught in what borders dangerously close to an involuntary sodomy sandwich. It's hardly surprising though. After all, this is the first time that the reigning heavyweight champions of death metal have played these shores in nearly three years, and with the accolades currently being lavished upon their latest _ Heretic _ effort, it would seem as though a triumphant return is most definitely on the cards.

To be fair though, tonight's barely contained exuberance may have been augmented by Akercocke's opening performance. I had heard horror stories of unparalleled audience hostility toward bands penciled into the Morbid Angel support slot (Gorgoroth being escorted off stage by police at a certain European venue, anyone?), but tonight the Cockes pull it off in fine style. Grimacing and writhing his way through a half hour set that includes "Becoming the Adversary", "Enraptured by Evil", "Scapegoat" and a rousing rendition of "Leviathan", the ever enigmatic Jason Mendonca leads his comrades-in-metal through a ferocious set which, although lacking actual volume, gets the anticipation running at fever pitch for the arrival of Tampa's finest.

This brings me to the opening chords of "Day of Suffering" -- a song that tonight bears a striking resemblance to the trumpet-call of the apocalypse. Inevitably it almost instantly incites a mosh pit that is akin to a full-scale riot; one which sustains itself and indeed grows increasingly out of hand as Morbid Angel flay the audience with the likes of "Curse the Flesh", "Dawn of the Angry", "Chambers of Dis", "Pain Divine", "World of Shit", "Cleansed in Pestilence", "Enshrined by Grace" and "Bil Ur-Sag". To top off a performance that tonight is truly second to none, we're even treated to two surprises in the form of the much-loved, rarely played "God of Emptiness" and "Where the Slime Live". But what really gets my (and the rest of the gathered legions') juices flowing are the classics: "Rapture" and "Lord of All Fevers & Plague" sound better than ever, and aside from perhaps Slayer doing "Angel of Death", I can not think of a better way to close out a show than with "Chapel of the Ghouls".

The past few years have seen many contenders step up and challenge Morbid Angel's status as the leading exponents of deathly extremity, but there's a magic to their performance which goes beyond the high technical standards that quite frankly is par for bands of this caliber. Their reign may not be as undisputed as it once was, but as the evening's proud display proves, it will take some doing to strip Morbid Angel of their title.

(article submitted 19/4/2004)

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