Year Of The Goat & The Order Of Israfel, Exchange, Bristol
This was the only UK show on the tour of what was supposed to be a Scandinavian trio of bands, unfortunately before this show opening band Norway's Tombstones had to pull out so that left just the two Swedish bands standing. It meant that the start time was later with both bands given ample time to rock the crowd in Bristol's Exchange which is rapidly becoming one of my favourite small venues.
Accompanied by the younger Mr Hutchings (who loves all things doom and stoner) it was reasonably clear run to our second home of Bristol meaning that we could indulge in greasy burgers before the show, after a short walk we entered the Exchange acquired some fine bottled ales and headed inside to find The Order Of Israfel (8) rumbling the walls with their heavy doom, formed by Australian Horisont/former Church Of Misery guitarist Tom Sutton and bassist Patrik Andersson Winberg this denim clad, long haired, group of counterculture hippies played devastatingly heavy doom metal driven by the Winberg's Rickenbacker bass and Hans Lilja's colossal drums while Sutton and Staffan Björck brought the wall of riffs.
Many of the songs were slow lumbering numbers filled with occult lyrics and the occasional Sabbath-like bounce that got many heads nodding, the band were enjoying themselves thoroughly despite the sparking mic giving Tom shocks meaning it had to have a sponge over the top of it, that did muffle the vocals a little, still their hour long set flew by and there was a resounding round of applause as they exited through the crowd. One of the quirky features of The Exchange as the dressing rooms are upstairs so every band has to come off the stage this way leading to some German fans that were present getting a little over excited during the half hour change over.
With the stage starting to fill with instruments it was almost time for our headline act, with a promise of a hour and 10 minute set the six piece crammed themselves onto the stage meaning that bassist Joona Hassinen was obscured behind guitarist Don Palmroos, squashed into a corner next to Fredrik Hellerström's drums. The set kicked off with the clarion call chorus of The Key And The Gate and with three guitars on stage the riffs smashed out of the PA as Palmroos, Jonas Mattsson and frontman Thomas Sabbathi all traded riffs and solos (although Sabbathi took the majority) really hammering home the bands twin-lead driven melodic metal bolstered by the secret weapon of Pope's organs/keys.
I for one was surprised how early the mammoth Angel's Necropolis from the debut album of the same name came in the set, but it made the whole performance increase after the slightly muddy start, it was in these triumphant louder sections that Sabbathi's excellent vocals could finally be heard, having been muffled when doing the lower parts. On the back of Angels Necropolis the set really built into a climax, Of Darkness was a chilling reminder of the band's more doom-laden early sound but it was the songs from the most recent record The Unspeakable that were the strongest bringing in the more melodic touches of bands such as Ghost, using the keys and twin leads to full effect.
Best of the bunch (and a personal favourite for me) is the almost occult country rock of Black Sunlight which has chicken pickin' guitar driving it and hard rock groove, with the show coming to a close the songs kept coming thick and fast as the amazing one-two of the wildly riffy Vermillion Clouds and the classic metal of For The King took us back to the EP and the debut album a theme that continued on This Will Be Mine with the incredible Riders Of Vultures finishing in style.
Then with the final strike of the instruments and ringing feedback the show was over, no encore just finished and off the stage, Year Of The Goat (8) managed to win over every person in that room with their occult, proto-metal, personally I was glad this show was moved from the London venue it was supposed to take place in as what the small but rabid crowd got in that room were two bands that rarely come to the UK but when they do they bring their best.