Pay your fare to Hades and give a nod to Cerberus as you pass, this journey to the Underworld is bound to be a treacherous one as Firewind make their triumphant return to the UK.
Humbled Greek dark outfit Scar of the Sun (8) welcome in a night of uncontrollable riffs and blistering speeds with their first show in the city they formed in 2004. From the moment towering new track ‘Among Waters and Giants’ pierces through the venue with guttural vocals and cleverly orchestrated backing tracks, the Grecian growlers start the night’s line-up in devastating fashion. New favourite ‘Sand’ is greeted warmly by a crowd hungry for commanding guitars, while contagious ‘The Truth About the Lies’ booms assertively through the Underworld with a honed performance justifying their 13 years together. True to their name, Scar of the Sun shine bright and gain a number of fans closing with an incredibly true to track performance of ‘Gravity’ – live shows appear to be the life and soul of this band.
As surreal Swedish metallers Manimal (9) hit the stage, the Underworld lights up with cheers – this is not just any support band, this is a band with bite, blackened eyes as dark as a chargrilled church and high notes that would make Mike Patton’s eyes water. Searing opener ‘Trapped in the Shadows’ sets a blistering pace and welcomes frontman Julien Cassarino’s piercing screams – even a straightjacket proves no match for this man on stage. ‘The Darkest Room’ couldn’t be less appropriate, their incendiary set licks through ‘Human’ and ‘Invincible’ with effortless precision and prompts the most vivid and engaged response from a crowd that support bands can only dream of. The terrifically catchy ‘Irresistible’ bellows its last to close the set but this is less a farewell than a ‘see you later’ – this won’t be the last London hears of Manimal.
Hellenic heavies Firewind (10) hit the stage amid the commanding narrative of ‘Ode to Leonidas’ – the Immortals tour covers a wealth of content from their new concept album of the same name. True to the tales of the ancient Greek victories against the Persian forces in 480 BC, Firewind return to British shores after a 5-year absence with their fists raised high, their fans have no choice but to surrender to their colossal energy.
New album hits ‘Hands of Time’ and ‘Wars of Ages’ feel just as vital as classics ‘Falling to Pieces’ and ‘The Fire and the Fury’ – while this 2017 set caters to a fresh audience, fans who haven’t seen Firewind for half a decade welcome them with wide eyes and open hearts. Lead shredder Gus G dominates the far inferior stage with riff after impenetrable riff – he’s Ozzy Osbourne’s axeman for a reason. Even the softer tones of ‘Lady of 1000 Sorrows’ aren’t safe from his indomitable presence, ‘Back on the Throne’ throbs through the packed crowd and ‘Tyranny’ leaves a timeless mark on the present numbers thanks to chief shredder Gus G and the incredible harmony he has orchestrated within the band of his own design.
Towering frontman Henning Basse is visibly gobsmacked at the crowd response and, as Gus G lays a reassuring hand on his shoulder, the reality of the music industry hits the entire room – no matter how long you’ve been in this business, belting your compositions to a crowd that chants your name is a life-affirming experience. Firewind may have changed frontmen numerous times over their near 20 years together but Henning Basse unquestionably cements his authority at the Underworld, so much that it’s now hard to imagine them without him.
An unforgettable evening of face-melting guitars and vocals fit for the Greek throne, it’s no wonder the Underworld is the perfect setting to send exhausted fans back on their journey down the River Styx.