Moonspell and Rotting Christ live in London 2019

This night’s gig was at the fantastic, historical Highbury Assembly Hall, a grade II listed building full of architectural grace. There cannot be anything more humorous on such an evening than seeing a big body of goths and metalheads all ascending from the depths of the Highbury and Islington tube station, to then stand in confusion wondering where they are and how to get to the black metal show at the prestigious building. Luckily for us all it was a short 7 minute walk before coming face to face with the big tour bus parked right outside the venue. This was a very nearly sold out show, and the time between the doors opening and the first band being on was only a short 15 minutes, the queues were lengthy but that came to no surprise considering the fantastic line-up.
Moonspell and Rotting Christ London show 2019 poster
Silver Dust are an annual visitor in the UK, this time coming back for the third year in a row, both previous years supporting our favourite Finnish monsters Lordi on their European tours. Although they are still touring in support of their last album “House 21”, which was released in April 2018, they are getting visibly bigger crowds, and many people have been returning to catch them every year. This Swiss gothic quadruple doesn’t hold back when it comes to their image, the main prop being the “mirror” screen which plays short visual clips in support of the story behind the songs, to immerse the audience deeper into their twisted world.
All members, dressed in full gothic attire, as they stepped onto the stage into the dark, while their creepy accordion intro “Libera Me” sparked curiosity throughout the room. The first song was “The Unknown Soldier” from their most recent album. Slow but rather heavy and is always a good starter to their set, with Lord Campbell’s vocals eerily echoing through the audience and the heavy, maybe even slightly doom-like guitar played by Tiny Pistol, striking everyone in the crowd. The audience were clearly fans of what they saw and heard, whether it was the first time finding out about the band or they have already crossed paths before, the loud cheering said it all. The list followed on with a livelier “Shame on You” from their second album “The Age of Decadence” from 2016, followed by a song of the same name as the album. Possibly the band’s most popular song yet, “Forever”, which comes with a music video was next. This one has a beat that will stay in your head for a long time after you had listened to it, whether you want it to or not. After being blown away by “Forever”, the band took a little break while Lord Campbell entertained everyone on stage, after being challenged to a musical duel by a masked anon on the screen. Here he got to show off his exceptional guitar skills, as well as his other tricks. The next song called “La La La La” followed by what may seem like a random phone call during the set on one of their ‘props’. This glided us to “The Calling” right before the band got the audience even more involved by getting down to the floor and jumping up. “The Judgement Day” came next, which would make most people want to dance along to it. The final song was not one they fully wrote but definitely an excellent way to end a set, this was a fantastic gothic but heavy cover of “Ave Satani” from The Omen, which definitely left an impression on the audience and it would be a pleasant surprise to find on the group’s next album. Silver Dust never fail to successfully warm up the crowds, the room was ready to face the next chapter of the night.
Greek pioneers of the East’s black metal, Rotting Christ, are the main support/co-headliners for this long tour, which they wanted to do with Moonspell for a number of years now. The creators of the ‘signature’ Greek black metal sound have released their 13th studio album titled “The Heretics” earlier this year, which highlights the vocalists Sakis Tolis and his drummer/brother’s Themis’ philosophical views, which are always present in their music. “Non Serviam” is a good example of this, a Latin phrase openly used by the group, which translates to: “I will not serve” and is said to have been spoken by Lucifer, refusing to serve God. It is no secret that the group have had issues in the past, due to their “controversial” name, with venues cancelling gigs and countries refusing them entry on suspected involvement with Satanism, however, although the occult can go well with their work, they base their music on Greek mythology and history. The first song of the set was the fantastic “666” from 2013 album “Κατά Τον Δαίμονα Εαυτού”, a brilliant one to begin with because it is rather slow and just a good introduction to the darkness Rotting Christ have to offer, especially if you have never seen them before. It really sets the appropriate mood for the rest of the set and puts the audience in the right mindset. The crowds were already boisterous as everyone was excited to experience these musical giants, with the energy levels being balanced between the band and the crowds.
Unfortunately, two of the band’s members left Rotting Christ earlier this year to focus on their other projects; Vagelis Karzis who was on bass duty and George Emmanuel, who played the guitar. Both were members for 6 years, but now have been replaced by Kostas Heliotis on bass and Giannis Kalamatas on guitar, at least for this tour. Although seeing Rotting Christ with the previous members would have been a fantastic encounter, the two new musicians are certainly not lacking in abilities to make the room go wild – on stage, they have good chemistry between them and the right kind of attitude to fill in the big roles they have been presented with. “Dub-Sag-Ta-Ke” was the next song from their 2010 album “Aealo”, taking the energy from the slow and steady to the highly energetic battle mode. This song is the only one from this album which isn’t in Greek or English, and is believed to have been a curse to some Gods in Assyria, a no longer existing empire. Next on the list was “Fire, God and Fear” from the latest album, being one out of (for some reason) only two new songs played, the other one being “Dies Irae” later into the set. Other songs included “Κατά Τον Δαίμονα Εαυτού”, “Nemecic”, “Apage Satana”, “The Sign of Evil Existence”, “The Forest of N’Gai”, “Societas Satanas”, “In Yumen-Xibalba” and “Grandis Spiritus Diavolos”. The setlist was a really good balance of old and new tracks, allowing both the old school fans and younger fans to come together to catch the heretics in action. The last song of the set was to nobody’s surprise “Non Serviam”, the very dark sounding, but rather melodic song which has clear influences of Norway’s original black metal from the 90s. Rotting Christ have been going on for over 30 years with Sakis and Themis being in the band since the start. They are showing no signs of slowing down, and their passionate live performances as well as ample new albums are proving just that.
The final act of the night, the main headliners, were the mystical 5-piece Moonspell from Portugal, supporting their latest concept album “1755”, which was released in 2017 and is their 11th studio album. The stage had been set up in an intriguing way; the damaged cathedral-like backdrop and two massive crosses, one on each side, which took a large proportion of their space. This made it seem almost like the audience was about to be presented with a theatrical performance. This dark metal band has been creating their art since 1992, and evolved their sound from gloomier black/gothic metal to chilling orchestral yet harsh melodies. A lot of these songs sound like something you’d expect to find in the film The Crow.
The lights dimmed and the band started entering the stage. Fernando Riberio, vocalist and only constant member of the band since 1992, came on stage wearing clothes which resembled Victorian era grave robbers – with an old hand held oil lantern in his hand, the stage was extremely dark and it wasn’t difficult to start feeling like you have been sucked into the centre of the story and are now a part of it. The rest of the members were also dressed for the occasion, with long gothic coats and big leather boots being in the mixture too. “Em Nome Do Medo” was the first song of the set, from the 2012 album “Alpha Noir”. This fantastic starter holds the appropriate bass line, played by Aires Pereira that eases the audience in, before Riberio’s harsh vocals take the people watching on a trip to the past. It is no secret that the band enjoys writing about their country’s history. Their latest album, “1755”, is a concept album which goes into details and the aftermath of the 1755 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed Lisbon. It is also their only album so far which is sung entirely in their mother tongue, Portuguese. This song woke everyone up with its orchestral aspects, setting its dark tones on the atmosphere in the room.
Money has recently been invested on the Islington Assembly Hall’s sound system, which only allowed for the quality of the show to be even more enhanced, giving the audience the opportunity to enjoy the show without worry. “Desastre” and “Opium” were the next ones on the list, two on the total end of the band’s timeline, with “Opium” from 1996, being one of their better-known songs, which drove the group to their early day success. The band’s sound has evolved, with “Desastre” being a dramatic song from the latest album again, containing harsher vocals and much angrier power behind it. It was a good experience hearing the two completely different sounds one after the other live; the rollercoaster of the varied level of emotions stirred the energy in the room before the next track. The night progressed with a mixture of old and new from albums such as “Irreligious”, “Night Eternal”, “The Antidote”, “Breathe (Until We Are No More)” and “Wolfheart”, specific tracks such as “Awake”, “Night Eternal”, “Extinct”, “Everything Invaded” and “Mephisto”. “Vampiria” was one of the last songs, which captivated all the goths in the room with how both beautifully dark and melodic it sounded. The majestic “Alma Mater” was the last song before the encores, sung with much passion and love in Ribeiro’s voice. This one has a special power and meaning behind it as, according to Ribeiro, it is said to unite everyone with a sense of belonging: “Moonspell’s ‘Alma Mater’ holds for us the true meaning of this Latin expression. It talks about something bigger which unites us, and it’s not God, politics or football but an eternal sense of belonging and returning. That’s why ‘Alma Mater’ is the biggest Moonspell song. Enjoy it in its home country, our Alma Mater Portugal!!!”…
The first of the two encore songs were “Todos Os Santos”, which has a destructive vibe about it. Again, coming from the latest album, the mix between the orchestic choir and raw metal guitar played by Ricardo Amorim gave the performance a whole level of depth where any feeling you were experiencing prior the show just got lost within the music. The second encore and last song of the night was the beautiful “Full Moon Madness”, which slowed down the electric buzz of the storm in the room. The fantastic work done by Pedro Paixao on his enchanting keyboards, as well as the soft melodic guitar during this song had the ability to send the packed room on an adventure beyond their physical being as it reaches deep within the darkest corners and finds an even darker spot you didn’t think you had. Truly a sensational song to end the set with.
With the fact that Moonspell have been around since 1992 and have toured with some of the biggest names in the metal industry, it is very hard to believe they aren’t much bigger. Their performances engage with the audience and they can clearly make some special connections with their fans, as well as deliver an excellent, one of a kind experience. In the ideal world, we would be seeing this name headlining more tours and more packed-out venues. However, for now, we can do all we can to support them making their art.