Heaven Under The Arches beneath London’s Charing Cross Station plays host to a very special line up tonight; a fact that is not lost on steadily gathering punters at a venue that seems new to many. US doom veterans, Saint Vitus are back in town, this time co-headlining with local underground heavy metal standard bearers, Orange Goblin. They’ve brought some extra artillery too…the planets are aligning…strap yourselves in and prepare your senses.
The atmosphere is brilliant in Heaven. The cavernous entry and bar areas are filling and the merch stands are being well supported – two t-shirts and two CD’s – guilty as charged Your Honour; plus a quick photo opportunity with Martyn Millard and Joe Hoare of Orange Goblin (cheers lads).
I must confess that my usual pre-gig research was lacking tonight so I wasn’t aware of who was first band on the bill. Mental air-punches were therefore in order upon learning that Serpent Venom were in their final stages of preparation. Having seen them several times before, I know these guys are more than capable of blowing out the cobwebs. There aren’t enough “o”’s in “doom” to describe their sound. From the absolutely thunderous riffs to vocalist Garry Ricketts beseeching vocals, they are the perfect example of the underground doom metal talent in Britain. With songs from recently released album Of Things Seen And Unseen getting an airing there is so much to like here. Seriously, if you love your doom and have not seen these guys live, rectify that situation immediately. Get albums too – that’s an order.
After as near a prefect warm up as you’ll get, there is a tangible sense of excitement for Orange Goblin. And why not? From psychedelic, stoner metal to savage doom riffery, every show is a journey. Tonight is no different. Once the boys take to the stage and the man-mountain that is Ben Ward glares out the audience, the sweat starts to drip. Scorpionica opens up and there is a surge down front. This is simply joyous, heavy metal thunder. After years of honing their craft there is such an immediate stage presence. Ward’s child-like enthusiasm is completely infectious. The best thing though is that Orange Goblin are a complete sum of their parts. Chris Turner and Martyn Millard crash their way into your senses while Joe Hoare’s wah-wah flecked solos provide a platform for Ward – surely one of the most engaging frontmen on the circuit.
Their set is a first class best of, from early favourites Saruman’s Wish and Blue Snow, they weave their way through their back catalogue, blending in tracks from their latest release, Back from The Abyss. The new work slots in effortlessly among all the crowd favourites. Sabbath Hex one moment, The Fog the next. By the time Quincy The Pigboy and Red Tide Rising round out their set, the crowd are ecstatic. I doubt there are many bands who embrace their fans’ support the way Orange Goblin do. It’s no wonder there standing in the metal community is so strong.
Celebrating their 35th anniversary, Saint Vitus need no introduction. Cited as a major influence by countless bands, their sound and importance to heavy metal is undeniable. Scott “Wino” Weinreich, Dave Chandler, Mark Adams and Henry Vasquez, casually take the stage. A self-assured grin from Wino and business begins. Living Backwards and I Bleed Black are the perfect introduction, each performed with a little more pace that adds extra urgency to songs that already drip with angst.
St Vitus are truly masters of their craft. Introspective and sometimes bitterly doomy, their delivery is full of spit, bile and venom. Wino one moment grins at you like your best friend then stares right through you before grimacing into the mic before delivering a commentary on a sad and sorry world. Chandler, whose pained soloing adds frenzy at every turn, also takes turns to share his thoughts on what you can do with any establishment.
Tonight’s set list is a fine cross-section of a band’s career. Blessed Night and Let Them Fall from their last release Lillie F:65, stand easily alongside The War Starter and Dying Inside. This is the key to Saint Vitus – there is a raw, naked simplicity to their work. No secrets, no bullshit. Whether the subject matter is personal or social, everything is laid bare.
By the end of it all, I am left truly blown away at having the privilege to witness three bands like this on the same bill. The veterans, the standard bearers, the future of heavy metal – and classic heavy metal at that. Wandering down to the Embankment, senses crushed, I can only hope that I can experience this again.