Thrash Hits

April 19th, 2010

Live: Viatrophy @ Camden Purple Turtle – Tuesday 6 April 2010

You’ve probably heard by now that Viatrophy have decided to split up. Which is why Tom Dare made sure he caught the band’s last-ever London show.

It’s not always the best or most exciting bands who garner most attention and success. Viatrophy’s untimely demise and the manner in which London bids them farewell is hard evidence of this; one of the most inventive and brilliant bands to come out of this country in years is calling it a day after only one album, and their last ever date in the capital hardly draws enough people to be called a crowd.

The support bill showcases no less than four up-and-coming talents, and while all have merits it is the second act of that night that stands out – and in a big way. Phyrexia are a huge shock. Mixing elements of Emperor, Death, Iced Earth and Rhapsody of Fire shouldn’t work, but instead, this strange mingling of styles (symphonic blackened power death, anyone?) is tremendously entertaining. They manage to unsettle – as black metal should – whilst remaining fun (essential to power metal) and making you feel like someone is punching you in the gut in the best traditions of death metal.

Frankly though, no one was going to steal this night from Viatrophy – even if Fate seemed to have a bloody good go at it. Frontman Adam Myers is unwell, and cannot perform. Thankfully, Viatrophy have brought some mates with them who know the songs. First into the breach is Nally from opening act Chapters, who roars into ‘Seas Of Storms’- and then the world stops. In spite of tonight’s shamefully sparse attendance, Viatrophy comfortably show exactly why the small number of people who discovered them were so blown away by what they found.

Watch Viatrophy in happier days…in their 2009 tour video:

What makes Viatrophy so brilliant is their ability to suddenly switch from ferocious, technical death metal to an ambient passage that washes over you like a wave of ecstasy. It feels like being caught up in a furious storm, before suddenly finding yourself at the eye of the hurricane, looking out at brutal destruction while being safe and warm, and almost feeling like you are floating. You really are not paying any attention to what is happening onstage as the music is simply too powerful.

Whether it was either of the two vocalists from Chapters or Stefano Ghersi (frontman of Italian deathcore band Stigma, who had flown in especially to see Viatrophy one last time and ended up performing half the set) doing the screaming did not really matter- because the guitar work is simply so stunning that it is hard to take anything else in. Gurneet Ahluwalia will be a massive loss to British metal music, his exceptional playing, invention and song-writing having been at the core of Viatrophy’s music, as well as playing their part in Sylosis’ arrival in metal’s consciousness. This incredible band will be sadly missed, and their astonishing guitarist in particular.

At the end, Stefano is dragged back onstage for a stunning and obviously spontaneous encore of ‘Scenes Of Extended Peril’- the crowd simply will not let Viatrophy leave the stage without at least one more song. When the show finally ends, there is a feeling of sadness that there will be no opportunity to see them again, but the last memory of them will be stunning and unique due to Adam’s absence.

Watch part 2 of Viatrophy’s 2009 tour video:

Although easily the best performance of the night, Viatrophy have shown us that times have changed. It was not that long ago that the demise of a band as exceptional as this would have been a crushing blow to UK metal but, even though some of us may still be crying into our beards about their split, this is no longer the case. We can console ourselves with the still-rising stars of Malefice, Sylosis, Xerath, Trigger The Bloodshed and a dozen others. We can mourn Viatrophy- and at least one of the Thrash Hits team will be doing so for some time yet- but we can be encouraged by the strong state of British metal.

After tonight’s show, the virus that afflicted their frontman later spread to the other members, forcing them to postpone the last three dates of their farewell. The rescheduled Nottingham and Cardiff dates are yet to be announced, but the Reading finale has been set for May 23. If you are anywhere near any of their last three gigs, be sure to go – it is your last chance to experience one of the finest British bands of their generation.

Viatrophy @ Purple Turtle setlist:
Nally from Chapters on vocals:
Seas Of Storms
The Ethereal Darkness
Sufferance
Stefano from Stigma on vocals:
Futile Prayers
Mistress Of Misery
Dan from Chapters on vocals:
Plague Of The Elected
Draining What Remains
Encore: Stefano from Stigma on vocals:
Scenes Of Extended Peril

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