Obituary last graced these shores over four years ago, but they were back at Camden’s Electric Ballroom last week and were joined by the skull-caving intensity of Conjurer and the gnarly, live Death Metal of Celestial Sanctuary. MetalTalk’s Paul Hutchings battled through the rammed venue with his camera and notebook.
Conjurer / Celestial Sanctuary
Electric Ballroom, London – 23 February 2023
Words and Photography: Paul Hutchings
The main support for the evening might have been a surprise to some. The sludgy, skull-caving intensity of Warwickshire’s Conjurer doesn’t sit neatly in the Death Metal pigeonhole, but they certainly know how to challenge any headliner in terms of sheer power.
Nearly a decade into their journey, the band are road-hardened, although this is their first UK show of 2023. They’ve toured hard on the back of the excellent Pàthos, which was released last year, and it shows as they open up with all guns blazing.
Forty minutes of punishment follow, interspersed by the occasional breakout of ethereal melody. They choose tracks from both their last record and 2018’s debut, Mire, in a setlist that broods with a doomy misery.
Live the band isn’t a hugely interactive spectacle, preferring their aural onslaught to do the damage. Front of stage, it’s bassist Conor Marshall (also of Sylosis) who is the focal point. His relentless headbanging is extenuated by his huge amount of hair which is consistently windmilling.
He’s animated, snarling the lyrics and culminates his performance with a charge over the barrier and into the middle of the pit for the final track. It’s quite the sight as the warriors in the pit circle around him for the final minutes, like sharks around weakened prey. Thankfully his bass is held high, and Marshall emerges unscathed.
Whilst Marshall provides the energy, the flanking guitars of lead vocalist Dan Nightingale and Brady Deeprose pour forth riff after sludgy riff. Nightingale’s vocals are abrasive, visceral and almost unintelligible. That you may not interpret what he’s saying doesn’t really matter, for Conjurer live are a force majeure.
Punishingly emotive, they won’t be for everyone’s tastes. But there is no doubting the sheer force with which they deliver. Judging by the audience response, most get it.
They tour with Carcass in May. I fear for some of those small venues.
It can be a daunting prospect to open such a bill. Can being the operative word, for Celestial Sanctuary showed no fear getting stuck right into their 30-minute slot.
The Ballroom was already healthily full, which encouraged frontman Thomas Cronin to demand circle pits “from the first song to the last.”
Unlike Conjurer, Celestial Sanctuary certainly fit in the OSDM bracket. Their relentless salvos unleashed to the approval of the fast-moving dance floor, already a heaving mass of humanity by song two.
Bathed in far too much dry ice, much to the ‘togs disdain, the band hammered away with songs from debut release Soul Diminished. They aren’t the finished article, that takes time, but they are ideal for the warm-up slot. Guitarist Matt Adnett is a mass of hair and shredding, some of his work lost in the frenzied mix. As for drummer James Burke, well, such was the fog that he was only sighted on a few occasions.
As they launched into their final number, the size of the throng pulsating in front of them had increased. Surfers were flying over, and the front rows were headbanging furiously.
Whether they have the legs for the long haul is another thing, but tonight, Celestial Sanctuary proved that gnarly, live Death Metal doesn’t need to be perfectly polished to make people happy.