Live Review : Gaahls Wyrd + Tribulation + Uada @ O2 Academy Islington, London on February 25th 2019

Inside the O2 Academy it is dark, very dark, and the smoke machines have created a thick swathe of fog that fills the air.  All very fitting as tonight we have the arrival (and only UK date) of the Northern Ghosts tour featuring Uada and co-headliners Tribulation and Gaahls Wyrd. So we can expect a night of melodic black, gothic and extreme metal, plus whatever other sub-genres you could throw in the mix.

Now when a band’s name is Latin for “Haunted” and their album titles are “Devoid of Light” and “Cult of a Dying Sun”, then you just know how the next 40 minutes are going to pan out. Uada enter the stage with faces completely obscured by long hooded cloaks. In almost complete darkness they open with ‘Natus Eclipsim’ and continue to play a number of tracks from their two aforementioned albums which have really made an impact on the Metal scene.

I hadn’t come across Uada until I realised they were supporting Tribulation on this tour. Since then I have been very much looking forward to seeing them as their two albums to date are really something special. Uada play melodic Black Metal, mostly at pace, and have fairly lengthy tracks that are well constructed and have many reoccurring changes in tempo that keep them looping in full circle. Sharp riffs and spectral melodies is how they have been described.

Snakes and Vultures’ comes across well, as does the hard hitting ‘Cult of a Dying Sun’ with lead vocalist Jake Superchi howling and shrieking while the hooded guitarists have their heads down, almost in a trance.   

A captivating and very addictive set from Uada. Played in almost total darkness, in hooded cloaks, with not a word spoken it left behind a definite air of mystery. They clearly won the audience over, judging by the significant amount of albums being sold immediately after their set. Mainly vinyls, I noted.

Tribulation came onto my radar after listening to their 2015 album “Children of the Night” which is full of amazing tracks such as ‘Melancholia’ which I could just play forever and never get bored. Tonight I am hoping their set contains a fair bit of material from this album and I expect it will also feature their most recent album “Down Below” which is pretty damn good too.

Before Tribulation appear, the room (or at least near the front where I was standing) has been filled with a strong smell of incense from the oversized smoky sticks arranged on either end of the stage. Tribulation open their set with ‘Lady Death’ and then go straight into the brilliant ‘Melancholia’.

The two guitarists Jonathan Hultén and Adam Zaars are rarely still. Jonathan in particular constantly strides across the stage swaying and spinning.  With his white painted face, black headdress and layers of thin torn shawls, he performs what I would describe as a skeletal dance of death.   

As expected (and hoped) Tribulation play plenty of material from their last two albums. ‘The Lament’ and ‘Nightbound’ from the recent ‘Down Below’ album are my highlights tonight and also ‘Strange Gateways Beckon’ from ‘Children of the Night’ which comes across brilliantly as we get more colourful lighting introduced to the set. The 6 minute ‘Lacrimosa’ is just made to be the last track of a setlist. It has such a powerful guitar and snare drum intro that just gets everyone’s heads nodding along and the track’s slow moody piano outro is just perfect in the background as the band leave the stage.

Although Norwegian band Gaahls Wyrd have only been in existence for three years, they are fronted by former God Seed, Trelldom and Gorgoroth (amongst others) lead vocalist Gaahl, so they are essentially a continuation of his legacy. 

Gaahl, with his painted face is tall, slender and imposing. Before they open, he stands alone in darkness at the front of the stage and says a few words that I presume are in Norwegian and they then launch into Trelldom cover ‘Steg’.  The next four songs are all covers of tracks from Gaahls previous bands.

The 3 guitarists and Gaahl are predominantly lined up at the front of the stage and interchange positions. The set in the main is played out in relative darkness and Gaahl very much being the focal point. We get just one track from Gaahls Wyrd; the title track from the forthcoming album ‘Ghosts Invited‘ which is a slightly lower tempo than the others in the set and doesn’t really fit in too well but maybe in the context of the album, it works better.

It’s rather odd that there isn’t more actual Gaahls Wyrd material considering a new album is due out in a few months. I’m guessing that the album release was meant to coincide with this tour and has been delayed for whatever reason. Nevertheless, what they do play is fast, heavy, well delivered and much appreciated by those that have stayed (as I notice the audience has slightly thinned down a bit after Tribulation).

After being so fully immersed in the whole dark gothic mood of the evening, I head off into the Islington night feeling like I ought to do a detour through the cemetery to almost stay in character and savour it all, rather than jump on the tube and harshly go straight back into reality.

Words and photography by Mark Walsh