Black Celebration 2018

I spent a lovely amount of time with Smith at the O2 Forum in Kentish Town on Sunday. The event was the Black Celebration music festival of all types of dark music. Of most interest was the band Suicide Commando. The event was promoted by the Flag Promotions company who run so very many of the gigs and concerts I go to. Obviously my music tastes are aligned with some of theirs.

Black Celebration 2018
Black Celebration 2018

Here are my reviews of each band in order of viewing. As is my usual behaviour I write notes on my phone during or after each act to help me remember what I’ve seen. That is why the comments may be pithy or short.

Machine Rox – were first up. We arrived towards the end of their set as Smith and I were having make-up issues. But they were ok. My notes indicate the following: female singer, there was a guitarist but I couldn’t hear him.

Machine Rox Machine Rox

I liked the dancers who came on for the last song wearing outfits similar to the lead singer. It was a nice touch.

Next up were DKAG who are quickly becoming my most-seen band. They are supporting many bands over the next year. While the music is good there are no vocals and so unless I am wasted on alcohol I’m not that interested. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before but I like crowd interaction from the band, I want to know that they are enjoying it. Two guys with their keyboards doesn’t quite hit the mark.

There was now a short dinner break for me. The local cafe was very welcoming and the food was nice. Recommended. It was Mem’s Cafe on Kentish Town Road.

The return to the Forum meant the last few songs from Sulpher. This band sounded good and heavy with a decent industrial feel.

Sulpher Sulpher

My notes are: guitars and heavy stuff. A little bit of samples mixed in. We saw about 4 songs and it was alright.

Let me explain the “alright” comment. This means I enjoyed it more than a lot of others. While “alright” might not seem a glowing review it means that the music was OK, suitable etc. [I’m trying to renormalise the term AVERAGE and OK to mean what they really mean].

Empathy Test came up next. I have seen this band before although I couldn’t remember exactly where or when. Smith and I had a discussion about who the lead singer was. Once they were on stage I figured out that they had played Infest last year and I saw them there. Here’s what I noted at the time: only 20 seconds in and I was done. Remember them from Infest. Boring vocals and drone-like. Slow. Female drummer who looks like she’s concentrating too much. Well constructed songs but boring.

Suicide Commando rocked the venue. I don’t mind the graphic visuals of people with holes in their bodies where holes shouldn’t be. This band was really good. A real uplift from the previous band.

Suicide Commando Suicide Commando

I still maintain that a live drummer rather than a machine or dead person makes such a difference to a gig. I really enjoyed Mr Commando!

My notes say only the following:

heavy, fast and dirty. Great.

More Suicide Commando More Suicide Commando

And then we get to Mesh. This might be the third time I’ve seen Mesh and they seem almost bored to be on stage. There’s not a lot of interaction. My only notes were:

Kinda boring

The Young Gods came on stage next. I knew nothing about them but I could see three white lights thinly blazing over the positions of the band on stage and I liked that set up. It worked really well. The first song was very Pink Floyd with a slow build up to not-a-lot and then a slow wind down. It felt like the crowd didn’t really know when the song finished. But, this band were older and clearly excellent musicians with that easy style of people who have worked together for so long.

The Young Gods The Young Gods

My scrawled notes say:

Interesting but not really my stuff. turning into experimental upbeat music. Still quite psychedelic. Good beat to some songs. Enjoyable.

Finally we had DAF. A band I had seen at M’era Luna and a band that didn’t impress hugely. I get it that without DAF and other older bands that my style of preferred music wouldn’t exist but I’m also allowed to find their stuff a little boring. I think I would be the same with Nitzer Ebb and other bands from the 80s and 90s. Smith and I stayed for a while but in reality we both had work the next day and long-ish journeys home. Maybe I’ll see a complete Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft set one day.

Arch Enemy – Koko

Last night I popped into town to see the band Arch Enemy. They are a Swedish heavy metal band [melodic death if you are interested] and played Koko, a theatre style venue about a mile away from Kings Cross. Koko is within easy walking distance of my terminus and so I don’t have to worry about getting the tube or missing my last train home. There were quite a few times when, as a teenager, I got stuck in London because once you get the tube back from Wembley to Liverpool Street the last train has gone.

Koko Glitterball
Koko Glitterball

First band up were Tribulation. I wasn’t too sure what to expect as the last metal gig I went to was Gojira and I had an awful headache that night. I’ve seen mostly EBM stuff over the last few years.


My main comment about this band would be that if Spinal Tap have already represented your style of music then you shouldn’t be playing it. This band were like the world hadn’t gone anywhere or done anything for about 30 years. I fully expected a Stonehenge to come down from the ceiling. My notes from the evening describe this band as “gothic metal” and then “epic long boring metal”. It was all witches and stuff. It was a giggle I guess.

Next up were Wintersun. My notes are “surprisingly good” very well constructed songs and played well together. There was lots of gang vocals and ooohing going on in the songs. It wasn’t quite viking metal but it came close in structure. Quite a few songs were fast with lots of double bass drumming [which is fine except when it’s over-used like it was]. The slow song was shit, it irritated me.


At one point the singer was drinking from what looked like a disposable Costa cup and we could see the tea bag label sticking out! TEA!! The guy was drinking TEA. Whatever floats your boat I guess. It’s probably better than alcohol for the throat. Here’s a short clip of stuff:

Headliners were Arch Enemy. I didn’t write any notes about them at the time because I enjoyed the gig enough. They were a tight band and put on a great show.

Arch Enemy
Arch Enemy

The crowd was really up for the mosh pit and I was on the edge of it for a short while but it soon became apparent that my leg injury wouldn’t hold up. I did something stupid to my Achilles about three weeks ago and putting weight onto my toes is not a good idea. The way the mosh pit moved meant I was regularly stepping back to get my balance and this eventually would ruin my ability to walk. Also, by this time my back was hurting so sadly and like an old man I went upstairs to watch from above and rest my weary body.

Alissa White-Gluz
Alissa White-Gluz

I’m not sure if this is the first metal band I have seen with a female lead singer but apart from being slim and curved there wasn’t a great deal of difference between her and a male singer. The band played for a solid ninety minutes and overall I was very impressed. I’d see them again. A very good collection of songs. This gig rates about a 7 on the Smith-Parish scale of GR.

VNV Nation – Scala

The Scala is a curious venue in Kings Cross. It might not actually be in Kings Cross geographically but it is close enough to the station and so that is where I proclaim it to be. I had been here before to see Therapy? and quite liked the venue. This time I was watching VNV Nation who I very briefly saw last year at M’Era Luna when they got a harsh review from me but Smith and I were rushing off to see Hocico so we only saw them briefly.

Doors were at 7pm and we got in there around 19:30 hrs after grabbing some food at a Cho Zen [where I had never eaten before]. The room is up three flights of art-deco stairs [I think they were art-deco] and around a few corners. It’s not an easy venue to fire exit I imagine.

This particular tour was a compendium tour. I hadn’t realised that, I think Smith and I got tickets because we thought the atmosphere and people would be quite similar to Slimelight and we figured the music would be bearable. There was no support. Just straight in to VNV Nation playing loud and proud.

I didn’t know a great deal about the band before this gig and I still don’t really but I can tell you the singer is Irish. He also has similar issues with people using camera phones as I do. After the first song he said that he is happy with people videoing or photographing the band but everyone needed to turn off their flash/lights and also keep the camera in front of their own face, not block those around. In terms of the flash he is spot on. Why use a low powered flash in that sort of scene, it won’t work, it’ll just ruin your final product.

VNV Nation
VNV Nation

One of my issues with people and cameras is they use the digital zoom to get a “better close up” but the problem is they would be better off taking a full zoomed-out picture and then cropping. Digital zoom and cropping achieve roughly the same thing but less jerky.

More VNV Nation
More VNV Nation

So, I need to speak about the songs. All of their songs are pretty good. They are well constructed and good to dance to. The lead singer was good at getting the crowd going and he was really the only one doing any movement as the others were stuck behind electronic stuff.

They played two slow songs. During a song, which may or may not have been a slow one, the singer got the lights turned down and the room was lit by people holding the lights on their phones up. This was very nice and atmospheric.

This was a good fun gig. Nearly three hours of a single band playing their greatest songs from over twenty years of work. I enjoyed it. I’d happily see them again.

The “scene” wasn’t as alternative as I was expecting. There weren’t that many people who were part of the dress up scene such as the ones at Slimelight or M’Era Luna.

Quality Gig
Quality Gig


Bands in which I have played. Date order.

Death By British Telecom Phone Card
Me – bass, Andy Smith – vocals, Nick Smith – drums, Kevin Horswill – guitar
Recorded an EP on music cassette. We were rubbish. 1989 or so.

Me – bass, Mark Hodges – guitar, Ian Barber – guitar and vocals, James (can’t remember his last name!) – drums
Recorded an EP on music cassette. We were pretty good. Played the sixth form leavers party, 1990

 Tinymind . . .
Me – bass and vocals, Russell Denial – guitar, drums and vocals, Mark Dawes – keyboards and vocals
Recorded an EP on CD. We were pretty good. 1996 ish.

Me – bass and vocals, Andy Pomery – guitar and vocals, Ian Pickard – guitar and vocals, Phil Horstrup – vocals, Ian Wesson – drums and vocals
Recorded a live video and some mp3 clips. We were pretty good. A full history of Cashback is here. We played a number of gigs in school. 2003 – 2006