Abaddon magazine

Music magazine

Monday, November 28, 2022

Live report: Primitai / Claymorean / Oathbringer, Atom Akademija, Belgrade, Serbia, October 16th, 2022

It was a Saturday and we were located just a couple hundred meters from the Belgrade fortress. Almost perfect setup for a dozen or so epic warriors, clad in heavy, metal armor. And a princess on top of it all, but more on her later on.

Okay, I’m done abusing clichés. The truth is that it’s been ages since I attended a real, traditional heavy metal concert. Let alone one headlined by a foreign band. I’ve even missed Iron Maiden some months ago. Not to be misunderstood, I’ve simply declined an opportunity to waste a ridiculous sum of money for a concert. In any case, witnessing what happened in Atom Akademija more than made up for that miss. In regard to feeling the pure metal mass, of course. I won’t go that far to claim it was a better concert than Maiden performed.

Anyway… Opening the show, for a decently populated venue, were newcomers to Serbian metal scene. Oathbringer just published their debut album, titled “Tales of Glory” and according to the band’s front man, Priestkiller his lovely pseudonym, this was their first appearance in the home country’s capital.

If there’s one fault to notice, it’s the fact their live set relies heavily on cover tracks. For a band with a full record published, there’s really no need for three or four covers in the forty five minute long set. That and the “comic relief” part where the guitarist, we should call him Axxer, looks like his former band was called Spinal Tap. Also, Priestkiller seems to be a 2-in-1 poor man’s version of Joey DeMaio and Eric Adams.

Still, if I leave out all the jokes, the band is a tough, extremely heavy and altogether impressive representative of old heavy metal. Set on the borderline of British and German traditional 1980’s heavy metal, where Saxon meets Grave Digger with added epic touches of Manowar (obviously) and some early doom, not unlike Candlemass, for instance. Also, they are no strangers to sliding down the thrash lane, mostly of US provenance. Overkill, for best example. With Priestkiller’s voice range that easily transfigures from Chris Boltendahl, to the mentioned Eric Adams, with a couple of pit-stops in between and his expressive performance that has no way of not convincing the listener of all the epic fantasy literature characters being real historic figures.

All of the above combined grants a somewhat unique musical orientation, finely blended into a cohesive whole. However, at least in yesterday’s live setting, it seemed to me Oathbringer lacked catchiness to fire up the venue to the point of fixing the fuel crisis that’s ravaging Europe nowadays.

Still, the crowd’s response was by far the most energetic of the night and seeing the venue was packed by a majority of youngsters, there just might be something I missed. Who knows!? Either way, Oathbringer convinced me enough. I almost went and bought the CD.

Surprisingly, there wasn’t too big of a pause before the headliners went on. You know how these switches, especially in small venues and on underground level can be elongated and dull the blade of the entire concert. And yes, you read it correctly, Primitai, the guests from Great Britain were up next. Granted, they are largely unknown in Serbia, so the fairly looser reaction from the audience was expected. Still, it wasn’t dead and gone, though I can swear there was fewer people in front of the stage than earlier. I might be wrong, it’s not like I was counting, but I got the feeling a lot of people came just to mosh in front of Oathbringer, disregarding the other two.

Whatever the case, Primitai didn’t seem to care and soon enough they were firing from all the weapons at their disposal. One of them being another “comic relief” on guitar. The man who looks like an illegitimate lovechild of the original Rocky Balboa (the first movie) and Brian May with all the skill of them both combined included in his repertoire. And there’s another twist to the man. His name is actually Srđan Bilić, of Bosnian (Sarajevo) descent, which he proved by addressing us in our own language. Yes, “our language” because it is the same language with different dialects. Death to all you stupid nationalists!

Joking once again aside, Primitai are way too young to be part of the British “premier heavy metal league”, but that fact does not stop them from performing straight from the heart, honest and straight-up driven heavy metal, the English way. Maiden to Pan Tang. Saxon to Angelwitch. Priest to Diamond Head… With a couple of subtle hints to previous generation of hard rock greats, such as Deep Purple, especially with a few guitar harmonies that went down that path. The mentioned guitarmeister Mr. Bilić dominates the strings to an extent that could make Zele Lipovača, even in his best days, weep like a schoolgirl. Drum work sticks out massively with Mr. Jonathan Warren being just a step down from the ruler of the kit Nicko McBrain. And that’s a statement that would likely change if only there was room on that stage for a set like Mr. Mcbrain’s. Fronted by a man that obviously felt a bit claustrophobic on a small stage, likely used to running like a frenzied Bruce Dickinson along the boards, Primitai pushed the sword to the hilt, deep in the guts of your unsuspecting reporter. Leaving me surprised and delighted at the same time.

The Brits hardly had the time to greet all their newfound fans, wanting for souvenirs of the show, when crusaders from Lazarevac took to the stage. Claymorean was the one band on the bill I’ve actually heard before. I’ve heard about them way back in the day when they were called Claymore. However, I’ve lost touch and have to admit the past decade of the band’s existence flew past me.

And then Claymorean went on a mission to prove me ignorant… The four noble knights, led by a princess… Wait! No! Not a princess! She’s not some Goldilocks, whining and dining around the forest. Mrs. Garčević is a full-blown warrior queen! No Tarja, but ferocious Marta Gabriel, Sabina Classen or Doro Pesch prior to succumbing to ballads.

She is backed by a wall of power metal that successfully combines German and Scandinavian traditions of the genre. Genre-wise, Claymorean are the least versatile of the three that graced the stage last night. However, the fact does not deter them from performing at the top level. Giving it their all, the quintet delivered the goods to the further shrunken crowd which, in turn, returned whatever was left of the collective energy to the band that just didn’t feel like powering down.

“Living after midnight” went on as soon as Claymorean victoriously left the field of battle, rounding up the metal meeting, such as we are not used to witnessing in Serbia too often. Shameful, for sure, but leaving a much bigger impression once it does occur.