LIVE REVIEW: Retribution Alive: Festival of Dance or Death

Date: 6th April 2019
Venue: The Lounge and The Dev, Camden, London

A big thanks to Alan from Retribution Alive who kindly provided me with guestlist access to the festival. Also a big thank you to Saul of Waylander and Ollie of Isarnos for kindly gifting my band patches, and to Captain Wozza for playing all of the best folk and power metal inbetween bands. Finally, a big thanks goes to my friends for dancing and jigging with me, and providing lots of much needed laughs throughout the day.

When Retribution Alive announced this one-dayer Festival of Dance or Death, I was very excited, because if you had no idea already, I do love my folk metal. Plus my friends in Atorc and Isarnos were playing, and to top it all off, Waylander were headlining, and I reviewed their latest album Ériú’s Wheel not that long ago.

The journey to Camden was not an entirely smooth one. I arrived at York station to find my train running an hour behind, so of course, I ended up in London over an hour after I was supposed to. However, it didn’t work out so bad, I managed to put on a face while I was waiting in York, and also had it timed right to meet a friend off of their train who arrived not long after me. A 20ish minute walk, and an almost card steal from a cash machine later, we arrived in Camden itself.

After the obligatory and traditional pre-show Wetherspoons at The Ice Wharf in Camden, myself and my friends headed over to The Lounge where the folk metal stage was. The drinks prices are what you would expect from a London bar, though there were some drinks definitely cheaper than others. It was a cosy little venue with quite a small stage, so I was a little curious as to how some of the bands with larger numbers were going to fit on stage (they did somehow manage!)

First up on the stage were local band Call of Fenrir (Facebook, YouTube). Their stage gear was a little half and half, with war paint and Viking tunics along with jeans and boots or trainers. They definitely did not half perform though, their music was heavy and everyone was clearly thriving being on stage and enjoying themselves. It’s straightforward Viking themed metal with plenty of headbanging to be found, and with the promise of an EP recording in the near future, I look forward to giving it a listen and review.

After a quick changeover and line check, Scars of Sense (Facebook, Spotify) were up next. To me they had more of a 90’s heavy metal feel with the groove and tempo of the tracks, but with the violin replacing the lead guitar role. Scars of Sense were a band I’d not really heard of or listened to before, and I thoroughly enjoyed what I heard, so I’m going to have to have a listen to some of their recorded stuff and check them out. It was the first time some hardcore squatting happened (my legs are still suffering two days later). It also looks like Scars of Sense have not long finished recording a full length album, so I definitely look forward to giving that a listen and review!

During the changeover this time, there was Morris dancing duo Huginn and Muninn (Facebook) accompanied by a nyckelharpa. The performance was short with only a couple of dances, and the lack of space in the venue didn’t help (there were a few near misses with the audience at times). I think acts like this are a great idea at folk metal festivals, they would definitely go down well somewhere like Wacken Winter Nights (Part 1 and Part 2 review).

Now the jigging for the evening really commenced, starting with my good friends in Atorc (Facebook, Spotify, Bandcamp), who recently released their full-length debut Under The Raven Banner. As always Atorc put on an absolutely fantastic performance, getting the crowd jigging, and trying a shield wall of death which ended in a three way jig. For me, Atorc are one of those bands that sometimes lacks in the recorded music area, but live they know how to get a crowd moving and engaged, and they always sound fantastic.

Another bunch of good friends were up next. Isarnos (Facebook) somehow managed to squeeze 7 band members on stage. Once again, Isarnos are a band who never fail to put on a great performance. With a MayPole circle pit around the slightly awkwardly placed pillar in the middle of the room, and so much squatting when bouncing was requested during a track, I was certainly in fully jigging and dancing mode by the end of it. With pipes, violin and hurdy gurdy, Isarnos definitely bring peace, love and folk metal every time they play, and they are another band working on a new release! I’m going to be a busy little reviewer! An additional thank you to front man Ollie for kindly gifting me a patch as well.

Once again, Huginn and Munnin took to the stage during the break, this time with a folk music number, followed by a true dance battle. Again, space was a bit of an issue, if there had been a bigger stage there wouldn’t have been several near misses again, and I’m pretty sure an audience member got an accidental crack on the head from a stick. Thought it’s no one’s fault, just an unfortunate room layout.

All too soon, it was time for the headliners for the evening, Waylander (Facebook, Spotify, Shop). I had seen them previously along with Isarnos and Atorc at HRH Vikings back in December, but circumstances were different back them and I was also quite tired. This time I was really excited about seeing Waylander in such an intimate venue, and excited to hear some of the tracks from Ériú’s Wheel live for the first time after really enjoying the album. They really showed why they ar one of the forefathers of celtic folk metal, with an incredible performance. I don’t think I’ve ever done quite so much dancing and jigging for one set. I usually stand aside a little when there’s lots of jigging, but this time I decided a good jig was definitely required. And to make the night even more lovely, I was kindly gifted a patch by Saul as well.

The night didn’t quite end there however, as we moved over to The Dev for post-band drinks and DJs. There was lots of good old fashioned heavy metal playing, and we had a good old dance and singalong before the aching of feet and sleepiness kicked in. Luckily, my hotel wasn’t too far away, and I had a lovely view of Camden Lock to wake up to in the morning.

Overall Verdict: The entire day was really well put together. There were no late running bands, everything ran so smoothly, if there were any issues, no one in the audience was aware. The selection of bands were fantastic, and the intimacy of the venue really added to the atmosphere and community feel that I always have for folk metal. I will definitely be making the trip to London town again if another Festival of Dance or Death is put on again!

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