CONCERT REVIEW: Ghosts of Atlantis – Existentialist – Draugrheim Live at Colchester Arts Centre


No review from the Colchester Arts Centre would be complete without hailing the best small venue in the UK. Able to host 400 when packed to the architraves, its post-COVID refurb has cleaned up and modernised where needed (toilets, bars), whilst maintaining the features and character that every converted church that is now a gig-hosting venue should. Added to that, great views and a powerful sound-system, and the stage is quite literally set for a much more adventurous and welcome Tuesday night than you might normally get in the Britain’s oldest (and newest – Google it) city*

*It’ll always be a town, to me. 

And, tho, thus, and lo, with a blow on his mighty horn (pipe down, Sid James at the back), our opening host (guys, in 2023 it shouldn’t be this hard to find out current line-ups and members names) invites us to join his angry men in Draugrheim in quaffing a beverage and to engage in the banging of heads. 


With such a set up, and styling themselves in their on-stage between song chat as Viking Metal, this could have gone a couple of ways… fortunately for the assembled throng we’re taken down the golden path, and the five-piece launch into some serious riffing with main axeman Neil Millar-Robinson (also Elimination) rightly taking the spotlight, leading us through a series of early Amon Amarth (as in, The Crusher etc period) styled melodic death. Battling through the opening band mix, we hear flashes of cool Arch Enemy-esque melodeath riffs drowned by the clattering trigger of bass drums, while “Triumph of the Berserker” and “The Forge”, a track that builds from a drum and chug intro into some Surgical Steel’d riffing, win over the assembly, Millar-Robinson displaying some deft Steer-meets-Hammett influenced soloing. Closing out with a drinking song that is far from their strongest tune, and whose title is waaay too close to an Amon Amarth track, is a gamble, but to be fair a decent number of beers are raised aloft at the conclusion of the set in recognition of the riff-heavy moments that had preceded it… While not fully conquered, Colchester’s assembled greebos have received a hefty Norse-tinged biff round the ears. 


If tonight’s openers played out to a bustling venue, main support Existentialist are welcomed to a fair-old throng eager for their sermon, and for meaning to be given to the next thirty minutes of their lives in the form of a filmic Blackened contemporary Death Metal pounding. 

And, over the course of their impressive set, the Essex-based quintet lay out a lean, ripped and muscular beating as slab-heavy rhythms and underlaying synths writhe against aggressive riffs and controlled breakdowns. Each track brings incrementally more nodding heads, and more involuntary grins and grimaces, as cinematic splashes entwine with deathcore bruisings, not a million miles from the golden Lorna Shore, but in their own way. 


At this point, credit must be given to Jasper Harmer of Essex modern Death dealers Beyond Extinction. Filling in for the extreme vocal chameleon Patty K, who it is confirmed is unwell, Harmer states he learned 1063 words (along with the rest of the set) in three days, adding his gruff tones over the brutal cacophony. To the uninitiated, you wouldn’t have known, and Harmer acquits himself well. 


The mid-paced tracks land really well, with set highlight “The Usurper” from this year’s excellent The Heretic well-placed in the latter stages, the behemoth’s (pun intended)  cavernous mid-section threatening to excavate the adjoining graveyard, before Existentialist exit in a flurry of epic synths, pounding guitars and strobes… and a congregation of fists and cheers held high. Impressive. And with the potential to really go places when back at full-strength. 


So, it seems a Tuesday night in quiet old East Anglia can warm the metal spirits enough to combat the incoming cold snap, and the mood in and around the old church is buzzing and positive during the changeover on a night of celebration of local talent. But pre-release album shows can be a tough gig, even to a near home-town crowd, as brand new tracks wait, ready to be unleashed, to an audience unfamiliar with what they’re about to be assaulted with. 

Any such concerns are swatted away with ease. Symphonic and cinematic Ghosts of Atlantis may be, but they also bring the power of Poseidon, dealing bombastic melodeath draped in blackened filmic layers with craft, precision and purpose. 


Balancing the set with a handful of trips to the debut,, the tale of the flooding of the eponymous island, the story of the Ghosts… continues in the upcoming second album, and first for Hammerheart Records, Riddle of the Sycophants, the release being showcased tonight.


The advance singles are aired with theatrical intent, landing strongly as “Sacramental” tales of “The Lycaon King” and “Lands of Snow” raise the ante in terms of ambition, scale and performance, Colin Parks supplementary theatrical clean vocals adding key embellishments to the excellent Phil Primmer’s emphatic harsher tones; Primmer on point with his delivery, and dovetailing with his band-partner as twin focal point and presence throughout the performance, with the rest of the band locked in.


Perhaps closest in style to Abrahadabra era Dimmu Borgir, with elements of Fleshgod Apocalypse, Bal-sagoth, Septicflesh and the occasional nod to Cradle of Filth (Parks being a member of Cradle off-shoot Devilment) and Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, the new tracks prove that the cinematic, symphonic and melodic elements of the GOA sound have been enhanced to great effect, and the song-crafting game has been raised, too as they embark on a new chapter in their story. 



Delivered live with consummate style, and armed with the stand-out, step-up tracks from Riddles of the Sycophants, Ghosts of Atlantis are well-placed to take their tales and tridents out into the wide-open seas of a new audience, as they hit the road throughout Europe with Fear Factory and Butcher Babes, where they should find willing hearts and minds ready to lap them up. 


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