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Live Review

Venue: Brunel Theatre, London

Acoustic occultists aim for a true underground experience

Atribute to the great 19th-century engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Rotherhite’s Brunel Museum was originally built by his brother as part of the Thames Tunnel infrastructure, and was also reportedly host to the world’s first underground party, in 1827.

Clearly attempting to channel dormant spirits, Shards have taken over the vaulting subterranean rotunda for a night of immersive theatre, Victorian mysticism and occult acrobatics – an ambitious project for a band only playing their third show. Fronted by Melissa Gray, former vocalist for fearsome death/black metallers Adorior, this is a very different affair. Musically on the acoustic end of the occult spectrum, their neo-folk rites are acts of invocation and hymns to transformation, and the buzz that’s preceded tonight has brought a full house as inquisitive metalheads rub up against punters in period attire, all having crawled through tiny doorways and down scaffolding, no one entirely sure what’s about to unfold.

Amidst a stage bedecked with foliage, a suspended wreath-adorned ring and numerous damsels looking like they’ve come from one of Aleister Crowley’s Golden Dawn parties, a Victorian vagabond narrates a fevered intro before a horned Melissa eventually appears, strips off her cowl and heads to the right of the stage for an impressive if historically dubious bout of pole dancing. From here on in, she prowls the stage, prowls through the audience, performs more acrobatics on the ring and introduces tarot readers, male acrobats, ghoulish brides and grooms depositing fake snow from the scaffolding above and relates a tale of love, death and rebirth to ultimately bewildering effect.

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