It seems appropriate, as soon as the gates to Hel seem to open across the United Kingdom bringing a brief but surprisingly persistent spell of snow and freezing temperatures, for one of the true bastions of gothic rock to emerge from their home country of Finland and into London as part of an explosive European tour, as though delivered by Nordic gods. The band in question is none other than Helsinki vampires, the 69 Eyes. And on a chilly Tuesday night, the Islington Academy became their own personal playground, to pillage and destroy.
The Finnish legends have arrived with supporting act Generation Graveyard in toe, romping onto the stage looking like the lovechild of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Black Veil Brides, albeit with approximately seventeen more testicles per band member. For those confused, this is a compliment. ‘Poison City’ is a grinding, fire-breathing beast, while ‘All Hail the Plague’ sets itself as a highlight of the opening set of the night, a true fist-pumping reward for the early comers. A retort by the band’s vocalist to one less-than-pleased attendee (swiftly compared to a member of glam revivalists Reckless Love) should go down as an early entrant for “Heckle Response of the Year”, but by no means a template for the overall positive response the unsigned quintet got as they left the stage.
After a brief respite, the main event rolled round and, for the first time since April 2011, the 69 Eyes stepped onto a British stage. The almost two year absence had certainly made London’s heart grow fonder for the glam-turned-goth five-piece, who managed to fire off one of the best albums of 2012 since last visiting these shores. Naturally, music from last year’s release X dominate the evening, with the band starting the set with the album’s opening track ‘Love Runs Away’. The 69 Eyes are enjoying their 23rd year as an active band, and from the start Jyrki’s vocals sound as powerful as ever, the centre point of a band who seem only to improve with age. The band then turned back the clock to air old favourites from some of the nine other albums from their extensive back catalogue, unleashing ‘Dead ‘n’ Gone’ and ‘Gothic Girls’ on an audience completely at the command of the hypnotic Helsinki Vampires.
‘Tonight’, ‘Black’ and ‘Borderline’ soon followed, each track getting its first live airing on UK soil to a consistently solid reception. ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ and ‘Red’ are the most well-received tracks from X, however, and the combination of the electricity in the crowd with that of the five men on stage makes for a very special atmosphere within the O2’s walls. It’s the tracks from 2007 release Angels that get the overall best response, though, as well as sounding tighter and more potent even than many of the tracks aired from X. ‘Never Say Die’ and ‘Perfect Skin’ are undoubtedly highlights of a set that dove into the past and present lives of the 69 Eyes, giving nothing but good signs for the future of the band. The band’s encore is one for the long-standing 69 Eyes fans in the audience (affectionately dubbed “London Vampires” by Jyrki 69), with ‘The Chair’ and ‘Brandon Lee’ joined by a fantastic performance of ‘Lost Boys’ to wrap up a set that delivered in a magnificent fashion, leaving those in attendance with much more than their money’s worth by the time the Vampires depart from the stage for the last time.
While the Islington Academy has lost a number of people’s business for its sometimes extortionate drink prices, it has a knack for bringing out the best from the bands that play there, with this particular Tuesday being no different. You didn’t need a £4.80 pint of Tuborg in hand to realise that the 69 Eyes were on top form in London that evening, and it’s a shame that it was simply a one-off date rather than a full UK tour. Hopefully it will be far less than two years before they storm these shores again.