Black Breath/Victims/Tormented/Dead Existence at the Underworld 02/04/2012
Words by Pete Green
Photos by Antony Roberts
The Underworld is crusty at the best of times, but if there were a crust-o-meter system to measure the volume of beards, the essence of scraggly unwashed hair, the number of hoods up over baseball caps indoors and pairs of tight black jeans, tonight would surely be up there as some kind of new record. Seattle, Washington’s premier punk-thrashers Black Breath are in town to wreak havoc and destruction alongside a varied support bill of bands drawn from an equally gnarled darkness. One thing’s for sure, this ain’t gonna be pretty!
Dead Existence warm up the lethargically gathering swarm of hooded rogues in suitable head-nodding fashion with their downtrodden brand of rugged bleakness. A first show with a new drummer is always difficult, but Jordan Tredray (also of El Schlong) adds a new energy to the lumbering death-sludge riffs and Jake Harding’s inhuman roar. The rusting walls of closing opus ‘Down the Crooked Path’ peel away rapidly at first before slowly corroding into a basement of putrid bile.
Swedish crushers Tormented arrive on stage complete with a mixture of vintage early-period Sepultura, classicly raging Venom, and a sizable dollop of Entombed’s guitar grit. Their dual Flying-V assault is more mid-paced crustiness than a burnt loaf of bread, with Andreas Axelson’s wall-cracking vocals a clear focal point, but a weak guitar mix onstage leads to a lukewarm crowd response. There’s a few diehard fans enjoying the likes of ‘Vengeance From Beyond the Grave’ and the riotous ‘Repulsion Fix’, but Claes Holmberg’s largely static lead riffs don’t do much to change the growing feeling that this is rather average death metal. There’s lots of passion and fire in their bellies for sure, but not much is returned for their efforts from the pit.
If Tormented lacked a certain vital energy, Victims are here to compensate. The Swedes’ textbook hardcore punk sees virtually all four members thrashing manically about the Underworld’s corner stage as if they’re being tasered continuously for 40 minutes. Giving the audience complete, total energy, frontman Johan Eriksson’s barked vocals and Gareth Smith and Jon Lindqvist’s catchy hooks spike the pit into a beer-frothed frenzy. They make a lot of new fans tonight, and their hell-bent-for-leather vibe finds them perhaps the closest band yet to tonight’s headliners.
Black Breath seem a little rushed into their on-stage set-up, but with a near capacity crowd practically pissing themselves in anticipation, they rip into ‘Feast of the Damned’ with more gusto than Eric Pickles at a pie-eating convention. Aside from perhaps Trap Them, there are few groups out there today whipping and churning out such venomous riffs on top of a groove thicker than a whale’s stomach lining. A strange contrast of heights abounds the stage with pint-sized singer Neil McAdams bouncing around like a heavy metal bunny in between giant wind-milling guitarist Eric Wallace and the equally lofty Elijah Nelson on bass. A guy behind me comments that the size of the beatdowns on display is “Herculean”, and I can do no better than that for a description. It’s all about the riffs tonight, with ‘Eat the Witch’, ‘I Am Beyond’, ‘Sentenced to Life’ and ‘Virus’ all blasting from the PA with an aggression, precision and hunger rarely seen in a band this young. Jamie Byrum is absolutely on fire behind the kit and his deafening double-kick acts as a 15-ton anchor on the jaw-dropping Slayer-beating of ‘The Flame’; the crowd briefly pausing in their mission to mosh to just observe the sheer devastation of Wallace and Mark Palm’s broken-glass-on-sandpaper tone. The pit-stirrers do save some energy back for afters though and debut album opener ‘Black Sin (Spit On the Cross)’ is met with the type of Satanic sing-along you’d expect to be reserved for a band of corpse-painted Norwegian lumberjacks. The monster scythes of ‘Wewhocannotbenamed’, ‘Heavy Breathing’, ‘Children of the Horn’ and a final blast of ‘Razor To Oblivion’ spit us out into the murky Camden night, ears ringing with the satisfaction of having been witness to one of metal’s most devastating up-coming bands in their sweaty prime. Very crust-worthy indeed.
Black Breath setlist:
Feast of the Damned
Eat the Witch
Escape from Death
Sentenced to Life
I Am Beyond, Of Flesh
Home of the Grave
Black Sin (Spit on the Cross)
Children of the Horn
Razor to Oblivion