“Welcome home” is the opening lyric of for Heart Of A Coward‘s monstrous new album (my pick for Album of the Year, by the way), Deliverance (Century Media). And it’s properly apt for tonight’s gig at The Fighting Cocks in Kingston. Seeing bands of tonight’s calibre in a space smaller than many toilets redefines the concept of an intimate gig. The close quarters with the bands coupled with virtually flawless sound have made this place my new favourite venue.
Starting tonight’s proceedings are a hardcore crew from Dublin by the name of Red Enemy, and very nice they are too. Space limitations in the open cupboard that passes for a stage exiled vocalist Kevin “Lefty” Letford to the pit, a state of affairs that can intimidate some frontmen, but this fellow was more than up to the task, spitting his venom directly into the faces of an eager crowd. Classic hardcore.
Next up was (for me) the surprise of the evening, a group of Scouse djentlemen going by the name of Carcer City. With a rare mix of endearing humility and huge sackfuls of charisma, these chaps delivered a headline-worthy set of precise, atmospheric and above all meaty djent metalcore played with delightful abandon. Comfortably one of the best support acts I’ve ever seen, these guys are ideal tour buddies for HOAC, being similar enough to sell to the same crowd, yet different enough to stand alongside rather than in the shadow. Their 2011 album – The Road Diaries – is available on their website for free. Get it, love it and buy merch.
Changeover consolidated the sense of intimacy, with band members threading back and forth through the crowd (backstage is effectively outside, and no space for a crew of roadies) that let them get about it, rather than hassling for selfies. This didn’t feel like a roomful of punters watching transcendent idols – it had the community spirit of a tight group of local bands playing in a room full of their mates.
All comparisons with “local bands” are off, however, once HOAC take the stage. Opening with a pitch-perfect rendition of ‘Hollow’, the headliners delivered a world-class performance that equals anything I’ve seen from the likes of Lamb of God, Devildriver, Machine Head or Killswitch et al.
Jamie Graham‘s vocals are absolutely (almost Randy Blythe levels of) brutal live. His growls are throatier than on record, losing no power through the course of the hour-long set, whilst his clean and semi-clean notes were on the money and lost none of their expression and impact. The frankly astonishing PA preserved more sound clarity of Carl & Steve‘s guitars than is decent, whilst Vishal‘s bass sound must’ve been felt in Surbiton. By rights, Chris‘ drums should have sounded like biscuit tins with the kit being in what’s effectively a sound box, but it seems The Fighting Cocks sourced their PA in Daigon Alley, as there was no sound engineering going on this evening – this was pure sonic sorcery.
A titanic Deliverance-heavy set (‘Turmoil’ I & II, ‘Anti-Life’, ‘Mouth of Madness’ and ‘Skeletal I’ all made an appearance) left an ecstatic crowd stunned, sweaty and in no doubt they’d seen one of the best gigs of their lives. It certainly was one of mine.
Go and see all three of these bands as soon and as often as possible.
WORDS BY PHILIP PAGE
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