Havok – Darkest Hour – Cephalic Carnage – Harlott: Live at Camden Underworld, London


Thrash has long been perfected on record. Indeed, it’s hard to justify owning many Thrash records made post-Rust in Peace. Live, however, is a different beast entirely.

We’re living in a time where Thrash Metal thrives on the stage and there’s a quality band inciting a mosh in town nearly every week. Just days after Trivium & Power Trip pass through, US Thrashers Havok roll into town with Harlott, Cephalic Carnage and Darkest Hour for a night ofserious headbanging at London’s Underworld.

Australia’s Harlott has improved since their last visit to our shores. Their relentless brand of jackhammer-being-fired-from-a-machine-gun Thrash hasn’t changed much, but they seem to be just bigger, louder, and tighter than previously. There’s still plenty of “Aussie banter” between songs, and the crowd provides a sweaty reception; a circle pit forming two songs in from a half-full crowd for the first band on a Monday is pretty impressive.

There’s a good mix of old veterans and young kids present – all in denim patch jackets obviously – but whoever vomited in the bathroom sink before 8.30pm either needs to stop drinking or learn to handle it better. For shame.

As heavy are Harlott are, Cephalic Carnage are just plain brutal. By far the heaviest band on the tour, their visceral grinding style is at a little at odds with the more musical thrashings of the rest of the night. But Carnage are capable of locking into an impressive groove. And despite the guttural nature of the music, Lenzig Leal & Co. have a good sense of humour. Simple chants of “Beer! Weed!” might not be highbrow but it’s what the people want. And the donning of Black Metal (and one horse!) masks and announcements that the band play “snack metal” in lieu of Black Metal get a good reaction.

Darkest Hour have long been America’s answer to At The Gates, but never quite received the same level of accolades. Tonight’s set is very similar to their lightning headline set from last year but no less impressive. It’s a triumphant set combining the best of the new album plus old classics such ‘The Sadist Nation’, ‘With a Thousand Words to Say but One’, ‘Doomsayer (The Beginning of the End)’, and a very well-received cover of ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’. The audience is probably rowdier than the band’s own crowd last year, and the band don’t let up for second. Considering some of the shite from the US that gets popular, it’s a crime Darkest Hour aren’t bigger here. They’ve got the tunes, got the polish, got the stagecraft, and could and should be filling out bigger venues than the Underworld.

If Darkest Hour are the better band, Havok are the better crowd-pleasers. Every moment of the set is about whipping up the crowd into a frenzy of whirlwind circle pits, moshing, and chanting. And the crowd laps it up; the circle pits are massive and frantic, the cheers are loud, and the stream of stage divers rarely lets up. Like Cephalic Carnage, Havok are a heavy band not afraid to share their sense of humour. Frontman David Sanchez is able get a cheer when he asks everybody to ‘scream for literacy’ and even manages to goad the crowd into chanting the alphabet.

Havok’s brand of razor-sharp riffs, searing solos, and rasping vocals go down a treat. The next mosh-inducing segue is only ever a few seconds away, and every moments proves the best way to experience Thrash is in the flesh and in the pit.