Crud World Domination Enterprises give you
(review n pix by m w j )
Croquet on the lawn, sipping Pimms, celebrating the rise of National Conservatism, what more joys to be expected enjoying a late English summer on the Cheshire plains? Well, pulling up outside the tiny village hall in the middle of nowhere between the rain showers I began to wonder indeed. I was reassured with the foreknowledge of a fine collection of leading underground alternative metal bands being assembled, some of whom I’d been aiming to see for a while and this was as close to as on the doorstep as it was going to get. All arranged by an heroic Mr Swift, erstwhile resident of the village and obviously still on good enough terms with his folks to get away with this disturbance of the peace, although a scheduled 9 pm finish was obviously to protect the sensitivities of nearby residents
The 2pm start was slipping somewhat giving us time to go off to the next neighbouring Tattenhall’s offy (should you ever be in the area looking for booze) for copious supplies of cider and wine, with things eventually kicking off closer to 4. Leading the way were Armed Response Unit, featuring 2 of the members of the headline band taking the opportunity to get a different outlet too. They played hardcore punk similar to the intense stuff of Ripcord or Heresy, spat relentless politically motivated rants, although occasionally would break down to jazzier interludes like No Means No, especially with the spiky Italian lady on bass grooving things along. The rather sparse initial turnout, half made up of fellow bands, all moved up to give close support, but this summed up the excellent atmosphere that was present throughout the day.
Next up D-Rail from Leeds, with a little quip at how they’re being disrespected by being second on, but in no way delivering a less than full on intensity set of technical metal/hardcore. Great energy put in the performance especially from the acrobatic singer who comes perilously close to cracking his head on the ceiling whilst giving a more emotional scream to contrast with the guitarists growl. The bassist is skinnier than me and looks in danger of snapping as he contorts and thrashes around, no danger though in a furious yet polished performance from them all
To fit in with the cramped program everyone is playing short punchy sets, with little fuss/much professionalism in rapid changeovers, keeps things rolling along great.
Agent of the Morai are a three-piece of drums guitar and vocals, but still unleash an incredibly heavy, howling, sludge metal onslaught. Hammering out dirges with the most brutally monotone screamed vocals, even their lack of bass is forgiven due to the tremendous guitar sound filling the room. The effective PA in this little hall is a key to all the bands getting their sound across well today. They also have a very sexy coloured vinyl ep that I snap up, good to see faith in the old medium.
The pace is revved up in contrast by Soulfracture, with their unashamed nod to At the Gates and the Swedish school of sharp death metal, this being a good thing. Their precision cannot be faulted, occasionally throwing in melodic, semi acoustic breaks but these are short respite in a frenzy of rapidly changing double-picked riffs, topped with gruff and powerful vocals. They’ve got an inde label album release forthcoming, due respect for them rising above the generics of the genre.
Next Flatlands, doing their bit for publicising the wonders of Lincolnshire (“Come for the boredom, stay for the monotony”), with their expansive metal epics. There’s more of a measured pace in constructing soundscapes, in the fine tradition of Neurosis, haunting sections dropping into fierce violence. The vocals are another level of brutality though, a dodgy lead meaning they are even more broken up than they might have been but still, it doesn’t detract.
I heard much good about Leeds’ Red Stars Parade over the last few years and to finally catch them at an event like this was a treat. Again, it’s convoluted twists on modern, inventive metal, like an evil Tool. Undoubtedly heavy but experimental/progressive with it, with truly harrowing vocals from a perhaps worse for wear vocalist who even gets carried off at one point (not like there was a stage to dive from!). The performance has the feeling of catharsis about it and like all the bands the effort they put in for this little gathering is gratefully received.
Back to locals Heresy of Thieves, described as a super-group due to various connections with other known underground bands, they rapidly achieve the prize for top berserkers of the day. Off the scale fastness in a grind-core style, there are also complete spazz-out performances from the front man, bassist and one of the guitarists, leading to that nervous enjoyment/ fear of being taken out feeling. The drummer’s pace and concentration are supreme and the short set is simply explosive. They’re coming to Hendre Hall soon.
Finally, Palehorse, to pull the last nail out of the coffin. Already winners in my book due to having two bass players, they both seem to deliver matching, colossally distorted, ground-out rhythms, backed by a pounding drummer, reminiscent of Halo, beautiful noise. There are also two vocalists, free to wander through the crowd, wrenching out screamed vocals or laconic but threatening almost spoken word. Determinedly but effortlessly performance conventions are broken down and it all adds to the experience, done before 9:30.
What a fantastic event, financial loss probably means it won’t happen again, but an excellent collection of bands reassuring and encouraging that all’s well in the underground.