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Italians Destrage visit London for the first time

Destrage Artemis Silas Griever Barfly poster 2015

Despite a career spanning a decade so far, Italian mathcore band Destrage have barely set foot in the UK, and definitely never played London. It seems bizarre for us, but the five-piece have been making their name across mainland Europe instead.

Nevertheless, that status changes tonight. Fresh from playing the Sophie Lancaster Stage at Bloodstock the previous day, and Milton Keynes the day before, the group rock up to Camden’s Barfly to break their duck in the capital.

All photos by the wonderfully talented Rachael Griffiths at Black Lotus Photography.


Johnny Halpin 

Up first, however, are Bournemouth five piece Griever. Their image – obviously a considered move, with painted arms and heavy makeup – may suggest budget Black Veil Brides, but the gothed-up south coasters are much heavier, meshing metalcore sensibilities with Born Of Osiris-mould backing keys.

It’s actually these atmospherics that contribute to their downfall a little in the first couple of songs. The elongated intros to both, as well as an interlude in the second, leave the five with nothing to do but stand and simultaneously look at the crowd, waiting for join back in. It’s likely much more effective on record, but a little awkward live.

The vocals from frontman David Seymour are broad and angry – more angry than I initially expected they might be, taking cues from burly hardcore more than anything. In the fourth song, guitarist Luke Davis steps up to the microphone and takes a prominent singing role, giving the track a Vanna-like vibe.

It’s fairly guideline stuff as far as the material goes; the riffs are uniformly quite chuggy, and breakdowns are somewhat predictable, but the crowd warm to them after a few tracks, and that’s about as much as you could ask for in a genre that thrives off audience energy. Closer “My Captain, My King” is probably their best – drawing plenty of movement from the assembled group – but it’s not quite there for me; I don’t feel that the intro and lead parts quite work, and could do with some work – but it’s not bad by any means.

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Top to bottom: Dave Runham; Matt Drumm.

Second band Silas have also come via Bloodstock, apologising if there’s a smell as it’s probably them. No doubt – their performance is nothing if not energetic, matching fun, crunchy riffs, a rock and roll vibe, and metal sensibilities.

The first couple of songs are no frills, no fuss, with frontman Dave Runham switching between singing and roaring at the crowd through a classic-style Shure mic. Brothers Tom and Mike Ross – and I’ll apologise now for not being able to tell them apart – share guitar and drum duties, switching half way through the set – although you’d not likely know it unless you were paying attention whilst they swapped, or to their t-shirts. Each is the epitome of the long-haired, bearded metal man, and plays each instrument with equal energetic, foot-stomping verve, which gives the crowd more energy in turn. It’s nice to see, them get as good as they give – especially on a Monday night – and the drummer’s first song on guitar sees the audience get particularly rowdy.

Both also contribute backing vocals occasionally, adding some extra grit. Inevitably, we also get a few guitar solos – an apparently necessary evil, and unfortunately somewhat lacking in the few instances where they raise their heads.

There’s not much particularly memorable about Silas’ songs, but they are certainly worth their weight on the entertainment scale, and they’ll certainly have elevated the spirits – and beers – of many in the room.

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Top to bottom: Brandon Esteves; Dan Strachan.

Basingstoke band Artemis up the pace significantly, embracing traditional hardcore velocity and aggression. This is riffs n’ roll in the style of Every Time I Die, but eschewing overly-witty poetry or catchiness in favour of brow-furrowing belligerence. No small children or old folk; they’ll likely soil themselves.

The already pumped up crowd respond in kind, turning the floor into a mini-whirlwind of flailing arms and spin kicks. It’s a bit of a small venue for that, but it seems to float some peoples’ boats

The opening track’s intro doesn’t quite gel together, but beyond that there’s clear thought put into Artemis’ tunes. Rather than a string of low-end riffs – common in the genre – the composition and attention to detail is refreshing. The only impairment to getting the full force of their abilities is…well, the force of their performance. Live, Artemis are clearly more about viscerality than showing how clever they are, as much of what they’re doing blends together as everything bounces off the walls of the small room, so it would certainly be difficult to appreciate their skill without the aid of earplugs.

All in all they’re a well-picked main support, getting the audience primed and ready for the main act; a talent that’s not to be understimated.

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Bottom to top: Matteo Di Gioia; Paolo Colavolpe; Federico Paulovich.

It’s noteworthy that three fairly untechnical bands have preceded the main event tonight, but on reflection it sort of served to elevate the Italians to almost god-like status.

My expectation for Destrage was high, given the whirlwind they unleashed on Tech Fest last year, but club shows are an entirely different beast – and this one is braying and snapping from the off. The crowd’s energy, still raised by the previous three acts, is the best I’ve ever seen in this venue, and they get right into it from the beginning of opener “Destroy Create Transform Sublimate” – also the opener of their stonking 2014 album Are You Kidding Me? No. – which includes a movement-inspiring drum and bass breakdown.

Most of the set is in fact cut from that record, with crowd favourites “My Green Neighbour” and “Hosts, Rifles and Coke” trading off with older material – “Never Ending Mary” in particular ramps up the energy in the room even further.

The sound in the room is thick and suits them well, although vocalist Paolo Colavolpe appears to be having problems with his in-ear monitors, and spends a lot of time with a finger pressed to one ear. It doesn’t hamper his performance however, and in fact all five are spot on. The dueling guitars of Matteo and Ralph cover a lot of ground throughout the course of any given song, whilst bassist Gabriel spends an equal amount of time swinging his ostentatious light-up bass around, and ekeing out his fantastically groovy lines to underpin the guitars.

Drummer Federico Paulovich is an obvious high point however – an absolute joy to watch. While the word ‘prodigious’ springs to mind, he’s never flashy for the sake of it, and everything he does is in service of the songs. He is afforded time for a drum solo mid-set, but even that isn’t tiresome – as such things usually are – and the crowd even joins in with some intermittent chants in time with the beat.

The set is rounded off with an epic rendition of the album’s title track; an eight-minute monster that starts off highly energetic and evolves into an extended staccatoed-riff build-up, through jazzy lead parts, Dilligner-esque rhythms, Mexican-themed trumpets (from the backing track) and an incredibly satisfying climax, showcasing practically the full range of the band’s extensive talents.

For a first visit to the UK capital, it’s likely to have been considered a successful one. Turnout is high, the response excellent, and the feeling warm. Let’s hope they show their faces again soon, as they’ll be most welcome.

All photos by the wonderfully talented Rachael Griffiths at Black Lotus Photography.