The excitement is real. Opportunities to witness Frontierer kicking out their furious jams have been few and far between, and apart from a couple of super low-key warm-ups in Scotland, their only UK date so far has been at 2016′s Tech Fest. That show was devastating, even in a big shed in the middle of the afternoon. For the final date of a short run of European shows, starting with Complexity Fest, Frontierer have rolled into London to try and crowbar themselves and their big dirty sound into the Black Heart’s claustrophobic live room. Lord, have mercy on us all.
The feeling of excitement has been further stoked by Frontierer being joined this evening by two heavy favourites and one slightly unknown quantity, but we’ll get to them in a minute. The London branch of the Tech Fest community is also out in force and, looking to make the most of the night, starts to congregate in the downstairs bar a good couple of hours before doors are scheduled to open.
This evening’s proceedings were originally slated to begin with a debut performance from Mardrömmar, a (slightly) shadowy supergroup making a particularly ugly noise. Sadly, events conspired against them and they were forced to pull out, leaving that particular treat for another time. Stepping in to fill the vacant slot are Lotus Eater, who I gather also had an eventful time in the immediate run up to their set.
Photo credit: Olli Appleyard
Having travelled all the way down from Glasgow, they discover a vital piece of kit has given up the ghost, prompting a last minute dash to a music shop for a replacement, moments before their doors shut and then a hurried unboxing to be ready for their stage time – but the eagerness of the punters for tonights show means that their efforts are rewarded by a much larger than average crowd for an opening set.
After the intro tape, they launch into some fierce riffing that immediately brings to mind the vibe of Loathe. The sound – especially the bass tone – is ugly, the drops are filthy. I suspect this will soon be a very well-populated niche within the scene. One obvious distinction between them and the pack is their clean vocals are provided by drummer Cameron Humphrey.
They also wander close to blackgaze territory at one point, but other than that their tunes are angry and pointy. They are a little loose in the performance, and bassist Roland does look a bit like a rabbit caught in the headlights, but its clearly early days for them. Their self-titled debut EP is due to be released in a couple of weeks, so these things will probably iron themselves out. Recent single “Dead To Me” suggests that EP will be worth a look while we wait for that Loathe album.
Surprisingly, they call time on their set after barely twenty minutes, but we hear enough to suggest that Lotus Eater will be worth keeping an eye on. A strong start to a big night.
It’s probably a more-than-fair criticism of deathcore that it often takes itself too seriously. The strutting, more energetic younger sibling of death metal, its chest beating antics often provoking wry smiles or an eye-roll.
Not so with technically-minded, Oxford-based jobbies A Trust Unclean, whose ability to convey both extreme brutality and boundless enjoyment appears effortless. The cheek-splitting grins of various members – guitarist Mikey in particular – infect a rapt audience; one they’ve won over and solidified over a couple of years of solid gigging and which is as such a strong one for only the second band of the night. Sticking their spidery fingers into various musical scenes around the London area has paid dividends.
It’s also just got them signed to ever-expanding label Basick Records, who will release their new EP Parturition in June – and so naturally we’re treated to a few new tunes, including just-dropped single ”To Encompass & Eclipse“, which does a grand job of both encompassing ATU’s expansive, earth-shattering sound, and goading several members of the audience into eclipsing the view of the stage with various flying limbs. so there’s that.
Despite a couple of lineup changes in the not too distant past, the band have a great chemistry to enhance their affable presence. Drummer Noah Plant belies his youth with an impressive turn behind the kit, and vocalist Kyle Lamb stalks the floor in front of the stage with requisite menace.
The new songs sound great meshed in with cuts from the 2015 Reality Relinquished EP, and it’s nice to have our initial assessment of this promising young band continue to be vindicated. Watch out for A Trust Unclean throughout the remainder of the year!
The beauty of North Eastern bruisers Osiah is that there isn’t a lot to ‘get’. This is not to disparage them; merely that there is a gratifying simplicity in what they do. An apocalyptic, menacing sound, married with a clutch of low-end riffs of varying speeds is pretty much what you get and pay for. For fans, the urge to pack a spare spine before going to see them is as unshakable as it is painfully necessary
Admittedly, if the style is not your thing there’s possibly not much about them that will sway you – but it’s hard to deny that they do what they do very well. Tonight’s room certainly agrees; much like, and perhaps even more so that the preceding band, Osiah have earned the packed-out room. A familiar sight from gigs up and down the country, Osiah work very, very hard and it shows in the tightness of their performance, if not on the brows of the members; despite the lingering winter chill outside, it’s really flipping warm in the room. Bassist Andy Mallaby appears particularly on the edge of melting; the sometimes-red light above his head making it seem like he’s just taken an ill-advised peek inside the Ark of the Covenant.
Yet they appear undeterred, and the punishing riff-work relents only for a few words of heartfelt thanks from frontman Ricky Lee Roper between songs – they’re a very genuine bunch – and it’s exhausting just to watch, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is as brutal as the night is going to get…
Photo credit: Olli Appleyard
As the final changeover of the night is underway, I make a rash decision. I want Frontierer‘s set to be as immersive an experience as possible, and see that the small patch of floor immediately in front of guitarist/mastermind Pedram’s pedalboard is empty – so I slide into it to watch as they finish off lashing everything down with gaffer tape. After a last minute change of mic cable, they’re good to go. Launching into a selection of the very choicest cuts from their astonishing debut album Orange Mathematics, band and crowd alike go instantly and completely batshit. My vantage point may be right in the death zone of Pedram’s amp, but it is spared all but the most extreme surges of the pit that’s swirling behind me. Phew.
In an inspired move, other than a low level glow from the house lights, the only lighting comes from a strobe that is triggered by Owen’s kick drum. So it fires a lot. I would imagine that the majority of punters in the near-capacity crowd knew what they were getting into, but I’m sure that the uninitiated would be forgiven for thinking that the world was actually ending.
Given the complex, chaotic layers that make up the songs (if ‘songs’ is the right word; maybe spasms is a better one), they translate remarkably naturally to the live environment. From my weird little safe haven, I’m also able to watch Pedram wrench a torrent of twisted, caustic noises from the neck of his vividly orange guitar and distinctly nonstandard pedal board. I also can’t fail to notice that rather than bellowing along with Chad’s feral vocals, Pedram instead sings his guitar parts. This does underscore the fact there is considerable method in the madness.
During second track “Tunnel Jumper” (my personal favourite from Orange Mathematics), guitarist Dan Stevenson’s amp head decides it has had enough and borks itself completely. A Trust Unclean’s Mikey swoops in with his own to save the day, and the band are back up to full fighting weight within a song and a half.
Photo credit: Olli Appleyard
It’s virtually impossible for me to take any notes, snatching a couple of between-song moments. My drink, stowed on the shelf running down the wall of the venue, is lost to the melee. Pedram’s amp spits out squalls of noise, even when he’s tuning up. A brief moment of silence gives everyone the scantest chance to breathe before “Helium Vat” resumes the pummelling. My god it’s hot in here.
Chad cuts imposing stances, alternating between planting a foot on Owen’s kick drum and getting into the faces of the front row from the monitor riser. It’s remarkable just how comfortably the band operate as a unit, considering the breakneck pace of the tracks, and the fact that their total gig count is still in single digits. What’s more, given their transatlantic configuration, the number of full-band rehearsals they’ve been able to have is even lower than their number of gigs. Frontierer almost shouldn’t be quite as good as they are.
The set culminates with Dan taking the opportunity for a quick crowdsurf while Chad repeatedly screams “don’t want to sleep” during the coda of “Bleak“. As if that was even an option. Calls for an encore go unheeded, as the band have played through their entire repetoire. So the house lights come up, and the bedraggled and shell shocked crowd spill out into the night, exhausted but exhilarated.
Our expectations for tonight’s show were high, but if anything they’ve been exceeded. A trio of top quality supports leading to one of the most extraordinary, visceral sets I’ve witnessed in one of my most favourite venues in the capital. I’ve said in the past that listening to Orange Mathematics is the aural equivalent of sticking your head in a wasps nest and setting it on fire, but in the live context it’s like doing that whilst being chased by angry bears. Tonight is sure to become a yardstick against which other heavy shows will be measured, and most will fall short.
Whilst we were still licking our wounds and soothing our aches a couple of days later, Frontierer’s name was included in the utterly stomping second wave of bands announced for this year’s ArcTanGent festival, so it looks like we’ll get to witness them in action again in just a few short months. We cant wait, and if you have any interest in what new directions heavy, dissonant music can take, you should witness it too – but maybe take a crash helmet.