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The Facemelter’s August outing, with Hieroglyph headlining

Hieroglyph The Venus Complex YGODEH

On the first Friday of every month, The Facemelter sets up shop in the cute and cosy upstairs live room of Camden’s Black Heart to showcase rising talents from across the heavy spectrum. Judging by the number of punters in the room as the first band take the stage, and the warm reception all three bands are given, it seems that at least a proportion of the crowd are regular attendees. This is encouraging.

YGODEH - Christopher McLeod Photography

Photo credit: Christopher McLeod, McLeod Photography London

First band up are the improbably named YGODEH, a self-styled ‘synthetic death metal’ quartet. The band has its roots in Lithuania, but they have all been based London for a couple of years, hooking up with imposing British vocalist Serberus in 2012.

Right from the get-go, YGODEH’s sound is brutal, relentless and thoroughly bewildering. Furiously technical, guitarist Piton and bassist Stalker are all over their fretboards and a laptop adds even more layers to the madness. There are shades of Italian mentalists Ephel Duath evident in their tech-death sound, as well as some industrial influences.

It’s an ambitious proposition, but unfortunately not one that is all that successfully executed. In the main, the tracks feel like collections of disparate guitar riffs haphazardly thrown together, while the rest of the band attempt to keep up.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the drumming. Instead of the clarity and precision this style of music should demand, the percussion feels timid and hesitant. Perhaps Vadoss’ earbuds don’t quite cut the mustard in making the backing track audible for him, but whatever the cause he does appear to have trouble knowing exactly where he is in the song.

The jagged and discordant tracks jump about all over the place, with barely a hook to hold on to. With electronica backing interjecting periodically and guitar and bass fills aplenty, the set doesn’t feel particularly cohesive and – at worst – sometimes sounds like the members of the band are playing different songs. There are flashes of inspiration, but a distinct lack of quality control and a temptation to try and be a bit too clever for their own good means the results are rather unsatisfactory.

The Venus Complex - Christopher McLeod Photography

Photo credit: Christopher McLeod, McLeod Photography London

Next on are London-based The Venus Complex. The one track the band currently has available online - ”Suitasaurus” - features a guest appearance from Mikee Goodman, and the influence of SikTh looms large in the sound of this tech metal quintet – and particularly in the vocals of James.

The band are somewhat hamstrung, however, by the quality of the sound. Bass player Josh remains entirely inaudible for the entirety of the set, leaving the guitars of Dave and Stefan sounding altogether too thin. A glance in the direction of the desk finds the soundman wearing industrial strength ear defence, pawing at his phone, so the band don’t get much assistance there. Compounding the issue further, Stefan has difficulties with his pedals, so the sound he kicks out may not be exactly as he intended.

But, from what I can make out, The Venus Complex have made a promising start. The performance seems tight and the songs appear well balanced between spidery tech fretwork and meatier riffery. The band seem to be operating in broadly the same tech-deathcore space as the likes of fellow upcomers Doomed From Day One, which is no bad thing.

The band seem confident on stage, but one member noticeably more so than the rest. Stefan appears stripped to the waist with his hair wildly backcombed and slathered, Meta-Stasis style, in black body paint. It is, as the saying goes, a strong look – but it is one that feels somewhat peculiar when the remainder of the band haven’t followed suit. Stefan also handles most of the between-song banter, and at times seems to outstay his welcome on the mic. But it is also clear that this is more through boyish exuberance than self-serving attention seeking.

Perhaps some form of compromise is in order. If the remainder of the band took a step towards him in terms of onstage presentation, and Stefan stepped away from the mic before the momentum was broken, then The Venus Complex could well become a potent live proposition. The quality of the sound certainly didn’t help their cause this evening, but I’ve seen enough to suggest they warrant further investigation in more favourable circumstances.

Hieroglyph - Christopher McLeod Photography

Photo credit: Christopher McLeod, McLeod Photography London

It’s not really all that long since I last saw Hieroglyph open up for Chimp Spanner. I had already pegged them as ones to watch, but it doesn’t take long to prove that even in those few short months since Surya, they have made some considerable progress along that road.

They hit the stage looking every inch the headliner, and the sound issues that confronted preceding bands conspicuously evaporate. They are the first band of the night where it is possible to not only hear the bass, but feel it through your feet. It’s hard to shake the feeling that the desk was set up for them and just left as it was for the supports.

But good sound counts for nothing if the band aren’t kicking out something worth hearing, and Hieroglyph are certainly doing that too. Carving out a niche for themselves that draws in elements of sludge, djent and even gothic metal, there’s something compellingly distinctive about their set.

The dual vocal pairing of Valentina and Mark is definitely blossoming, and also remarkably well-balanced, with neither dominating proceedings. Mark sings along with Valentina’s parts when he is off the mic as well, which helps draw people into the songs. When the two join forces, their voices compliment each other well.

The vocalists are ably backed up by the rest of the band, with guitarists Sam Butterfield and Jamie Rutherford wringing satisfyingly beefy riffs from their instruments. And, in drummer Bradie Nixon and bassist Helen Tytherleigh, Hieroglyph are blessed with a formidable and imaginative rhythm section.

The set passes disarmingly quickly; another sign that the quality is unstintingly high. As the set draws to an end, the punters spill out into Camden making uniformly positive noises.

The bold leaps forward the band have been taking in the last few months are emphatically underscored by the recently released Freefall EP, which consolidates their position as a band firmly in the ascendant.

Both live and on record, these new tracks have a towering presence. They hit a sweet, mid-paced spot that is neither too frenetic nor too lumbering and ponderous. Lead single “Weyland-Yutani” and “Tenebris” are particularly impressive.

Having been shortlisted for the fan-voted slot at Euroblast as well, things are really coming together for Hieroglyph. With a strong performance backed up with equally strong songs and a distinctive sound, it’s not hard to see why. I fully expect their profile to grow substantially between now and the end of the year. In the meantime, grab a copy of Freefall from Bandcamp, and try and catch the band live at your earliest convenience.