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Celebratory album release sets from heavyweights Maths and Employed To Serve

Maths Employed To Serve We Never Learned To Live Charlotte Light And Dark poster

The Unicorn is a favourite haunt of ours now; not only for its proximity to my own residence (despite being a little awkward for those travelling from Camden), but because it’s a) always free to enter for shows, and b) they work with a crop of promoters who really know their stuff.

It’s pleasing then, but not entirely surprising, that the crowd for tonight’s opening act Human Future is fairly substantial – and with good reason; the south-east outfit are something else. With a tangible, almost physical broadness – thanks to no fewer than three guitars at times – their sound reflects a world perpetually crumbling into the sea, or the auditory equivalent of the heat death of the universe.

Their drummer keeps a furious pace throughout, and the vocalist’s manic roars are infectious. They repeatedly build to raucous thundering breaks, and it’s unsurprising that many of the crowd break into some enthusiastic kinetic displays.

Following, and self-effacing as ever, Charlotte Light And Dark have much better luck than their set opening for Full Of Hell a this same venue last June. Fewer glitches and restarts mean we get the full whack of weird and caustic screamo they intend. Frontman Darran jokes about fronting Megadeth - the Mustaine resemblance is indeed uncanny – but there’s no ‘Risk’ of a phoned-in shit show here. Bassist Brian is the only anomaly; he’s fairly static throughout, where the other three are buzzing with energy.

Guitarist Humza has some interesting ideas and makes uses of tones both overdriven and off-kilter clean to make his mark, including a particularly to-the-point new track that is incredibly short, and another that twangs along with some neat punctuation from the drums.

We Never Learned To Live are powerful – really powerful. They’ve a brilliant mix of big, calamitous, destructive riffs and nuanced post-rock atmosphere that is incredibly cathartic: certain sections of their material – including newer material from their imminent album Silently, I Threw Them Skyward – illicit massive movement from the crowd, so clobbering are they. Their vocalist impresses across the board, mixing punky screams with a great knack for actual singing, injecting some rarely-found melody into the night.

There are a few instances where, and I’m nitpicking here, they don’t quite hit the mark I felt they would after building to an expected release, leaving opportunities slightly wasted, but they leave an overwhelmingly positive impression; the songwriting is sound and the performance both tight and empassioned.

Palm Reader – another band peddling a new record, the fantastic Beside The Ones We Love – are all sinew and barely-contained caustic rage. They’ve done themselves no damage at all building a fierce live reputation, which is in full flow tonight – they’re running hot between back-to-back tours with Artemis and Will Haven and show no sign of slowing down.

The levels of aggression are eye-popping; they’re the first band of the evening with an active pit, which is often joined by vocalist Josh Mckeown. The perfect blend of Heart Of A Coward and Every Time I Die, with a hearty technical twist, songs both new and old are met with raucous cheers and chest-thumping, and their set blazes by all too quickly.

I’m probably most impressed by Employed To Serve, however. I’ve seen several members throughout the crowd all evening, encouraging participation, and the karma pays off as the room is packed from the beginning. Their new album Greyer Than You Remember is out today, and they’re well up for showing it off.

Foremost amongst the fun is the rhythm section; they kick out a massive amount of groove for a hardcore band. Vocalist Justine and guitarist Sammy trade off raucous screams over absolutely infectious music; you cannot help but move, even without knowing any of the tracks.

It’s the kind of set that leaves you both sweaty and satisfied, and definitely open to more.

The final act of the night are Maths, a trio who’ve confounded in their sparsity over the years, but always come back with as much quality as ever. Their new EP, The Fires Courting The Sea, comes after four years away, but there’s a healthy number here to see their return, and it clearly means a lot to them.

That there are only three of them, and that vocalist Zen Zsigo plays no instrument other than a fiery throat, makes the full-bodied sound the other two kick out all the more impressive. There’s some kind of effect doubling the sound from Matt’s guitar giving it a some thundering low end to compliment the desperate high fretboard, whilst Alfie’s chaotic performance behind the kit makes you wonder if he has a third arm hidden away somewhere.

As you might expect with such a ‘classic’ band from the more recent UK underground scene, it’s the cuts the crowd know – like “Wilderness” from 2009′s Descent – that bring the best reaction; you kind of have to know them to keep up.

For all the bands I see that impress me on various bills across the year, never have I seen so many play together at the same time. What an absolutely glorious evening, and a fantastic time to be into underground music. Hats off to Weak End Promotions for this one.