Within The Ruins and I Declare War take over The Underworld Camden, with support from Aversions Crown and Acrania
Whatever one might think of the punters attracted to ‘-core’ shows, they are at least a punctual bunch. Whilst The January Curse is probably one of the reasons why this show doesn’t come close to attracting The Underworld’s capacity of 500, the vast majority of the final turnout is already in the building when Acrania take to the stage, less than half an hour after doors open.
Acrania set the tone for the evening nicely with their no-nonsense slamming. The blasts come thick, fast and augmented by the weighty beatdowns that push a spirited few in the crowd into some early throw down action. A tight knot of committed fans remain glued to the stage in front of vocalist Luke as he works his way through his impressive array of death metal vocal techniques. Indeed, it is this variety that goes some way to helping Acrania stand out from a particularly crowded pack.
However, for some reason the atmosphere in the venue feels a little…. flat. Perhaps it’s a little too early, but outside of the few right in front of the stage, the reaction is polite yet muted. The band also seem a little looser than they have in the past, which doesn’t really help – but this may just be the band shaking off the rust on the first night of the tour.
Australians Aversions Crown turn the heat up a notch or two with their meaty deathcore being filled out by having three guitarists onstage. This is my first exposure to the band, and the effects are…well, pulverising.
Under normal circumstances, bands have to either compromise between weight and texture, or rely on backing tracks – but with their extended arsenal, Aversions Crown can have their cake and eat it. Even with one guitarist venturing up the fretboard for some atmospheric flavour, there are still two left to provide the low-end heft, and the extra pay-off comes when all three hit the lowest notes on their hyper-downtuned eight strings, with the sheer weight of air being moved is enough to knock a rhino off its feet. If that weren’t enough, drummer Jayden is capable of moving his feet faster than I can blink, and such precision at such blistering tempos is quite the spectacle to behold – even Hoglan-esque.
The pit is still lacking the critical mass it needs to really get going, so I take the opportunity provided by the absence of spinkicking action to get a bit closer and feel the full and astonishingly beefy effect. There’s a strong chance that Aversions Crown’s songs wouldn’t really work for me on record, but the sheer brutality and precise fury of their live performance is more than enough to hold my attention for the duration of their thoroughly enjoyable set, and leave me feeling more than a little punch drunk afterwards.
Allegorically speaking, I Declare War are like a cow. They’re meaty, and a lot of people like meat, but meat on its own isn’t that interesing. You know what a cow’s going to taste like when you look at it, and I guess in a similar fashion you can tell from the chest-beating bravado of the band on stage they’re going to sound like, before they even strike a note. And that’s fine – but unless you’re a lion, you probably don’t just want variations on steak for dinner every night; there’s a world of vegetables out there guys, you know?
So there’s a script and it’s not a particularly original, but it’s like Transformers; if you like explosions and big robots, you’re probably going to love it, but otherwise you’ll probably have a disparaging sneer on your face most of the time. “What’s that?” You ask; “another breakdown? Let’s take it even lower; even slower.”
The formation of mine probably isn’t hindered by the “EAT PUSSY/CHUG WHISKY/HAIL SATAN” IDW t-shirts sported by several members of the crowd, which make you wonder what their mothers will think when the offending garment eventually makes it to the wash basket.
There’s a notable drop in crowd size for bill-toppers Within The Ruins, and I do wonder if perhaps the wrong band headlined, for draw power alone. Nevertheless, there’s a core of dedicated fans front and centre.
The Massachusettians are somewhat off-time and out of sync at first, and it’s a little off-putting. Their second song brings a degree more composure to proceedings however; the guitar dances around while the bass and drums hold sway, and there are some really tasty lead parts trade off with some fairly predictable breakdowns and subdrops.
I’m a WTR virgin, but I’m informed by a friend that the drummer is fluffing up left right and centre – his feet are off – which, when the sound is as thin as it is (there needs to be another guitarist really), becomes even more telling. The guitar weedles are well and good, but they work best when there is something underneath to back it up, and as admirable as the bass work is at times, it’s not quite enough. Maybe being too analytical kills it, but I feel it’s a valid criticism.
Still, the crowd are very into it. Thin as they are, comparatively, they fucking move – but alas, at least half of them stream out before the band return for their encore, and for me it’s sort of telling of the set that they play their last song to only around 30 people on the floor.