Date: February 11, 2018
Venue: The Dome, London
Review and photograyph by Ryan Whitwell
No messing around with this lineup as a barrage of brutality from a range of sub-genres was ready to be unleashed upon a packed Tufnell Park Dome. Four bands were on the bill tonight, with headliners Despised Icon being supported by Malevolence, Archspire and Vulvodynia.
The charmingly named Vulvodynia were first up to blast their brand of pounding, bass-filled slam death metal. The massive beats from Thomas Hughe’s double bass drums were overwhelming at times, add that to Greg Van Kerkhof’s brutal bass playing and Duncan Bentley’s growling vocals and you have a recipe for chaos. So much bass, in fact, that any hint of higher notes was almost completely submerged under huge waves of rib-cracking low frequency beats. The pit opened up almost immediately and stayed open until the last number, Drowned in Vomit. The pit responded in a big way to the huge breakdowns throughout the set and dark riffs from guitarists Luke Haarhoff, Kris Xenopoulos and Byron Dunwoody.
Canadian technical death metal band, Archspire, were next up, offering a bit of variety and definition in their set with some rhythm changes and some great guitar playing from Tobi Morelli and Dean Lamb. I especially liked the vocal style of Oliver Rae Aleron, firing out lyrics in a growling but staccato fashion like a machine gun. This style was mirrored with the short and sharp drumming (Spencer Prewett) and stop start bass lines (Jared Smith). The final number, Remote Tumour Seeker, was a great closer for the set with some big headbanging beats.
Things really ramped up when Malevolence got going, as the crowd were well up for this one. The Sheffield based hardcore band didn’t disappoint and took no prisoners. Every other verse was followed by a call for some crowd participation, usually in the form of opening up the pit or getting a circle pit going and it nearly always worked. The pit was pretty vicious at times with elbows flying everywhere and more than a few spinning kicks. The massive double bass drum from Charlie Thorpe battered those that weren’t battering each other and the big dark riffs from Konan Hall, Josh Baines and Wilkie Robinson on bass complimented Alex Taylor’s huge growling vocals.
The setlist included new and old, with tracks like ‘Trial by Fire’ from the most recent album and ‘In the Face of Death’ from their first LP. The set contained plenty of chaotic changes in tempo that were hard to keep up with at times. Towards the end of the set the pit seemed to stop listening to the commands from the front man and instead waited for the drop in the majority of songs before kicking off again. It was an intense set, so I’m not surprised the pit had to take some breaks at times.
The final number, Serpents Chokehold, prompted a few stage divers, encouraged by frontman Alex which just capped off the chaos that had built up throughout the set.
Tufnell Park Dome was given a bit of a breather before veterans of the blast beat subgenre took to the stage after two years since their last appearance in the UK. Despised Icon opened with ‘A Fractured Hand’ and their intentions were clear, there would be no half measures. Having two vocalists, Alex Erian and Steve Marois, gives Despised Icon a good mix of guttural growls and singing, which was noticeable as members of the crowd shouted out lyrics throughout the set. The mental and disjointed bass drums from Alex Pelletier gave the pit something to get into. Tonnes of heavy bass from Sebastien Piche with the occasional flourish from the top strings of Eric Jarrin and Ben Landreville’s guitars. The guys on stage looked to be enjoying themselves, leaning into the crowd and at times seemingly in danger of being pulled into the melee at the front of the stage thanks to a lack of barriers or photo pits.
The set was quite varied, with thrashy guitars of ‘Day of Mourning’ being followed by the more macabre intro of ‘Les Temps Changent’ being a good example of that. The fans responded really well to newer tracks like ‘Beast’ (the title track of Despised Icon’s latest album), which managed to achieve the largest circle pit of the night. But the set contained a blast from the past with ‘Retina’ from the band’s second album 13 years ago.
The final song of he night, MVP, was pretty damn brutal and managed to get the last bits of energy out of a crowd that hadn’t really stopped all night. Sweat and angst was flying as the last massive drop boomed through the venue.
1. A Fractured Hand
2. Bad Vibes
3. The Aftermath
4. Furtive Monologue
5. Bulletproof Scales
6. Day of Mourning
7. Les Temps Changent
10. In The Arms of Perdition
Despised Icon: www.despisedicon.com