It’s a mild day in London and while the sun is shining and the temperature is enough for you to brave going without a hoodie, there’s a constant shadow of clouds looming through the sky, blocking the sunlight for short, miserable periods… and then it makes sense: it is the London date of a tour that should leave cities in ruins… or at least the audience in each.
For the evening, there are two support acts for the night. First up is London’s own Dead Existence who are as dire-sounding as their name – pushing a depressive and riff-driven form of sludge, at times venturing into a funeral doom landscape. The guitarists – Chris and Fred – have an incredible relationship going with intertwining leads and rhythms, as well as great use of effects, especially towards the end of the set. Vocalist Jake occasionally screams without the mic and often hits himself with his fists out of pure frustration; and while this seemed borderline ‘fake’, he accidentally leaves the mic stand topple over and seems to snap out of a haze when the mic falls with a bang, and then gives a shrug. A good start to the night.
Next up was Astrohenge, and basically left a few of us in the crowd confused but grinning. Aware that they were a post-rock band (I was told beforehand), I assumed it would be more along the lines of Bossk or Mogwai, but instead Astrohenge turned out to be more of the math rock fringe: imagine a band combining the hyperactive child of You Slut! and And So I Watch You From Afar, but with keyboards as well. One of the most striking things – and especially hilarious considering the other bands playing – was keyboardist, Dr. Olly Weeks, who looked like a tourist on holiday, constantly grinning and pulling comedic expressions through the set, although the lacking volume of his keys in the mix seemed to be a growing frustration. The band as a whole were clearly a group (or gathering) of extremely talented musicians, and their spazzy take on post-rock (I actually wished some sections had been longer because they were just so good!) was unexpected but wholly welcomed.
Bossk took to the stage with some stage smoke and started with their backs to the crowd and their heads down, as the sound of the ocean began to roll out of the speakers. After some time, the plucking of clean guitar began, and very quickly it became clear that Bossk were playing Fleetwood Mac’s soothing “Albatross”. It felt liked the room became twice as big as it really was and it was genuinely pretty soothing. This changed once the band wrapped the cover up and started getting into their own material, meandering between the soft and slow to the more tense and hammering moments. During the instrumental sections, only the active members stood on stage; while vocalist Sam Marsh came on and offstage for his parts, screaming with such ferocity that the tendons in his throat looked ready to burst. They ended by playing .2 in order, and so finished with my personal favourite track of theirs, “Truth”. Bossk where just brilliant and truly fascinating… there are few bands who can really control and orchestrate their sound (and audience) with such precision.
Finally, the band everyone had been waiting eagerly for, Dragged Into Sunlight. Around 15 minutes before they actually started (and while they were still setting up), a member of either the road crew or the venue puts a tall candelabra at the front of the stage with a large horned animal skull on the front of it. 10 minutes before the band play, the smoke machines are put to max, not only covering the stage area (and I mean covered, it was almost impossible to see the humans in it) but also thickly spread over the first two or three rows of the audience… and then they played.
Pretty much covering the whole of their highly acclaimed Hatred Of Mankind release but in a different order, the personal favourites “Buried With Leeches” and “Lashed To The Grinder and Stoned To Death” were just phenomenal to hear live. The set just felt like some sort of primal rite of passage, like being there was a test or simply witnessing a ceremony that elevated you into a higher understanding of the ugly side of humanity. While people might raise an eyebrow at the idea of a band playing with their backs to the crowd, especially in the crazy dense fog on the stage with the candelabra, it actually feels right (unlike certain bands’ visual aesthetics). There’s no pretence at all; and imagining Dragged Into Sunlight playing their music live any other way would feel wrong.
If you think that Hatred For Mankind is a dirty and bludgeoning experience in its recorded state, then definitely go see Dragged Into Sunlight live if you get the chance. You won’t regret it.
More of the bands:
Check out Astrohenge’s Facebook.