For this edition of Words From The Underground, we managed to hunt out some truly extreme sounds for you to cast your ears over. We visited the Temple Of Boom in Leeds for an evening of absolute filth at Weekend Nachos’s last ever UK show, and joined progressive thrashers Almeida as they topped a typically technical shred fest at Manchester’s Retro Bar. It’s been a noisy month, for sure, and these highlights definitely show it. So, pull up a pew and make yourselves uncomfortable for October’s sermon.
WEEKEND NACHOS: OCTOBER, 16TH, 2016
We set off across the Pennines on a typical autumnal Sunday in search of dirt. Armed with a camera and a thesaurus entry for ‘unclean’, the destination was the Temple of Boom, a venue that’s become synonymous with all things heavy up north. It would be my first visit to Leed’s infamous shrine to the impure and, being the venue for the Weekend Nachos last ever UK show, it seemed a fitting time to make the pilgrimage.
The entertainment for the evening was as equally undiversified as the vocabulary used to describe it here. Fast, brutal, punishing, thrashy, grinding filth, to be precise. The line-up featured a whopping seven bands for the lowly contribution of eight quid. An absolute bargain, particularly when you consider that two of the bands hail from the US and others from Scotland. Chicago’s Weekend Nachos would be joined by fellow countrymen Homewrecker, local acts Afternoon Gentleman, Gets Worse and Lugubrious Children, and north-of-the-border grinders Boak and Endless Swarm.
We arrived just in time to catch Lugubrious Children, mid-assault on an already sizeable crowd. Their no nonsense approach to songwriting would set the tone early for the ensuing onslaught. Successive bands took to the stage, united by a desire to test the durability of the human wrist and vocal chords to absolute breaking point. Anyone who is even the slightest bit familiar with grindcore and its subgenres will be well aware that urgency is paramount. Urgency requires velocity. This, in turn, demands short blasts of targetted hostility. Swift. Direct. Brutal.
Due to their insistence on speed, grindcore and power-violence drummers are a particularly wonderful set of beasts to observe in their natural habitat, and the Temple of Boom provided the perfect watering hole from which to document their display. The drummer is a hallmark of the most brutal grind act’s sound, and the best are capable of delivering a wave of sheer sonic terror through unrelenting blasted sections. Throughout the evening we were privileged enough to watch some of the best in the business beat the shit out of their kits and a stand out performance from Matt Izzi (Homewrecker) left his kick drum as ravaged as those in attendance.
The damaging pace and accuracy of the musicians on show was equally awe inspiring and terrifying. It’s pretty common practice in the genre for bands to seamlessly blend tracks from one to another, leaving very little time for their practitioners to so much as take a breath. This makes performance as demanding physically as it is technically.
As the evening progressed, the crowd’s anticipation for their last glimpse at Weekend Nachos became more evident. Relatively peaceful headbangs during the opening bands quickly transcended into all out chaos, fuelled by the orchestrated cacophony blasting from the Temple’s forceful system. When the Nachos finally made it to the stage, a whole five hours after Lugubrious Children had performed, the audience appeared to be deep in the grips of a particularly aggressive possession. Bodies flew through the air and cries for circle pits from the stage needed little encouragement. As the Chicago veterans rifled through potent bursts of animosity-in-song-form, they reminded a UK crowd for the last time what a dangerous phonic force they actually are.
When addressing the audience and support acts, Weekend Nachos matched the levels of adoration their fans and fellow musicians displayed towards them. It was a somewhat surreal send off from a group who are undoubtedly still operating at peak performance but all good things must come to an end eventually. The band continue to ooze unity, as their original statement on the decision to split indicated and there is clearly no resentment pointed inwards amongst the group. The evening’s performers and crowd are all heavily indebted to the headline band’s stylistic influence within the power-violence genre and with such an impressive display of UK talent on offer that evening, I’m sure they felt humbled by the combined appreciation exhibited towards them.
ANARCHISTIC UNDERTONES: ALMEIDA, RIGGOTS, UPSTREAM COLOUR AND CAPTAIN TRIPS
The final weekend in October is usually a big one in terms of plans and this year was no exception. Manchester’s beloved Anarchistic Undertones put together an absolute stormer of a line up for the occasion and a quick look at the bill was enough to guarantee our attendance. Unforeseen albeit not unforeseeable circumstances in town meant our arrival was considerably less than punctual. The motorways into Manchester were swollen from a surge of fans attending the night’s football and the particular route our taxi driver embarked upon saw us crawling through a sea of cabbies loaded up with ecstasy charged laser reachers outside of The Warehouse Project’s main entrance. When we finally arrived, we’d missed the opening two of the six bands on the line-up. I definitely think some of the blame should fall upon Anarchistic Undertones’s uncharacteristic punctuality, however, my own poor planning deserves the lion’s share. Either way, we were there and just in time to catch AU founder Tree’s top tip, Upstream Colour and also to learn that the photography wing of WFTU had somehow managed to forget his camera. One job, dude....
Upstream Colour are an exciting prospect in the UK progressive punk rock community. Rising from the ashes of previous legends of the scene (Pendleton, Durai and Cowards), the band take inspiration from an eclectic group of sources. This blends to create a sound that verges on tech-metal while still retaining some crunchy chugging for punk rock purists. There’s also a good deal of twiddling on guitar that’s usually complemented by a solid driving groove from the rhythm section. Vocal duties are handled impeccably and resemble the swooping melodies of Protest The Hero’s softer sections. Unfortunately, by the band’s own admission Upstream Colour’s performance was a little sloppy in places and, due to the style of the songs, this doesn’t translate that well live. I was, however, seriously impressed with the inventive approach the group have towards writing and can’t wait to watch them absolutely smash it in the future.
Up next were Captain Trips, hailing from the South Coast. Riff heavy, snappy punk rock always goes down well in Manchester and this lot were no exception. Echoes of early Fat Wreck bands are prominent, with great song writing perfectly complementing solid musicianship and stage banter to make for a thoroughly enjoyable live performance. If you like your punk rapid and with a heavy sense of melody, you could do much worse than picking up a copy of Captain Trips’s debut EP Skate The Plank immediately.
Someone once told me Riggots remind them of Radiohead, but that’s bollocks because people actually like Radiohead. Basically, they’re a two-piece from my own fair town of Wigan. The lead singer, ‘Battle’, is essentially the love child of Freddie Mercury, a 1930s dictator (literally any, you decide) and Fred Dibner. The drummer is undoubtedly the product of some bizarre chemical experimentation (presumably performed by ‘Battle’ himself) and starkly resembles a miniaturised Arnold Schwarzenegger. They perform a blend of bluesy hardcore music that would make your Nanna wince. Think Fugazi, only more unpleasant. Battle himself seems unsure of the most basic functions of a band. He can often be seen, mid-song, transferring himself, his guitar and his mic stand to a much more inconvenient position, somewhere in the middle of the pit area, much to the chagrin of everyone. It’s just a good thing my photographer had a free hand to assist him with dealing with the technicalities of this incredibly simple bit of kit. At least he was of some use to someone that night. Meanwhile, a demented terminator type figure continues to pound incessantly on a drum kit he’s probably chained to, with all the finesse of a Cadbury advert, only about fifty times faster. Presumably, Battle controls his cyborg rhythm section via a footswitch, although this is yet to be confirmed. Let’s cut to the chase, if like me, you like obnoxious noises from obnoxious lads, you’ll love Riggots.
Finally, taking to the stage were the mighty Almeida. They’re a band who never fail to get an amazing reception whenever they visit Manchester and clearly revel in the hospitality we extend towards them. Although numbers were fewer than usual (it was Halloween weekend, after all), the crowd was heavy with close friend’s of the South Coast’s finest purveyors of fantasy inspired melodic thrashcore. This made for a real good sing song and what the crowd lacked in units, it made up for with love for our city’s surrogate sons.
Listening to Almeida is like an industry standardised checklist of all the great aspects of extreme music. The band clearly take cues from skate punk and thrash metal but add a whole host of other influences into their diverse blend. Crushing death metal riffs shift seamlessly into extended power metal solos before breaking into shout-a-long hardcore punk with track lengths spanning anywhere between one and eight minutes. I think guitarist Chris Lowe summed it up best whilst listening to Propagandhi after several large gins: ‘Basically, if you don’t like Dragonforce, you can fuck off, mate.’
The level of sorcery required to balance this diffuse range of musical styles is clearly high and as you’d expect all of Almeida are absolute masters of their craft. Owing to a prior commitment, bassist Barry was not present for the show and if you’ve heard what he brings to the mix before you’ll understand how unlikely they were to find a worthy replacement at any notice. However, I guess Brighton’s shredder breeding program is even more formidable than we gave it credit for as the show went on. Relieving Barry for the night was Barney, a particularly young gent who filled the biggest of shoes with ease. I think they shredded their way through every song from newest EP Social Media Circus and threw in a healthy selection from their debut Fantastic Massacre. Both of these are essential listening. Get them. Now.
Almeida rounded off another hugely successful evening of extreme underground music in Manchester. Yet again, the city’s freaks and misfits owe huge thanks to the Anarchistic Undertones team for their unrelenting work in bringing DIY touring bands to the area. Another triumphant evening called for much tipping of glasses and, as usual, Almeida were more than happy to raise one with us into the small hours.