Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 15/4
support Acres + WOLF/CUB
author MAK date 21/02/17 venue Sticky Mikes Frog Bar, Brighton, UK
The Aussie experimental hardcore outfit, Hellions, has just finished an extensive European tour supporting their fellow countrymen in Deez Nuts, including a few dates in the United Kingdom along the way. To help promote their latest album, “Opera Oblivia””, Hellions have added an extra run of UK headline shows, with support from melodic hardcore outfit Acres on all dates. The first night of this run was in Brighton, at the basement venue of Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar. Suddenly, Hellions have gone from playing at 1000+ capacity venues on the Deez Nuts tour to a room that couldn’t fit more than 200 people in it with no barrier. This was a setting designed for a wild show.
Brighton based melodic hardcore quintet, WOLF/CUB kicked the night off to an almost empty Sticky Mike’s — there were only about 20 people in the room to watch this opening set. That didn’t stop the Brighton lads from unleashing a chaotic energy, both visually and aurally. The frontman ferociously shouted at the top of his lungs while he ran around, jumped about and punched the padded supports that were just above his head. The music matched the frontman’s erratic actions by being heavy, loud and all over the place in terms of technicality. WOLF/CUB delivered wave after wave of crushing riffs with intricate melodies placed on top, with “Freefall" emerging as a stand out track in this regard.
What harmed the set was that the music drowned out the vocalist quite a lot, which was especially noticeable during the heavier segments. The last song, "Twentyeight" was, however, a lot slower than the other, more intense tracks, not to mention a lot more ambient compared to the rest of the set. There was just a wall of sound of guitar whines flooding the venue as the vocalist unleashed a combination of passionate shouts and some spoken word pieces. It was a nice show of depth, revealing that the Brighton lads aren't just about unleashing pit starters. Performance-wise then, this was a decent set, with WOLF/CUB showing great energy and producing a nice mixture of beauty and brutality. Lack of crowd and some sound issues didn’t go to the band’s favour, though.
Hampshire’s Acres, who were touring to promote their forthcoming EP, “In Sickness & Health”, followed suite with the ambient style of melodic hardcore that WOLF/CUB closed their set with — Acres just produced more of the same in a larger quantity and a more impressive quality. From the start of the set, the crowd was a tiny bit bigger, and grew steadily throughout the performance. During each song, there was a slightly better reaction from the crowd, with a few people singing along at the front of the stage — but anyone further back still looked pretty static. One mood-dampening factor was that as soon as any song finished, there was some appreciative applause followed by awkward and deafening silence in the seconds building up until the drummer counted in the next track.
Instead of crowd interaction and keeping the fans involved, Acres focused more on their ambient hardcore vibe; throaty shouts fronted another wall of sound like atmosphere. The band had delay effects on everything from the vocals to the guitar melodies, adding to the dramatic tone of the set. Occasionally, we would get some crunchy riffs to bang our heads to, like in “Gloom”, but the set was more entrancing than it was savage. More sound issues threatened to harm the performance, as yet again, the strongly atmospheric music drowned out most of the vocals, making them very hard to hear. Considering the sound booth is six meters in front of the stage, surely the sound technician should have noticed this and adjusted accordingly? Acres showed great musicianship but personally, I just felt the whole performance to be fairly lacklustre.
Up until Hellions hit the stage, these were far from the lively types of hardcore supports I might have expected to rile up a crowd for the Aussie lads. After all, Hellions are known to be fun and energetic, with some grandiose tendencies to get experimental, whilst WOLF/CUB and Acres were both extremely moody in comparison. My expectations for this show were never high in terms of the turnout — the band themselves said they have never been here before, so it was hard to judge the type of atmosphere to expect. However, any concerns were swiftly swatted away as soon as Hellions hit the stage. No sooner than hearing the intro piece to “24”, the opening track from “Opera Oblivia”, the front part of the audience was highly enthusiastic, with fans singing and rapping along to frontman Dre Faivre’s vocals. The crunchy grooves of “Quality Of life” swiftly followed, and the same people at front continued bouncing along. The character of the show had changed for the better, becoming a lot more enjoyable. The band on stage was having fun and the crowd seemed far more entertained than during the earlier sets.
Songs like “Lotus Eater” and “Nightliner Rhapsody” had fans dancing around and some pits even opened for the first time all evening — this gig finally had some life as Hellions produced anthemic sing-alongs on top of their crunchy hooks. Every so often the Aussie lads would transform themselves to be calm and melodic, with some soothing instrumental segments taking over, but they were mostly in the mood to party. Dre Faivre came out into the crowd and asked the audience to surround him, then gave them the microphone for singing along while he danced around. The stand out moment of the set, however, came when the eponymous track, “Hellions”, was performed. It’s one of their heavier tracks and has a vibrant energy about it, so it was no surprise that the crowd rocked out hard, pitting, singing and shouting, including climbing onto the stage to rap along before diving back into the crowd. They were great scenes to watch. The quintet closed with their epic slow-burner track, “Thresher”, which is nicely anthemic and well suited for getting the audience to sing en masse.
As headliners, Hellions did their job at stealing the show, though it helped that they had the crowd for it. It’s harsh to be overly negative to the support for not warming up the crowd sufficiently when barely anyone was there. But I don’t think they were the right bands for the line-up, as two melodic hardcore bands supporting a highly energetic band such as Hellions is an interesting booking to say the least. Talent-wise, both opening acts were solid, showing some great technicality and passion though, and given the right audience and less technical difficulties, both bands could put on some epic performances. Hellions, however were the most entertaining I've seen them thus far.