I’m all for an interesting multi-band line-up when it comes to going to a gig. I love discovering a new band in a support slot, and then going and tracking down their recorded material. It is, after all, what support slots are there for – to give newer, or up-and-coming bands, a push. But when a band are put on a bill and really don’t fit, it is difficult to tell what good it is going to do them.
Kommand + Kontrol
Live @ Electrowerkz, London N1
26 November 2011
And that was the case with the first band here, Die Kur. Now, with the rest of the bands all being familiar to me – and being within the broad church of industrial/electro – you might have thought that these unknowns would also fit within the same realm…and that appeared the case initially, what with the band coming onstage with gasmasks and boiler suits on, and with some rumbling sample soundtracking their appearance. Oh, and the oh-so-slightly questionable girl on all fours being dragged onstage on a chain. I actually had to check with a friend later that I didn’t imagine that.
So, so far so interesting…until the band actually got going. Said music was, well, dull, grinding metal. That very occasionally had some electronics audible, but otherwise was just run-of-the-mill metal with barked vocals that had little redeeming features, and frankly stuck out like a sore thumb here. If I’d come to see a metal gig, I might have been more interested. At points they reminded me of a less polished Treponem Pal, but I’ll stick with the real thing, if you don’t mind.
The arrival of Kommand + Kontrol onstage – to an impressively large audience for a band further down the bill – was a return to the music I was more expecting for the evening. I first caught these guys live in the summer, and it was interesting to note how things have progressed even in the short few months since. There is more of a confidence, more of a power, and their new EP (Watched By Machines) shows a little bit of a trade-up into more danceable, more accessible territory, perhaps – but still keeping the pulsating “old-school industrial” rhythms at the core.
The crowd were really up for it, too, suggesting that the subtle change has paid off in spades. Not only that, but the band themselves were a little more energetic this time, too, and engaging more with their audience. So a total success here, and I look forward to catching them a few more times in the future.
Third band on, Uberbyte, are a band I’m familiar with both musically and personally. I’ve not always been a massive fan of everything they’ve done, but one thing in particular I’ll give them a lot of credit for is that they have never let their sound stand still. Over four albums now, the band have relentlessly pushed things forward, with an admirable disregard for those who just want the same old stuff.
And judging on the way they were greeted by the crowd, they are becoming a big thing. Every song is roared on, and this only seems to feed the whole band’s energy levels even further – Uberbyte live nowadays are very much a different article to the one that I initially saw as a first-band support act back in 2006/2007, one that is confident and willing to own the stage.
But along the way, musically they have lost my interest. I’ve been vocal in the past about my dislike of hard dance seemingly taking over entire swathes of industrial clubs to the point of it crowding out other parts of the scene, and my heart sinks when I see another band heading in this direction. Really, this isn’t for me. I applaud Uberbyte for steadfastly doing their thing – and they are clearly having fun poking “the scene” into a reaction, and taking a pride in not just turning into another Suicide Commando/Grendel clone, which surely would have been easy for them to do – but their new material just leaves me cold.
That left us with headliners Aesthetic Perfection. It was really heartwarming to see how busy it was by the time that they came onstage – the culmination of six years or so of steady work, promotion and a fair number of live gigs since their debut album (which unfortunately was completely ignored in the set). Daniel Graves’ band only seemed to finally be really taken notice of once tracks from second album A Violent Emotion began to start hitting dancefloors, and suddenly, a year or so after that album was released, he was big news in the clubs. About bloody time, I said – I’d already made it my album of the year 2008.
A Nice Place to Visit
The Devil’s in the Details
The 11th Hour
The Great Depression
Spit It Out
So the three year wait for something new occasionally got a little frustrating, but happily the wait has been worth it. The new album builds once again on the previous material, and while many songs from it are still instantly recognisable as the bands’ work, there are subtle differences that mean it isn’t just more of the same.
And the change this time, more than anything else, is the vocals again. Things are much more varied this time, with a big emphasis on “clean” vocals rather than snarled and treated vocals, and it really makes proceedings feel different. But live…something didn’t quite feel right last night. I couldn’t quite work out whether it was the sound set-up that was leaving Daniel’s vocals buried in the mix, or whether it was that he was struggling with a bad throat that night…or it was a bit of both.
This was a real shame for the opening part of the set, as otherwise it was a blistering start. Opening with the first two tracks from the new album was a powerful and catchy start – both tracks are just brilliant, and The Devil’s in the Details is already familiar enough to be a dancefloor filler. But when you can barely hear the vocals…
Frustratingly, this happened on and off during the rest of the set too, although as the more familiar (to much of the crowd) songs were played it didn’t matter so much, as the crowd bellowed along. Happily it also didn’t affect what is in my view their greatest song (The Siren) – indeed songs with more melodic vocals generally seemed to come out of this better.
As we got to the climax of the set, though, any concerns about sound or anything else just fell away with the sheer power of what was being unleashed onstage. Closer The Great Depression was delivered with such fury and venom that it seemed to stare down any sound issues and blow then away, while single encore track Spit It Out nearly raised the roof as the whole crowd shouted along to the chorus.
Various things were made clear from this show. For a start, Aesthetic Perfection are now a Big Deal, rising fast in the industrial scene, and hopefully this trajectory will continue. They have the songs (in spades), and judging from the bunch there in the crowd for this, a hardcore of very dedicated fans indeed. Now, if this hardcore keep on spreading the word…
Not a perfect show, by any means, but a good way to close off a November where I’ve attended five gigs. Now for a week or two off from gigging, to give me a chance to take stock and recharge a little.