The height of summer, in this kinda dead period between all the festivals, is always a strange time to go to gigs. For a start, it is broad daylight still before you even get to the venue, and often all-too-many venues get rather hot and sweaty early on, meaning that perhaps, gig attendance in this period is often a bit down on what might be expected at other points of the year. This gig bucked the trend a bit, though, with a good attendance – and that might well have been down to this show being only the second live appearance of Phil Barry's recent project Be My Enemy. But before that set, there were three other bands first.
Paresis were a late addition to the line-up, after Khaidian pulled out, and provided me with a chance to finally see Simon Fuller's solo project live. His roots and influences clearly straddle both industrial and extreme metal, and his songs vary somewhat in the amount of influences of both. Some songs are dominated by impressive shredding and vocals that hit some powerful extremes, while others are very much more influenced by the darker beats of bands like Hocico, and the guitars take a back seat. I actually feel that his music suits the live environment more than when recorded (it has so much more power), however I can't help but feel that Simon could do with a second person onstage with him, to allow this project to reach it's full potential live. Still, even as a solo project, it's much more interesting to watch than one dude and their laptop. Finally, points also for the entirely unexpected cover of Haddaway's What Is Love to close…
Petrol Bastard were one of those acts that will divide opinion from the off, for a start because they describe themselves as "Twatty UK techno-punk bullshit!", which probably gives you an idea that they don't take themselves entirely seriously.
Or at all, in fact. Their dayglo live show, involving silly outfits, a dancing dude in a horsehead mask, puerile humour and some seriously cheesy synth-hooks (some lifted from old-school rave, others more contemporary) and beats at points that wouldn't shame Ultraviolence, is the kind of thing that would really piss off industrial purists – think Goldie Looking Chain having ram-raided Cyberdog and with more swearing. There were numerous "WTF?" moments during their set, with friends and I agreeing that most lyrical hooks had to be heard twice, as our brains wouldn't believe what we'd heard the first time – a particular one being the first time we heard the hook for Circuit Board Rammed Up My Arse. No, really. Pick of the set, though, was the bizarro-genius of Warrior Face, that I could just imagine being played in more-opened minded clubs in our scene. Although you probably need to see it live, as the stage antics make it worthwhile…
However, there was a darker side that the more I thought about it, the more I disliked it. There were snippets of lyrics I heard during the set that, frankly, bordered on uncomfortable misogny, which was rammed home when we saw one of the band's T-shirts clearly post-gig: "Bitch better be a meat-eater". I think that by virtue of their lyrics, that this is absolutely not an expressed hope that said female is vegetarian. Then there was the fan with a hand-scrawled addition to said T-shirt on the back that started "Fucking Not As Good As Rape…", that had me deeply uncomfortable (and my girlfriend even more so). I've not waded into the debate over "rape culture" or the various nastiness online recently, but I have watched a lot of it in horror as female friends of mine have told various tales of frankly shocking treatment by men of various ages who feel they can say or do what they like in any context. And frankly, music perpetuating this message – in "ironic" terms or not, taking the piss or not, no matter what the genre, is not big, not clever, and needs to stop.
I'm not really sure what else to add to this, although I'd be very interested indeed if the members of Petrol Bastard chose to offer their side re: the T-shirts and our inferences from what we saw – and I'd be happy to publish their reply if so. It might be all a piss-take, and they might know this, but how many of their fans do?
Please note: a response to my comments above have been posted by the band in the comments below. (update 2017: sadly a server move lost the comments in question)
Final support act were Digicore, a band who I've been interested in for a while (and have the new album to review, which will follow soon, when I have the time to finish it). However something here just didn't really click for me. The first few songs dragged somewhat, all following (to me) a similar template of sludgy, electronic-tinged metal that saw my attention wander all too quickly. Later in the set seemed to have far more life, with a much heavier and faster sound, but I was done by that point and needed a break. I'll try this band again at another point, as I quite like what I've heard on record so far.
No matter who else was playing, though, it was Be My Enemy that I was there for. While I saw their first (and until this only) live appearance at Resistanz 2012 last year, in retrospect that felt like a work in progress – a first live show to see how this was going to work out. That they were one of the talking points of that festival suggested to me that the first appearance was something of a success.
Be My Enemy setlist
Break Your Body
Close Your Eyes
Ghost In The Machine
Kill Your Television
But this was something else. The time since – taken mainly recording a second album – has clearly allowed Phil and his band (Steve and Deb from System:FX, and Keef Baker) to hone the sound, both on record and live. The first sign of the progression was released recently, with Kill Your Television, a bruising, hyperspeed industrial metal track that sounded even more powerful live, a blistering wall of sound that looked like something of a exhausting trial for Deb on drums…
Other new tracks kicked much arse too. Insomniac was the pick of the bunch, a slower, grinding bass rhythm underpinning a song that had a melody that was nagging at my brain for sometime afterward, as I couldn't quite nail down what it reminded me of. Party Monster was the other that stuck in my mind, a track dedicated to the spirit of Slimelight – somewhere Phil's old band Cubanate were played an awful over the years – and it's relentless, industrial-dance feel fitted right in at the venue, needless to say.
Talking of Cubanate, the shadow of that band still looms somewhat over Be My Enemy – frankly it was always going to – and Phil Barry tackled it head-on again this time around, playing the same two old songs that he did last time, but it was notable this time that the BME material was just as well-received (I got the feeling last time that a number of people in the crowd were purely interested in the old band, not the new). Still, Ordinary Joe absolutely slays live – a torrent of beats and savage, distorted guitar riffs – while this time around Oxyacetalene had the raw, blistering power that it was lacking eighteen months ago, and sounded all the better for it.
It was also interesting to note what was and wasn't played from the first BME album. The intensity of Break Your Body was an effective opener, while Death Drive pushes things as lunatically fast as they will go. But while I like Ghost In The Machine and the final, anthemic blast through Helter Skelter, I have to say that I was surprised to find the BME mission statement (of sorts!) of This Is The New Wave and more particularly, the best-track-on-the-first-album Disintegration missing. Unless I missed an encore (we had to leave to move on as we had commitments elsewhere), of course…
But anyway – this was a mightily impressive second show. The nerves of that first show were banished, this time it was a confident, well-drilled band that appeared onstage, and blasted through forty-five minutes of hugely entertaining, and punishing, live industrial music, that managed to look backwards and forwards very well. Cubanate were a trailblazing band for their time, straddling the divide between industrial and metal and picking up fans from both sides. The experiences of that have clearly not been lost by Phil Barry, as his new band is one that I could easily envisage doing similarly, but crucially this isn't just a re-hash of what he has done before. Be My Enemy is a new machine, one with great potential and I cannot wait to hear the finished second album. And not to mention seeing more gigs in the future.