This is more like it.
Despite plenty of examples to the contrary over in the States, the UK has had no experience of tour packages like Hell On Earth. Tours featuring the more interesting or experienced of bands playing metal and hardcore rather than a hasty line up of usual suspects and flavours of the month we love so much (Cough...Give it a Name, Taste of Chaos...Cough).
And Neaera prove a perfect antidote to all the floppy fringes and tight pants fighting for space at the bar. Behind the speedy guitar, sneering vocal growl and familiar but crushing breakdown the band are hilariously but unashamedly foot-on-the-monitor all out metal. They face the impossible, engaging a London crowd and 5 in the evening but do so with entertaining music and huge smiles.
Agents of Man have learnt their tricks at the Pantera and Biohazard school of noise, combining groove and power with a gritty melody, but despite their older, heavier material bringing the first real pit action of the day they haven't quite graduated.
Evergreen Terrace have lighter and punkier edges that work really well. Theirs is the sound most applicable to the fashionista element present but they play with such obvious desire and passion; frontman Andrew making the first of todays excursions into the crowd, that there is no sound of departing bandwagons and a real sense of justice in the busy pit that greets them.
Heaven Shall Burn are devil music. This is what satan coughing black bile must sound like, and its fucking brilliant. Desperately heavy rhythms grind and roar and fit and start and frontman Marcus has a simply monstrous voice. The fact that HSB have been engineering goliath hardcore like this for years is painfully obvious and their set is a real highlight.
But then we get to As i Lay Dying. The main attraction, and they better have something special ready to make the Mean Fiddler forget about the knee cramp and back pain from standing up the last six hours.
Fortunately, from the first note the band are titanic, in the original, not the boat sense of the word. AILD are the most professional here tonight, with no embarrasing mumbling, a real sense of 'show' and the way their new material always drills its hardcore crunch back to unforgettable melody.
Every band member is moving and sweating buckets by the time they play '94 Hours'. The pit hits overdrive and therein lies a problem. I'm sure getting punched in the face is great fun but it also makes for addictive viewing and the violence on the dancefloor makes it difficult to pay attention to the music. And when that happens at a show this good it's a real shame.
Some of the bands tonight have a tendency to attract the sweaty shirtless male back to metal, which is never good, but they are all resurrecting the lost art of having some fun at a rock show, and that is exactly the point.
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