It’s a little shy of 7pm on a Friday night and Tufnell Park’s modest cluster of pubs and assorted convenience stores are already teeming with all the typical bustle and vibrancy you’d expect of a newly arrived weekend in the capital. Close by, a trio of imposingly tall, black-clad figures emerge, carrier bags in hand, from a Dixy’s Chicken shop, the presence of tonight’s hungry headliners going amusingly unnoticed by the sizeable throng of fans eagerly queuing up outside the venue for admission.
Shortly thereafter, the scalding, technical intricacies of French newcomers T.A.N.K kick off proceedings in impeccably arranged style. Underpinned by relentlessly churning grooves whose darkly abrasive textures entwine with whirling layer upon layer of lacerating licks and flourishes, theirs is a polished, instantly appealing repertoire. Across insanely paced stints of battering hyperblasts, lofty vocal harmonies and tautly muscular, Scandi-flavoured fretwork, it’s with restless energy and inventive arrangement that the quartet deliver a hugely entertaining opening set.
From here, Hatesphere’s densely muscular onslaught of reverb-laden blasts and caustic screams propel fans headlong into the chugging throes of ‘Lethal Mistake’ with breathlessly energised abandon. Swiftly pummelling listeners into submission through breakneck episodes of battering staccato and sinewy hunks of bass, ‘Corpse of Mankind’s’ agile rock accents and Iron Maiden-tinged twin guitar phrases add no small amount of exhilarating hookiness to the mix. But with such relentless, blindingly linear brutality comes an inevitable lack of variety in tone and pacing as the performance progresses. That said, with every bone-splintering blast and knife-edged spiral of reverb displaying impeccable precision and blistering energy at every tautly executed turn, the Danes deliver a nonetheless technically solid and pleasingly aggressive stint.
Through a murky, dimly-lit haze of blood-red stage lighting and swirling smoke, Sinsaenum finally loom into view, their trademark layerings of inky distortion and bristling textures unfurling darkly beneath deafening waves of riotous applause. With its grandly expansive strains of churning, Pantera-esque groove oozing pitch-black menace in between breakneck feats of scalding, technical riffage, fresh cut ‘I Stand Alone’ abounds with intensely sinister energy. Below a ghoulish hail of screams, the fiendish collective accelerate ever onward into the gnarly, restlessly unravelling throes of ‘The Gods of Hell’, its notey progressions displaying scalding precision despite the bewildering pace of its execution.
Then it’s with steady, coldly calculating control that the snaking, densely abrasive central groove of ‘Final Resolve’ takes instantly arresting hold, its lurching, rhythmic backbone contorting violently through strategic eruptions of explosive ultra-violence. Taking the varied and exhilarating shape of face-melting licks and bewildering percussive blasts that seem to ambush and attack from every imaginable angle, the electrifying chemistry displayed here is truly a joy to behold in the flesh. Borne aloft on the airily complex phrases and scalding accents of Frédéric Leclercq’s exhilarating solo work, it’s hard to imagine a track more perfectly engineered for brutal, breathlessly suspenseful entertainment. And judging by the deafening cacophony ecstatic shouts and screams that greets the final, echoing notes of this deliciously ultra-violent anthem, it’s clear the year 2018 is just the beginning for this absurdly talented collective.