Bonecrusher Fest

support Black Dahlia Murder + 3 Inches of Blood + Necrophobic + Obscura + The Faceless + Carnifex + Ingested
author EW date 05/02/10 venue ULU, London, UK

As touring line-ups go this one here comes about as diverse as they get. Arriving at the ULU venue just after doors to find a massive queue I simply was not going to join (I KFC'ed it instead) I got my first glimpse of what this Friday night was going to be all about by sampling the diverse crowd: the underground metalheads (for Necrophobic), the 'normal' metallers (Obscura, The Faceless, 3IoB), the deathcore bruisers (Carnifex, Ingested) and the plain ol' scene kids (Black Dahlia Murder). Yes, it was certainly going to be more interesting than another kvlt black metal gig.

Ingested

Given my aforementioned sustenance requirements before seven bands I missed all but two of Ingested's songs, which as it turns out was probably only a few minutes given the brevity that even Obscura and The Faceless were limited to on such a crammed bill. Sadly these two songs did nothing to tempt me away from the feeling that the band's trigger-happy pummelling, also found on Myspace, is a totally soulless and contrived mess of genres that is reliant only fat down-tuned riffs and 'offensive' song titles. For noone but the ill-informed.

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Carnifex

Needing the mind-purification that only alcohol can provide I ventured outside the venue to the local for a cheeky pint before re-entering the sweatbox to find Carnifex already hammering away to an admirably full crowd, despite the gig's start time of 5, on a weekday. I soon realised however this was due to the heaving mass of kids in attendance because surely only testosterone-fuelled fair-weather fans who know nothing about metal (or music, for that matter) can appreciate the hideous mess Carnifex offer. Yes, these Americans tried their hardest on stage but that matters not when your songs seem stuck in an infinite loop of breakdowns, guttural grunts and dull recycled riffs that was making me ill just witnessing it. Sorry, but you have to be deaf or woefully desperate to impress to think bands like Carnifex are worth bothering about.

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The Faceless

Having spoken to a number of people, whose opinions are actually worth considering, declare that The Faceless are a decent enough band I became quite excited at this prospect and thus when they entered the stage to play a sound that bore close resemblance to Decrepit Birth I finally began to feel I was getting some value for money, even for my guestlist entrance. Unlike the two openers for whom a 20-minute set was approximately 19 minutes longer than they deserve, it was a touch disappointing when after just two songs (!) The Faceless announced they had time for just two more in a set of tight and well-performed modern technical death metal. If one was to pick holes you could say the band should have done more on stage but I feel with a quality of song evident in The Faceless' make-up a longer set and a furtherance of individual identity could see these guys continue to make waves in the future. In the immediate short-term however it did at least revive my passion for metal, which was seriously flagging after acts 1 and 2.

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Obscura

The main draw for me and reason for my attendance was German death metal crew Obscura, a band I've looked forward to seeing since first hearing their heavily Death-influenced "Cosmogenesis" record of last year. Pleasingly opening with the album's lead, and best track, "Anticosmic Overload", which set the tone for the few others to follow, Obscura, and in particular bass-playing tour de force Jeroen Paul Thesseling, gave their all, seemingly delighted by the reception they were receiving on their first UK visit. Like The Faceless I don't wish to penalise such technical bands for not running around the stage ala Dragonforce, and so as long as the band seem to be enjoying themselves and at least move round a wee bit that'll be good enough for me, and in this respect Obscura acquitted themselves very well. With only four songs aired the band barely had the chance to get us involved before departing, thus reflected in my mark, but what they did play was most enjoyable and hopefully a teaser of some festival action this summer.

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Necrophobic

Without any doubt, old-school Swedish black/death metallers Necrophobic were the black-sheep of the bill in every way, having formed back in 1989 and now touring in support of their sixth album, "Death to All". Despite this the Bonecrusher tour represented their first foray onto the British Isles, and with tonight's crowd filled with more scene/deathcore kids than any other category I was worried about how they might cope with an act whose existence owes much more than to mere passing fads, and whether this might carry over to the band. Well thankfully I need not have stressed myself with worry: Necrophobic were a revelation! With diminutive frontman Tobias Sidegård and rhythm guitarist Johan Bergebäck doing a great deal to engage the audience, the band, the first to play longer than 20 minutes, ploughed through a number of songs from "Death to All". Naturally, with titles like "Revelation 666" and "For Those Who Stayed Satanic" causing a chuckle for much of the distinctly non-kvlt audience, the atmosphere was not that that would be expected in a more prosaic BM environment, but perhaps it was this change in surroundings which allowed Necrophobic to relax and play up their showman side. Being such a physically-intimidating band (the 2 guitarists and bassist must all be well over 6' and are adorned with arms full of tattoos amid the leather, spikes and long hair) was an advantage, which combined with a number of genuinely good songs and head-banging tempos resulted in Necrophobic surely gaining a multitude of new fans tonight, as well as pleasing some of the Londoners who had been waiting for some time to catch the band here. Based on this showing at least the band's undoubted risk in joining such a billing seemed to have paid rich dividends.

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3 Inches of Blood

Continuing the theme of diversity was the inclusion of 3 Inches of Blood, the night's first and only real straight up heavy metal band. For some reason I have never been properly exposed to these Canucks but after their committed and entertaining performance at the Bonecrusher I reckon that might be something worth changing in years to come. The best thing that can be said about the band, coming from the genre they do, especially for one signed to a major, is that 3IoB came across as genuine and far less cheesy than I had always imagined them being, appearing much more a glorification of real heavy metal than a useless parody of it (*cough* Steel Panther *cough*). Their all-round solid performance to an audience that was definitely in the mood for what the band had to offer was highlighted by an the introduction of "Call of the Hammer" as a "song about Jesus Christ getting smashed in the face by Thor's Hammer", featuring as it did Sidegård and Bergebäck joining on stage for some rather jolly (drunken) headbanging. When you know how to please an audience like that then one knows everything is going to be alright...

The Black Dahlia Murder

Finally last up was the band I guess most had come to see, The Black Dahlia Murder. Now I saw TBDM once before at a smaller show in London exactly fours ago in 2006, though my lasting thoughts of that night revolve around a disappointment at the herd mentality of the fringed-girl-trouser-clad scenekids in attendance, irrevocably staining my perceptions of the band that are far more metal and not deserving of such a crowd. Crowd-wise things might not have completely changed but sonically TBDM are in 2010 a tight, technical and extremely engaging live entity with many a decent-sounding song to their name. Frontman Trevor Strnad is undoubtedly the focal point of much of the attention, constantly moving around and encouraging the carnage he views in front of him on to greater levels of mayhem, with a backing band behind him who mix well their duties to perform tightly while keeping up the energy levels necessary to be viewed as a great live band.

Looking down on the crowd from the balcony as I was for most of TBDM's set I thought to myself that if only the energy that was contained down below could be tapped it would have lit London this winter's night. The mass of stage divers and collection of songs that seemed to please everyone who remained was only diminished by the disappointing end to the show - mid-way through one song the sound completely cut-out, leaving an awkward 10-15 minutes where no band or crew member seemed to be doing anything to fix it, content to hang around at the side of the stage, before I and no doubt many others started to drift out, bored of the tedium and releasing that proceedings were soon to be ending anyway. Save for this unwelcome conclusion it was a performance comfortably well-honed enough to bring down the curtain on a most long and varied night of metal evenings.

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