Comeback Kid

support The Ghost Inside + Kvelertak + Grave Maker + Social Suicide
author NB date 20/04/11 venue ULU, London, UK

As I leave the house on this warm spring afternoon, my evening's itinerary reads something like this:

  • 5:30PM - Meet Mr. Bailey, concert co-conspirator and recent Rockfreaks.net guest reviewer, on the train from Southampton.
  • 7:00PM - Rendezvous with AP outside the venue - not “the legendary AP" but rather Adrian Purser, photographer and latest addition to the Rockfreaks.net staff.
  • 7:30 - 11:00PM - Spend the evening listening to music from the best two albums of 2010.

Which albums? Kvelertak's self titled debut and Comeback Kid's “Symtoms + Cures" of course. Okay, so “best two" is quite a claim. It's a matter of opinion of course, but, seeing as those two albums have got mentioned in four of out of six of our scribes' annual round-up articles, I think it's safe to say that they're up there. So, even though over the last month I've been to a string of excellent shows - in fact, each of the last three headliners I've seen has warranted a score of 9/10 - I fully anticipate that tonight's line-up will extend this winning streak.

Grave Maker

With five bands on the bill tonight, things kick off rather early and we manage to miss the first act: Social Suicide. Judging by the meagre collection of onlookers present when we arrive, was probably a slightly lacklustre event. Grave Maker are just kicking off when we get back from the bar and things haven't improved for them either. Maybe it's not that surprising for a band which has only been going for a few years, but I think it's probably more to do with the rather middle-of-the-road hardcore punk that these guys are peddling. They get through nine tracks, a few from each of their two full-lengths, but the only people who seem to be paying a great deal of attention are those in the pit. Said pit is one open space in a room filled only with open space. It contains the usual suspects: some skinny hardcore guys in their short shorts and baggy wifebeaters. What is more surprising is the fact that, whether by accident or by design, these guys are doing their hardcore two-step moves in perfect synchrony, flinging their limbs left and right and stamping in unison like a line of vaudeville cancan dancers. It still looks retarded, but at least it's impressively so. Meanwhile Grave Maker are trying to make a good go of things on stage and the vocalist appeals to the crowd to form a circle pit, but with such scant support it isn't happening. Before the last song he adds to the general air of desperation by asking for a place to crash tonight because he's lost his passport and can't leave the country. Something tells me nobody will be too disappointed if this causes Grave Maker to miss the next date on the tour.

Kvelertak

Here's why I don't think Grave Maker's poor turnout was anything to do with the band's short life: Kvelertak, with only one album to their name, have managed to swell the numbers to a near-capacity crowd. On the back of that one release, they've seen a meteoric rise to success (don't meteors fall?), winning two Spellman awards and the million kroner Statoil grant in the last two months, garnering top review scores from all the major European rock magazines and reaching the tops of rock charts in a number of countries. The band has come up with a new genre; it's an addictive blend of black metal and punk rock ‘n' roll, which should, in my opinion, be termed “black ‘n' roll". As they themselves put it, Kvelertak bring the fun into black metal without making fun of it.

All of that fun is injected in to the crowd as these guys take to the stage. The atmosphere in the room is rendered unrecognisable from that which smothered Grave Maker's set. As soon as vocalist Erlend Hjelvik yells the name of the first song, “Fossegrim", and the band's high-energy groove reverberates round the room, it is immediately clear that all recent the praise heaped on this act has not been unwarranted. The live show has just as much to offer as the album: during the course of the set Erlend, screaming like a man possesed, roves around the stage, joins bassist Marvin Nygaard on top of the speaker stacks and invades the audience in front of the photo pit. The rest of the band act in just the way their rhythms would lead you to imagine: like Nordic rock ‘n' roll gods. The wild nature of this hairy bunch is enough to overcome the hurdles of a boring lighting setup and a fairly early slot on the bill and by the end of the set every member of the strong crowd is banging his or her head and pumping fists. It's understandable; I challenge anyone to stand still whilst listening to this. Kvelertak are undoubtedly the best black ‘n' roll band in existence!

8

The Ghost Inside

The lighting situation hasn't improved for the Californian hardcore outfit The Ghost Inside. This band is probably the most suitable support for Comeback Kid on this evenings roster, having a sound that is clearly in the same vein. Sadly, in my opinion, whilst the style is similar, the quality is not. I'm not particularly familiar with the band's discography but, as TGI hammer through their set, the lack of variation in their songs allows them to wash over me, leaving little lasting impression. Having said that, most tees being modelled by the crowd tonight feature this band's thin-lettered logo and the music inspires a much stronger reaction amongst the wearers. Anorak-sporting vocalist Jonathan Vigil gets a good return chant during “Between the Lines" and a large circle pit forms and lasts throughout many of the tracks, especially the recent hit “Chrono". However, as I head back to the bar I also notice that at least ten percent of the roughly 500 strong crowd are facing in the opposite direction to the stage to watch football on TV near the merch stands and yet more are huddled round the corner. It seems to me to be a reserved performance. Aside from Vigil, who ventures into the photo pit, the guitarists stand fairly still, managing a few hops in time with the beat. But, as they break into the last track, “Unspoken", more chanting rings from the pit so it's clear from the reaction of the majority that the act has been well received. If I'm honest, I felt I could take it or leave it.

7

Comeback Kid

Comeback Kid elect to enter to the Isengard theme from the Lord of the Rings films and subsequently proceed to demonstrate that Canada's take on the evening's hardcore punk theme is much more interesting. I'm looking forward to a night of excellent tracks from the new album “Symptoms + Cures", eagerly waiting for the distinctive fast-paced intro riff of “G. M. Vincent & I" or for the low pitched menacing rumble at the beginning of “Do Yourself a Favour". But, whilst those two tracks are played, that's basically it from this new record. The rest of the material is biased towards the older end of the band's back catalogue. They proudly open by saying “this is the first song we ever wrote: All In a Year". It doesn't really matter though; the pervasive but subtle melodies of Comeback Kid's music combined with their high level of variation and innovation, make the band's offering stand above that of their rivals anyway.

The performance is there too. The lighting is marginally better and a large Comeback Kid logo has been unveiled behind the stage but, in my view, it's the band's energy which raises this performance to a higher level than that of TGI. The guitarists are all over the place and Andrew Neufeld, vocalist of the last two albums, goes absolutely feral on stage. He puts out a very punctuated and raw rendition of the vocals compared to what you get on record, but, when the genre is hardcore punk, that is not at all a criticism. Sadly there are a number of occasions where the mic fails him, leaving gaps in the impassioned wall of noise but it doesn't last long. Leaping around the stage, he struggles against the staff to negate the barricade in an attempt to unite himself with the audience. And these efforts pay off as, by the end of the set, a stream of crowd surfers make their way from the enormous, frenetic pit towards the stage, while the rest of the crowd chant the lyrics of “Wake the Dead" back at Neufeld. The pit descends into a sea of two-steppers to see out the last song “Final Goodbye". So, despite the slight technical difficulties, the only complaint I have this evening is to note that this is a rare case where the band don't seem to have enough confidence in their highly acclaimed new material to bring us an up-to-date setlist.

8

Setlist:

  • All In A Year
  • False Idols Fall
  • Do Yourself a Favor
  • Broadcasting
  • G.M. Vincent & I
  • Die Tonight
  • Talk Is Cheap
  • Because Of All
  • Partners In Crime
  • Hailing On Me
  • Step Ahead
  • Changing Face
  • The Trouble I Love
  • Wake The Dead
  • Final Goodbye

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