It always crushes me when people bemoan the lack of ‘real’ music today, as they lay in their beanbag, vaping and telling anyone that will listen that Limp Bizkit killed the music industry. Well it may come as a shock, but there are still bands that are thriving, innovating and throwing a punch to the face of anyone who says otherwise. The world of rock is in safe hands if Heck, Raketkanon and Zoax are anything to go by, with their triumphant destruction of London’s Borderline feeling like their graduation, as they waved away their youthful innocence and looked to the inevitable successes of their futures.
But that doesn’t mean any of the bands were any less deadly onstage.
With a ceaseless touring schedule, relentless live energy and the unofficial title of ‘Britain’s Best Live Band’ following them everywhere they go, it should come as no surprise that the venue was full to the brim of Heck fans, with most filtering in during the first support act, Zoax. If the crowd thought they’d be able to put their feet up and relax until Heck graced the stage, they were wrong. Frontman Adam Carroll clawed at the crowd’s interest, with dry wit and charisma oozing out of the band. Zoax’s setlist proudly displayed the strength of tracks coming from their upcoming debut album, whilst also managing to throw in some fan favourites and singles. It was inevitable that the band would pour their passion into ‘Zero Point Seven’ from their second EP ‘Is Everybody Listening?’, with the track’s lyrics detailing their desire to get crowds moving and being less static, something that this evening was all about. With a receptive audience and a thrilling live display, Zoax undoubtedly conquered the stage. You should be excited for their album if their set opener and closer, ‘Ksychia’ and ‘The Bad Blood’, are anything to go by.
Hailing from Ghent in Belgium, it’s safe to say Raketkanon left an impression on the audience, with vocalist Pieter-Paul Devos stagediving into the massing crowd as soon as possible, only to be followed by drummer Pieter de Wilde soon after. It was a first for me to see a drummer dive into the crowd so willingly, but the band’s energy should not have come as such a surprise, considering the other bands in their company. With a sludgy metal sound and a vibe that’s reminiscent of an illicit lovechild between Refused and a church’s nihilistic organ player, Raketkanon are something undoubtedly unique. Whilst you can listen to Heck and think to yourself ‘Here’s a hint of Dillinger Escape Plan, and here’s a whiff of The Chariot’, Raketkanon are an entity to themselves. With the crowd adoringly attempting to muster up the same energy that the band had themselves, it’s a shock that they weren’t even the most insane band on the bill this night.
They’re also the first band I’ve seen whose set has culminated in a member onstage displaying his boxers proudly, with jeans strewn over the venue’s speakers. I take that as a good thing.
I think it’s telling to the atmosphere of this gig that mosh pits had emerged before the band had even stepped onto the stage, with the loudening of a Thin Lizzy track on the speakers being enough of a reason for people to lose their shit. It’s not as if people didn’t have warning as to how brutal Heck would be considering how wonderfully destructive the support acts had been. Despite this, I can only imagine that it must have felt like a shock to some when the Nottingham quartet brought their distinctive chaos to the stage in the form of opener ‘Good As Dead’, with screeching guitars and incomparable screams making themselves known. As with any Heck gig, these things were a constant threat.
As with Raketkanon, it did not take long for the band to make themselves at home anywhere but on the stage. Mounting walls, bars and the crowd’s shoulders, guitarists-cum-vocalists-cum-demolition crew Matt Reynolds and Jonny Hall fuelled the rampageous crowd, looking as delighted to play a part in the evening as the crowd were. Bassist Paul Shelley and drummer Tom Marsh valiantly maintained their places on the stage in spite of the ensuing chaos, as they powerfully tore through each song. Finger-wrecking bass and crashing drums managed to ensure some semblance of structure to the band’s tracks in spite of the unfurling chaos. This blissful harmony of structure and confusion should be seen as the perfect analogy for Heck’s sound, with perfected math-rock sounding guitars and ever-changing time signatures resonating perfectly with the beautiful disorder of Heck’s live presence.
One marvel that Heck achieved was bringing even more urgency to their existing tracks, something mirrored in the re-recordings on their album. Songs like ‘ A Great idea Bastardised’ and ‘The Great Hardcore Swindle’ have an extra spark of chaos added to them on their newly-released debut album ‘Instructions’, and this disorder was replicated live onstage, with new frenzied guitar riffs and bass licks plaguing each song, to much appraisal. Even fan-favourite ‘Powerboat Disaster’ felt more alive, with the impassioned crowd chanting along at every opportunity to its closing sea shanty, as drummer Tom swam through the sea of people wielding a floor tom and his fists.
With the set closing on the sixteen-minute epic three-parter, ‘I. See The Old Lady Decently II. Buried Although III. Amongst Those Left Are You’, Heck showed a different and new side to them that was difficult to see previously. They brought with them emotional frailty and a lighter song that sounded more post-rock than post-hardcore. With Matt and Jonny harmoniously duelling their guitars against one another, Tom having crawled offstage and the crowd kneeling and listening attentively (Excluding a few dickheads who decided now would be a good time to yell and talk throughout the most emotionally-draining portion of the set), it was evident that Heck had brought with them a newfound maturity (Something I only wish some of the crowd shared in). In a music world where a band’s stagnation is paramount to their failure, Heck showed their willingness to constantly evolve and push forward their own sound with this epic track. Despite being hailed for their ruthlessness and destructive tendencies, the band showed their willingness to shrug off the genre and popular opinion and make the music that THEY were passionate about, in spite of fans who turned up only to drink and mosh. This passion is something I only wish other bands could share.
- Raketkanon’s keyboard and cymbals – Destroyed at their set’s climax.
- Matt from Heck’s old guitar – Brought onstage two songs into their set and rapidly destroyed.
- Tom from Heck’s snare drum – Destroyed by Tom punching a hole through the skin at the end of their set.
- The spines of most people who came anywhere near a mosh pit.
- My heart.