1460172_10152393957953136_511750072_nIt’s late on a Monday night and The Underworld in Camden is packed to capacity. When they’re not crowdsurfing, cheering or chanting, this sea of metalheads are bouncing about like lunatics. Who cares that they may well have already seen this same line-up take the same stage just 4 days prior? So what if they have probably got early starts and another day of work waiting for them tomorrow? Who gives a shit about the cold and dreary weather waiting outside for them? None of these things have stopped them, because this community does not have time to rest. Not when their heroes are in town.

Rewind back a few hours and Norway’s Man The Machetes, surrounded by American bands and a British public, must feel a little overwhelmed. There’s probably only 50-odd people watching as they open up but, due to their fervour and lead vocalist Chris Iversen’s increasingly-desperate attempts to make contact with his audience, that number doubles as they progress through their set. Throughout they establish their monstrous driving rhythm and keep it churning away. Like animals they feed the machine with punkish enthusiasm and pistoning rock chops to create what is essentially constant motion in sound. The drum rhythms piston back and forth, the guitar chords kinetically swirl and those bellowed vocals connect like a series of rotating cogs. From the storming “Hjemkomst”, via the gang-chanted “Slagen” to their powerful lead single “Mageplask”, the bare-chested, bare-footed Iversen is the focal point. The rest of the band throw their instruments and themselves around the stage but he’s bridging the gap, across the tiny photo pit, to reach the crowd, then he’s on the railings at the side of the stage, then he’s in with the fans. “I’m coming in with you for this one” he warns as he vaults the barrier and proceeds to serenade his audience up nice and close. The crowd’s real-time reaction may have been muted, and at times horrified, but these five lads’ superhuman efforts won’t have been forgotten easily.

Ever growing to capacity for the headliners, the swell of fans who caught Thera, Crazyfists’ Alaskan buddies, will have witnessed a surprisingly gentile assault on the senses. Their emotive rockcore theatrics tonight divide the crowd nicely, with the bullying husband and wife vocal team pushing their soaring rhythms to some pretty interesting places. They may be a little rough around the edges tonight, with some of their more melodic touches getting lost in the ether, but for those that are finding it all a little light on substance there is a reward of a big, beefy groove near the end.

Armed For Apocalypse play the role of warm-up act perfectly. Their brand of filthy Californian rock and roll is right up the crowd’s street and the joyous reaction to their material is duly noted. Tonight, they pour on some pretty rocked-up grooves that bitchslap their way through to epic Unearth-esque soloing and down in to reach a triple-guitar, grinding, Crowbar-esque, sludge metal attack. With Kirk, Kyle and Nate all giving it the biggun’ on vocals, the fans begin to pit like demons and there is plenty of hair whips and vocal encouragement to keep them spinning.

By the time 36 Crazyfists take the stage, the place is rammed and the place is buzzing. Somewhere amidst the rabble of a million voices, a chant goes up and the band duly appear to a hero’s welcome. You’d have thought that being formed nigh on 20 years ago, this tight-as-fuck quartet of bruisers would be suffering from some kind of metalcore backlash by now, but their status as underdogs seems to endure and their desire to own the stage has remained. The hulking figure of Brock Lindow marks him out for he truly is one of the best frontmen out there. He wastes no time in telling this audience just what he thinks of them – a pause, a disbelieving stare and a simple “Monday night, eh? This is unbe-liev-able” is enough to have the crowd, his crowd, eating out of the palm of his hand. He’s a blur of motion as he swaggers back and forth across this small stage to reach out, fist-bump and hold out the microphone to his public. A constant stream of thundersome classics like “Vanish”, “Turns To Ashes” and “Bloodwork” keep the circle pits swirling and the crowdsurfers coming but it’s their forthcoming newbies “Also Am I” and “Time And Trauma” that really get the tastebuds twitching. Driven, addictive and enduring, the songs tick all the boxes and judging by the reception they get here tonight, that forthcoming album is going to fly off the shelves. As the end draws near, Lindow gives it the big wind-up and like clockwork “Destroy The Map” drops and kicks off the biggest circle pit of the night. The reaction to “Installing The Catheter” and “Slit Wrist Theory” are like bombs going off and deftly these canny Alaskan bastards lay waste to an audience. Gasping for air, they exit into the bright lights of Camden Town like newborns, blinking and discombobulated.

Review and Photos John Skibeat