It was beginning to look like Celeste were never going to play the capital; despite having visited pretty much every other major city, the French post-hardcore four-piece seemed to shy away from London. After playing Brighton’s ‘This is Your Last Chance to Dance’ all-dayer in September last year and giving Bristol’s Temples Festival one of its heaviest performances of the weekend, Celeste were finally collared by Nightshift Promotions who billed them alongside some of the loudest bands the sludge and hardcore scene currently has to offer.
Art of Burning Water are no doubt one of the strongest acts on this line-up, so it’s surprising to see them opening the show. It’s a grisly Thursday evening and their 7.15pm slow opens to a ‘crowd’ that is all of about five people. In spite of their 25-minute set time being cut down to just 10 minutes, due to a late start, the trio put on a strong performance, proving it really is quality not quantity. They play staggering slabs of complex metal which are too far steeped in eclectic musical influences to be described simply as ‘hardcore’. Their on stage energy is infectious and it’s a massive shame that they aren’t playing to a larger crowd. A headline slot is definitely on the cards for these guys in the not too distant future.
Next up, Conjurer; equally as energetic and dynamic as the previous band but pooling from an entirely different spectrum of sound. A quick Google search of these four dudes, all hailing from the Midlands, renders the term ‘sludge’ – this couldn’t be further from the truth. While they certainly may have the on stage gusto of a sludge band (their lead vocalist makes a point of jumping down into the crowd at one point), they possess a sound that’s steeped in modern day sounding black metal paired with all the guitar squeals of traditional Swedish death metal.
Belgian blackened hardcore troupe Soul Grip intensify things further, although at this late point in the evening the audience is still looking thin on the ground. Soul Grip certainly aren’t reinventing the wheel with the music they choose to play, however, they do it well. Sinister sounding guitars create bleak yet tuneful melodies and are juxtaposed with seemingly endless blast beats to create an emotive but ferocious performance.
Bristol’s Svalbard take the headlining support slot, and quite rightly so. Their swathes of atmospheric hardcore finally fill the Underworld to a respectable capacity as they make their blend of Explosions in the Sky influenced post metal blend seamlessly with the harsher and more aggressive aspects of their music. The guitars, when not in a flurry of chaos, are brooding and heavy on the delay. The dual screamed vocals round off the performance nicely and there’s a definite air of fist pumping ‘rooting for the underdog’ type victory omnipresent throughout their entire performance, making the songs feel more like anthems; it’s apparent that Svalbard possess a sound that is much larger than they are.
Finally, the moment everyone’s been waiting for. Throngs of people suddenly appear from nowhere as all visible lighting is blacked out and the four members of Celeste take the stage, sporting their trademark red headlamps. As their first chords ring out, the stage is a mixture of strobe lighting and thick smoke making for a spectacle that’s as interesting to watch as it is to listen to. Their potent blend of sludge, hardcore and black metal is deep in the throes of uneasy tension and pendulum between sparse and moody to full on explosive. The guitars are heavily saturated in fuzz accompanied by the harrowing barks of vocals that narrate the very depths of despair. Despite this being obviously miserable music, it’s difficult not to feel inspired and even empowered by the energy radiating from the stage which is paired with a mesmerising visual performance, as red lights bounce around in sync with each band member’s movements. They have a relatively short set time of 50 minutes, however, the show they put on in that time is certain to ensure them a swift welcome back to the Big Smoke any time they want it.
(Review by Angela Davey)