As I am not making it to Damnation Festival this year this was a bit of a treat to catch Mutation who are playing there along with Barrabus who are doing the pre-show. First however it’s a case of the opening band who I had expected to be Deadcuts who had an ex Senseless Things member in their ranks. Bit confusing but they were not on the actual bill tonight and there was a band called Nasty Little Lonely in their place. Not a problem, sometimes it’s nice to catch a band you have never heard of with no preconceived ideas. The trio is fronted by bassist, singer Charlie B and whether nasty or not she has a powerful voice and injects things with a leaden groove. She’s not exactly lonely either as the guitarist adds plenty of swagger and the drummer is enjoying thwacking nine shades out of his kit. The only real problem is that they are giving it their all in front of just a handful of people. Apparently the band are from Bristol and no doubt would get a much better turn-out down Stokes Croft way but London can be a cruel beast when you are first band on. There’s stacks of energy put out here and they are no easy job to pigeonhole, mixing everything up and impressing with all they played. Latest single ‘Ugly Vitamin’ was just one of the tracks aired in the short set and had a jagged sort of chug and underlying near industrialised vibe about it with the singer giving it plenty of gob. Good stuff.

It’s been a long time since catching Paul Catten on stage and along with other members of the greatly missed Medulla Nocte he has gone and reactivated Barrabus whose self-titled album is one that knocked me through the wall and has been on constant rotation since it arrived here. It is such a manic and supercharged album I wondered how the hell they were going to pull off the intensity of it live but needed have worried on that count, they absolutely nailed things and even got suited and booted for the occasion. Lunacy well and truly at the heart of this display the frontman points his swagger stick at anyone silly enough to get close to the stage and luckily manages not to decapitate any of his band members in the process. It’s filling up a bit for the group’s first show in London in a decade and as the singer lurches spasmodically about the stage sounding and looking like Mark E Smith at a pikey wake after doing lines of coke in a Weatherspoons toilet. Songs are full on, short and sharp and they fly through the album tracks, taking no prisoners and giving a frantic display of energy on the stage. Their brand of musical ‘Porn’ is ugly and whatever category it fits into you wouldn’t want to get caught looking at it. It draws a semi-circle on the floor around the stage. The singer may want to get closer to us but nobody is daring to take up that particular challenge. Pussies maybe but we hadn’t been provided with a safe word. They are totally stealing the show with songs like ‘Kleptomania’ and as for ‘Behind Closed Doors’ Barrabus are definitely prime candidates for locking up and throwing away the keys. PreOp injects a melody sounding like a sitar contorted into the guitar work, very odd  and it’s all over far too quickly for me, can you go back and play it all again please? All we need now is for this lot to go on the road with Iron Monkey, you know it makes sense!

Still far emptier than a gig like this deserves to be. I guess the hyper-volatile musical nature of Mutation is not for all but the hardiest but there’s a fair few Wildhearts T-Shirts being sported and I expect this to mess with more than a few minds. The question is, like it was with the previous band, how the hell to replicate the sonic cluster-fuck of material from the albums onto the stage? Well the simple answer is that basically they don’t.  None of the album guests are present such as the aforementioned Mark E, Jon Poole (Cardiacs) Shane Embury (Napalm Death) and that’s kind of to be expected. Stripped down to a trio Ginger is joined by Denzel on drums (with kit pushed right to front of stage) and Scott Lee Andrews on bass. There’s a rack of guitars to choose from and a wall of monitors. I expected them to replicate the heavy electronic miasma via backing tracks but that really wasn’t the modus operandi either although some very annoying between song squalls sounding like an out of control fighter plane were utilised. Its fast and furious once they launch into first number ‘Authenticity’ but if that is what you are looking for in the way of it replicated from the album you are not going to find it here. This is more a case of thrashing the songs out, admittedly within an inch of their lives but the processing and production work found on the albums simply are not at all apparent in the live format. For me it just doesn’t work. The intensity just cannot be replicated here and it sounds messy as hell. In a way it is much more punk rock and DIY in ethos here, which a lot of the time would be great but the songs are shells of themselves. Ginger shouts and yells and works his well-documented demons out through numbers like ‘Friday Night Drugs’ but you feel like the dealer has kind of mixed what you were expecting with some particularly nasty shit.

People jump up and down and seem to be enjoying themselves and there are times when there’s even a bit of a “party metal” vibe running through songs like ‘Hate’ and it’s also clattery and schizophrenic (perhaps read under-rehearsed into that) by nature. Did someone really just walk past me down towards the front of the stage sucking on a balloon? Christ that says it all, this is hippy crack when it should be cocaine! ‘Bracken’ bounces out the traps and although my head isn’t melting I am enjoying sections of what sound like incomplete songs. Finishing things off with ‘Dogs’ and ‘Deterioration’ from last album III I walked away from this feeling like I had just witnessed a car crash but thankfully not been in the middle of it myself. This just really didn’t do it for me and I found it really hard to engage with. Perhaps in front of a much bigger crowd at Damnation it might go down a bit better but tonight it really was case of Error 500.

(Review and photos Pete Woods)