It’s an odd sort of night at the peculiarly-titled but locally-endeared venue as all three bands on the bill are freshly sporting new albums. Cursed Earth have re-released two EP’s under the same title as Cycles of Grief: The Complete Collection, Novelists are touring Noir and Make Them Suffer lead the pack with Worlds Apart. In addition to this deluge of new live material, all the bands are on excellent, if not phenomenal form and the punters lap it up all throughout. First on though were Cursed Earth.
It seems all the best bands at the moment are being thrown out of extreme metal and hardcore especially. As another great band breaking out from Australia, faithful hardcore merchants Cursed Earth are without a doubt the most rabid of the three bands this evening. Like a starved, feral animal, they come on with fierce intent and an in-your-face attitude with the whites in their eyes showing a genuine energy coming from the music. It feels as though their ride-cymbal barely takes a break from the battering between white hot blastbeats and bruisingly heavy breakdowns as vocalist Jazmine Luders deliriously stomps up and down the cramped stage. Tracks like “Rage (The Cost)” particularly (as the most known one) showcase the band fantastically. If you are unfamiliar with the band’s work and love the unruly music coming from the likes of Justice For The Damned or Knocked Loose then do yourself a favour and listen to the Cycles of Grief. Each EP is barely over 10 minutes long so there really is no reason not to. While some material from last years Enslaved By The Insignificant rears its head, the focus is very much on the new tracks. In continuing to curate this brilliant image in themselves and whittle down what Cursed Earth are all about, they’re playing some damn fine shows. As I said earlier, the band play to devastating effect and people dig it however I find myself wistfully imagining the carnage that would ensue from one of their very own shows. Nevertheless, this set will do plenty.
The elephant in the room is palpable. How do you transition from the wild killing frenzy that is Cursed Earth to the beautifully emotionally driven melodies of Novelists? In truth, very uncomfortably. As the opening few tracks see the audience swapping hardcore thrashing to group hugs and singalongs, the atmosphere eases and the suffocating weight that Cursed Earth put on the poor unsuspecting Frog Bar is lifted. Hailing from Paris, France, the melodic metalcore troupe showcase a much dancier sound and the songs from Noir recieve just the reaction it demands from the crowd. Frontman Matt Gelsomino is as enthusiastic onstage as he is in our brief interview beforehand and parades the stage with a confident but calm demeanour that can only be compared to the likes of The One Hundred’s Jacob Field. If you know Jacob then you’ll know what I’m talking about!
With a far more focused approach than Cursed Earth in their musical and technical proficiency (not that Cursed Earth aren’t brilliant at that), Novelists own what they do tonight. Naturally, people practically swoon for “The Light, The Fire” and its enticingly ethereal nature. Nicolas Delestrade’s hands dance the length of his bass in accordance with the guitar leads in what I believe was their far older track “Antares”. Frequently, this stunning display of songwriting and melody stopped me cold in a very mobile audience and that’s where the beauty really lies in their set.
Unlike the other two bands, Make Them Suffer‘s newest release Worlds Apart is their most controversial and divisive to date with older fans rejecting the increased electronic presence in the songwriting. Pianist and backing singer Booka Nile acknowledges this when we talk prior to the show though she’s confident, as are the band, in the new record. Naturally, as a no-more-than 150 cap venue, the mixing isn’t fantastic and the nuances that Make Them Suffer inject into their music that isn’t present in Cursed Earth’s set (for example) suffers. Largely it’s the electronic element that drowns in the muddy sound so the fans of the older stuff (AKA the noisier ones that complain) have less to moan about.
Coming on to “Widower” from Neverbloom will always be welcomed by a Suffer crowd. Doubling up with Worlds Apart opener “The First Movement” is great though the highlights from the new album and indeed the set is tongue-twister “Vortex (Interdimensional Spiral Hindering Inexplicable Euphoria)” and “Fireworks”. It’s “Vortex”‘s drum intro that deservingly gets double takes from all corners of the room and by the time “Fireworks” comes in in the last third of the show, the crowd is in absolute bedlam to the point where people are diving off the three foot high ledge-of-a-stage and successfully crowd-surfing to a dip where they cling to the ceiling for the remainder of the song! That was something Sticky Mike’s basement has never seen the likes of, and I’m sure this place has seen its fair share of dodgy stuff!
Whether the lower mix of electronics was purposeful or not, the band are not on an overly serious agenda. While these shows are clearly no joke to Suffer, they do take advantage of the face painting upstairs, coming on in black metal-esque attire that’s almost completely sweated off by the end! It is by no means a long set at little over 50 minutes, but that doesn’t stop vocalist Sean Harmanis from shredding his vocals over the course of their set. I can’t be sure whether his voice had all but gone by the end or if our ears had finally accepted the punishing confines of the pubs basement sound system, but it definitely felt weaker nearer the end. This is to be expected from a band putting this much into their shows and playing north of 100 of them over the course of a few months with little time off in between.
Such is the case with Make Them Suffer on their Worlds Apart tour, though the crowd is unflinching and feed off the raw energy of the group. Tonight is a triumph for all three bands and serves as testimony to the strength of all their live shows and the records that back them up. In complementing each other stylistically tonight with their variation, no one band usurps the other and the whole evening feels like a showcase of the strongest underground metal bands around at the moment. Indeed, if this is the bar, we’re going to be more than alright.